Immobilization & Activity Modification for Hand Sprains & Strains

If you have a mild hand sprain or strain that does not cause significant discomfort or pain, your NYU Langone doctor may recommend immobilizing your hand with a splint and modifying your activities to give the injury time to heal. Your doctor can recommend specific ways to rest your hand to avoid worsening the injury.

Immobilization

If the affected muscle, tendon, or ligament in the hand isn’t torn or ruptured and the pain is not severe, your doctor may advise immobilizing it briefly to allow swelling and pain to subside. This gives your hand a chance to heal on its own.

Your doctor may provide you with an immobilization device, such as a splint, to help minimize hand or finger movement. A splint can be corrective, meaning it limits movement, or dynamic, meaning it is designed to stretch joints with limited range of motion due to an injury.

Most people wear a splint for three to four weeks, day and night. It’s only removed for bathing and hand washing.

If you have an inflamed tendon—called tendinitis—you may be required to wear a splint for two weeks, typically only during the day. If you have a more severe hand injury, such as a tear, you may need to wear a splint for longer.

After you stop wearing the splint, your doctor may recommend slowly returning to daily activities that involve the use of your hands. Some people with hand sprains and strains are referred to occupational therapy to help strengthen muscles and improve range of motion. This can also help to prevent reinjuring the hand.

These types of therapies typically last for several weeks.

Activity Modification

Your doctor may recommend that you avoid or adjust certain activities that put stress on the affected hand. For example, you may be advised not to perform tasks involving the injured hand, such as cooking or carrying things, at work and at home for several weeks. Your doctor may recommend activity modification instead of or in conjunction with immobilization.

Experts at NYU Langone can recommend changes you can make to your everyday activities, including exercise or work, that can help you to avoid another sprain or strain.

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