Treatment of swelling in the hands and wrist depends in part on the underlying cause of the symptoms. An injury that causes swelling and deformity needs medical attention, as does redness, swelling, pus or streaking around a cut or wound, according to FamilyDoctor.org. Swelling from less serious injuries, or from long-term conditions such as arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome, can usually be treated at home unless the patient's health care provider advises otherwise.
If swelling occurs during an activity, the patient should stop and rest the wrist or hand, according to FamilyDoctor.org. If the patient must continue the activity, such as typing at work, she should explore ways of changing the mechanics of the movement. Wearing a splint on one or both hands, using a different keyboard, adding a wrist support or changing the angle of the hand and wrist may provide relief, according to MedlinePlus. After a fall or other traumatic event, the forearm should be immobilized in a sling or wrap to prevent further injury.
Applying a commercial cold pack to the affected area helps to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation, according to FamilyDoctor.org. Ice applications are appropriate in emergency situations as well as for long-term conditions. To prevent injury to the skin, the ice should be wrapped in a towel before applying it, and should only be left in place for 20 minutes at a time.
Elevating the extremity above the heart for 30 minutes several times a day can improve blood flow to the heart and reduce swelling, notes MayoClinic.com. Sleeping with the forearm elevated on pillows can also be helpful.
Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen are effective in reducing pain, inflammation and swelling, according to MedlinePlus.
Stretching and strength exercises that move the muscles of the hand and wrist can help to return the excess fluid to the heart, reports MayoClinic.com. Massaging the hand can also help to reduce swelling. If exercise and massage cause pain, the patient may tolerate the activities better after a warm bath, according to MedlinePlus.
Compressing the wrist and hand with an ace wrap or glove can prevent fluid from accumulating in the affected area, according to MayoClinic.com. Special fingerless compression gloves are available for knitters, typists and others who experience swelling when they use their hands repetitively. Wraps or gloves should be snug but not tight enough to compromise circulation to the fingers.
Diet and Fluids
If the patient's swelling is caused by gout, he should limit alcohol, meat, fish and poultry, according to MedlinePlus. Drinking plenty of water and reducing sodium in the diet may help to reduce swelling caused by a variety of conditions, according to MayoClinic.com.
Marcy Brinkley has been writing professionally since 2007. Her work has appeared in "Chicken Soup for the Soul," "Texas Health Law Reporter" and the "State Bar of Texas Health Law Section Report." Her degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing; a Master of Business Administration; and a Doctor of Jurisprudence.