Learn about the different types of wrist pain, what causes them, and when you should see a doctor.

Wrist pain can be caused by a variety of factors. Pain, tingling, and weakness are all symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Swelling and pain in the wrists are common symptoms of arthritic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Wrist pain can be relieved by icing, resting, and wearing a splint. Surgery is an option if your pain is persistent.
  • Overview
  • Why This Could Be Happening
  • Medical Attention and Treatment
  • Knowing When to See a Doctor
Wrist Pain

In between your hand and your upper arm is a joint called the wrist. Your ability to flex, extend, and rotate your hand and wrist is due in large part to the many small bones that make up your wrist joint. Wrist and hand pain, numbness, or tingling may be caused by a number of conditions that are amenable to treatment.

Even though an X-ray may reveal a fracture, sprain, or partial ligament disruption in the case of a patient complaining of wrist pain following a fall, unexplained discomfort is not unheard of. These signs and symptoms may come and go, worsen during the day, or persist permanently. It can be difficult to determine what's causing persistent wrist pain. Visit your doctor so they can examine you thoroughly and order any necessary imaging tests.

Causes of your wrist pain could include:

  • Pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and wrist are symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, a common hand condition. When the median nerve in the wrist is compressed due to inflammation brought on by repeated motion or extra weight, a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome develops. The sensation and control of your hand are controlled by a nerve that runs through your wrist.
  • There are many tendons that travel across your wrist to allow for motion in your hand and fingers. These tendons are prone to swelling if they are irritated, which can lead to movement pain and even severe spontaneous rupture. One of the most prevalent forms of tendinitis is known as De Quervain's tenosynovitis. It shows up on the side of your thumb where your wrist bends. De Quervain's tenosynovitis causes excruciating discomfort whenever the thumb and wrist are used in concert. Consult your doctor if you're experiencing any of these conditions.
  • The tendons and joints of the wrist can develop a noncancerous (benign) lump called a ganglion cyst. Numbness, tingling, and a dull ache may be caused by a cyst pressing on the nerves in your wrist. It's not life-threatening or anything, but it can be annoying.
  • As an inflammatory joint disease, gout causes pain, tenderness, and swelling in the affected joints. A warm sensation in the affected joint is possible. The accumulation of uric acid, a byproduct of food digestion, in the bloodstream causes gout. Because of the excess acid, painful crystals form in your joints and other soft tissues.
  • Osteoarthritis: This type of arthritis occurs due to the breakdown of cartilage, the connective tissue that cushions the ends of bones. Bone on bone causes inflammation, pain, and stiffness in people with osteoarthritis.
  • People with psoriasis, a skin condition characterized by the development of thick, scaly patches of skin, are at increased risk for developing psoriatic arthritis. Wrist pain, tenderness, and swelling due to arthritis. It can cause stiffness and a diminished ability to move.
  • Similar to lupus, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) typically manifests in the small joints of the hands and wrists. Both hands or wrists are typically affected. Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness are common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the wrist.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by the body's immune cells mistakenly attacking healthy cells and tissues. Arthritis of the tiny joints in the wrist and hand is a common symptom of lupus.

Causes of wrist pain that are out of the ordinary include:

  • Infection
  • Tumor
  • Insufficient blood flow causes necrosis (death) of the carpal bone.
  • Compression of the cervical (neck) nerve

Instances of wrist pain can be treated in a number of ways, some more effective than others. A protective splint or cast may be necessary in the case of a fracture. Surgery may be necessary if the fracture is unstable. Wearing a cast, brace, or splint can help alleviate the discomfort associated with a sprain, carpal tunnel, or arthritic condition. Surgical augmentation offers internal reinforcement

There are a few things your doctor might suggest for persistent, severe pain:

  • Medication administered orally or intravenously to treat symptoms
  • Surgery to relieve pressure on the median nerve at the wrist (carpal tunnel release)
  • Compressed tendons are released surgically.
  • Arthritis surgery to reduce bone-on-bone friction Surgery to preserve wrist mobility, such as bone removal, fusion, or replacement (whole or in part), may be necessary.
  • Wrist debridement is the process of removing the inflamed tissue. Your doctor may opt for an open procedure or a less invasive arthroscopic one.

What home remedies can I use to alleviate my painful wrists?

If your wrist pain is getting worse, you might want to avoid doing those things. These are some additional home treatments:

  • Applying ice to a wound to reduce swelling and pain
  • The benefits of a warm compress for treating chronic conditions
  • Training your hands with the help of hand therapists who have degrees in occupational or physical therapy
  • OTC NSAIDs, NSAIDs for external use (pain reliever creams), and other forms of NSAIDs
  • Corticosteroid medication, either orally or intramuscularly

When will my wrists stop hurting?

Wrist pain can be caused by or made worse by certain repetitive motions. We spend a lot of time typing because it's where most of us spend our time. You can reduce stress on your wrists and the tendons that support them by rearranging the furniture on your desk. Follow these guidelines to lessen your risk of developing wrist pain:

  • Keep your wrists from bending upward while typing by lowering the height of your keyboard.
  • Stop typing every so often and give your hands a rest.
  • Keep your wrists comfortable while using a keyboard, mouse, or trackpad by using a rest.
  • Swap "mouse hands" or practice using the mouse with your "bad" hand.

If you are experiencing any of the following, it is important to contact your doctor immediately:

  • Having no control over your hand, wrist, or fingers
  • Continual discomfort even after trying home remedies for two weeks
  • Tingling pain that travels up and down your arm
  • Discomfort or inflammation in the arm, hand, or fingers

The Cleveland Clinic Has a Note for You

Soreness in the wrist is a common complaint. Major causes of wrist pain besides sprains and fractures include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and arthritis. When you visit a doctor, they can help you figure out what's wrong and what will help the pain in your wrist. Symptoms can often be reduced without resorting to surgery by engaging in noninvasive treatments like splinting, activity modification, and hand exercises. Surgery may be an option if your wrist pain is preventing you from working, sleeping, or engaging in daily activities.

On 11/3/2017, a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic performed the most recent comprehensive review.

References

  • Members of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Wrist arthritis is a painful condition. (https://orthoinfo aaos org/en/diseases--conditions/arthritis-of-the-wrist/) Accessed July 23, 2021
  • AAOS: The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Syndrome of the Carpal Tunnel (https://orthoinfo aaos org/en/diseases--conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/) As of 7/23/2021
  • The Foundation for Arthritis Symptoms of Arthritis That May Be Present in the Hands (https://www arthritis org/health-wellness/about-arthritis/where-it-hurts/when-hand-or-wrist-pain-may-mean-arthritis) Retrieved on 7/23/2021
  • U.S. Government Agency for Research on Stroke and Other Neurological Conditions Informational Sheet on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (https://www ninds nih gov/disorders/patient-caregiver-education/fact-sheets/carpal-tunnel-syndrome-fact-sheet) Accessed July 23, 2021

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