Wrist Pain Symptoms, Causes, and Solutions
The wrist is one of the most complex joints—or rather, collection of joints—in the body, and the mechanisms that enable it to lift, push, and pull throughout the day are very easily damaged. Wrist pain is often the result of wrist sprains, wrist fractures, and other sudden wrist injuries. But wrist pain can also result from long-term conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and wrist tendonitis.
An accurate diagnosis of your wrist pain is essential to ensure proper treatment. Below are some common wrist pain symptoms, wrist pain causes, and wrist pain treatments that will help you find wrist pain relief.
Why Does My Wrist Hurt? Wrist Pain Symptoms
The precise location of your wrist pain can give you clues as to what may be causing your symptoms. For example, hand and wrist pain coupled with a “pins-and-needles feeling” may indicate carpal tunnel syndrome. Wrist and thumb pain may indicate a scaphoid fracture, an injury on the bone on the thumb side of the wrist. Wrist pain that feels like more of a dull ache could be a possible indication of osteoarthritis in the wrist. The only way to receive a proper diagnosis is to speak with a doctor, who can perform X-Rays, CT scans, and other tests.
Many minor wrist pains and wrist strains may not require medical care, and can be adequately controlled with rest, ice, and pain relieving medications. Wearing a wrist brace or wrist compression sleeve can help to significantly control pain and swelling. However, if your wrist pain and swelling last longer than a few days, be sure to see a doctor about the issue. Delays in diagnosis can lead to poor healing and even long-term disability.
Wrist Pain Causes
Your wrist joint is composed of eight small bones connected by tough bands of ligament. Tendons also attach your wrist muscles to the bones. Damage to any of these parts—bones, muscles, or ligaments—can cause wrist pain.
Common Wrist Injuries and Conditions
Below are just a few of the injuries and conditions that can affect the wrists.
Wrist injuries by sudden impact: often caused by falling forward onto an outstretched hand, this can be a wrist strain, sprain, or even a wrist fracture.
Repetitive stress injuries: caused by repetitive stress injuries such as hitting a tennis ball, driving for many hours, or performing occupational movements for hours on end without break.
Osteoarthritis in the wrist: Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage the cushions the end of the bones deteriorates over time. Wrist arthritis is uncommon, yet still a possibility.
Rheumatoid arthritis in the wrist: Rheumatoid arthritis is caused when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. It usually affects both wrists at the same time.
Carpal tunnel syndrome: this common wrist injury develops when pressure is placed on the median nerve, which runs through a passageway (the “carpal tunnel”) in the palm side of the wrist. Click here to learn more about carpal tunnel and carpal tunnel exercises that can help.
Wrist tendonitis: Also called tenosynovitis, wrist tendonitis is characterized by irritation and inflammation of the tendons surrounding the wrist joint. It usually only affects one of the tendons in the wrist, but can also involve two or more, especially at points where the tendons cross each other.
Ganglion cysts: These soft-tissue cysts are usually formed on the side of the wrist opposite the palm, and can be quite painful.
Kienbock’s Disease: This rare disorder, which typically affects young adults, occurs when the small bones in the wrist progressively collapse.
Wrist Pain Diagnosis
The only way to accurately diagnose the cause of your wrist pain is to visit a medical professional. You may want to see a specialist, such as a rheumatologist (joint specialist) or orthopedic surgeon. To prepare for your appointment, write down, or have a friend write down:
- A detailed description of your symptoms
- Medical problems you have experienced in the past
- Medical problems of close relatives
- All medications you take, including dietary supplements
- Any questions you might have
While you wait for your appointment, you can find relief using the at-home treatment options below.
Wrist Pain Treatment
Compression: A wrist compression sleeve can help to control swelling and inflammation, and is less bulky and clumsy than a wrist brace.
Ice: Apply ice for 20 to 30 minutes every three to four hours.
Elevation: Raise the wrist above your heart, on a pillow or the back of a chair, as often as you can.
Immobilization: If you are experiencing severe wrist pain, you may want to use a splint or wrist brace to keep it as still as possible. Only do this for a short time, until you have seen a doctor. In some cases, using a splint for too long can result in stiffness and muscle weakness.
Practice wrist strengthening exercises, if you are able to comfortably do so.