how to wrap a sprained wrist

Updated Feb. 23, 2021

You’re at sports practice or you suffer a nasty fall — and you think you’ve twisted your wrist.

If you don’t have immediate access to a medical professional, you may need to wrap the injury yourself. Because of the numerous bones and tendons in your wrist, it is important to wrap the sprain soon after you’ve been hurt. Wrapping your wrist can help immobilize your wrist and keep swelling down.

Heather Rosen, MD, physician and medical director of UPMC Urgent Care North Huntingdon, demonstrates the proper way to wrap a wrist sprain yourself.

Sprained Wrist Symptoms

When you sprain your wrist, you likely will feel pain in your wrist area. Other symptoms may include:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness when you touch it
  • Popping or tearing feeling inside your wrist
  • Warm feeling around your wrist

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Supplies Needed

Before you go about wrapping a sprained wrist, make sure you have the necessary supplies readily available, such as:

  • Scissors
  • Soap and water (to clean your wrist before wrapping)
  • An elastic bandage
  • Pre-wrap tape or locking tabs

5 Steps to Wrap a Wrist Sprain

It can be difficult to wrap a wrist sprain by yourself. If possible, ask someone else to wrap your wrist for you.

If no one is available, do your best to keep your arm stable as you work. It’s especially important to keep your wrist straight, as you don’t want to strain it further.

1. Make sure you wrap your wrist and the surrounding area.

When you wrap a sprained wrist, you shouldn’t just wrap the wrist itself. In order to provide the right stabilization, you should wrap your bandage above and below the joint. That includes the lower forearm and the hand.

2. Start at the forearm.

Begin your wrap at the lower part of your forearm and work your way down to the wrist and hand.

3. Overlap your bandage.

As you work, make sure you overlap each layer of the bandage by about 50 percent. This should help with stability, preventing the bandage from becoming too loose or coming undone.

4. Make figure-eight patterns around the joint.

After wrapping a layer of the bandage across your hand, around your thumb, you should work your way back up again. Wrap up toward your lower forearm using figure-eight patterns around your wrist. Once you reach the lower forearm, wrap back down again toward the hand. The figure-eight method should help to create stability.

5. Fasten your bandage.

Once you reach the end of your bandage, you’ll need to secure it. Some bandages are self-adhesive, while others come with fasteners included.

Make sure you don’t feel any numbness or tingling in your hand or wrist after finishing. If you do, it may be a sign that the wrap is too tight. Your bandage should fit snugly, but it shouldn’t restrict blood flow.

After you’ve secured your injury, visit a UPMC Urgent Care location near you to have it fully examined.

Key Points to Remember When Wrapping a Wrist Sprain

Keep these important tips in mind when wrapping a wrist sprain:

  • Check and see if you can move your fingers comfortably. If you find the wrap is too tight and causes your fingers to tingle or go numb, unwrap the bandage and start over.
  • Make sure the wrap is taut to provide support.
  • Wrap above and below the joint.
  • Keep the wrist wrapped for a few days, re-wrapping if the bandage gets too loose or too tight.
  • Along with the bandage, you should rest your wrist as much as possible and ice it for 20 minutes two to three times a day.

Need more information? Read our guide to wrapping joint injuries.

When to See a Doctor

If your wrist does not seem to be healing after a few days of using a wrap, you may need to contact a doctor for treatment. You also should see a doctor if you experience:

  • Sudden numbness or tingling
  • An increase in pain
  • An increase in swelling
  • Bruising or locking in your wrist

For more information, contact your nearest UPMC Urgent Care location.

How to Wrap an Ankle Sprain

Ankle sprains also can be painful and can limit your mobility.

Like wrist sprains, wrapping an ankle sprain can help lessen damage to the surrounding tissue. It can reduce swelling and provide support to the injured joint.

To wrap an ankle sprain, you need the same supplies: an elastic bandage, scissors, soap and water, and a fastener.

To wrap your sprain:

  1. Ensure you wrap your bandage above and below the joint.
  2. Begin your wrap several inches above the injured ankle.
  3. Start your wrap on the inside of the leg and make two wraps around the ankle for stability.
  4. Continue wrapping around the foot and ankle in a figure-eight pattern.
  5. Use the Velcro or fastener at the end to stabilize your wrap.

RELATED: Recovery Time for Sprains and Strains

After securing your injury, you should visit a nearby UPMC Urgent Care facility for further evaluation. For more information, contact your nearest UPMC Urgent Care location.

About Urgent Care

Sometimes you need care right away, with no time to wait for an appointment. That’s where UPMC Urgent Care comes in. We offer prompt treatment for illnesses and injuries 12 hours a day, seven days a week. With several western Pennsylvania locations, plus more throughout the state, you can find immediate care close to you. Our services include treatment for minor injuries and illnesses, physicals, prescription filling, and flu shots and immunizations. Wait times are usually shorter than the emergency room for minor injuries and illnesses, and we accept most major insurance.