What is Wrist Pain?
Wrist pain refers to any discomfort or pain that occurs in the area of the wrist. This pain or discomfort may occur for a variety of reasons and have various causes. It is also a condition that can occur at virtually any age, from infancy all the way into adulthood and through life. One of the most common causes of wrist pain is carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the nerve that runs along the wrist gets pinched or otherwise impeded.
Any injury to the wrist, including a fracture or break in the wrist bones or sprain can also cause a person to experience wrist pain. Tendinitis, arthritis, and bursitis are all conditions that can also cause wrist pain. Arthritis is a condition that causes the joints in the body to be inflamed. Tendonitis is an injury to the tendon that causes the tendon to shorten and/or become stiff. Bursitis causes inflammation in the fluid filled sacs in the wrist known as bursa.
Gout, a condition in which there is too much uric acid in the body, can also cause pain in the wrists. And, of course, sometimes wrist pain can have an unknown origin that is not easy to determine.
What are the Symptoms of Wrist Pain?
Wrist pain in and of itself is often a symptom of another condition. However, there are symptoms that occur along with wrist pain.
Symptoms of wrist pain include inflammation and swelling commonly accompany wrist pain. The hands are also often affected when the wrists hurt. Gripping and making a fist may become difficult. A person may also have trouble with pain in their hands and fingers, or might feel numbness and tingling in the hands, fingers, or wrist.
Wrist Pain Causes
Wrist pain can be caused by a wide range of health conditions. Firstly, it may a result of repetitive movements of the wrists and hands.
Some examples of repetitive movements include:
- Typing on a keyboard
- Using a mouse at a PC
- Paying tennis, racquetball or handball
- Using equipment or tools which vibrate, such as pneumatic drills
Sometimes repetitive movements can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. This occurs when the median nerve in the wrist, which controls feeling and helps with movement of the hand, becomes compressed when tissues around it swell.
Carpal tunnel could also be caused by:
- Being overweight
- Under-active thyroid
Sometimes wrist pain is caused by an injury, particularly if the injury results in bruising and swelling. Injuries might include sprains, strains, broken bones, swollen tendons (known as tendinitis) or swelling of bursa, which are fluid-filled sacs around tendons, muscles and bones (known as bursitis). Gout and pseudo-gout can also cause pain in the wrist.
Arthritis is also a common cause of wrist pain.
There are four key types of arthritis which could be to blame:
- Osteoarthritis – cartilage between joints breaks down and causes bones to rub together
- Rheumatoid arthritis – an autoimmune disease which causes inflammation of joints
- Psoriatic arthritis – inflammation of the joints that occurs with psoriasis of the skin
- Infectious arthritis (septic arthritis) – swelling of the joint along with fever and chills
How is Wrist Pain Treated?
The treatment for wrist pain depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Resting the wrist and treating it with alternating ice and heat therapies can be helpful. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can also treat the pain and discomfort in the wrist. Splints or other types of wrist braces can also help to stabilize the wrist joint and allow any injuries to heal.
It can also be useful if carpal tunnel or even arthritis is to blame for the condition so that inflammation and irritation to the nerves or joints can subside. Physical and occupational therapy can help to stretch the wrist and improve range of motion, reducing pain at the same time. If none of these treatments are effective, surgery may be necessary to correct the issue and alleviate wrist pain.
Wrist Pain Prevention
To prevent wrist pain that may occur from repetitive motions, it’s important to take breaks from the activity frequently. Physical or occupational therapists may be able to demonstrate stretches or exercises which might help to reduce pain or swelling. If pain could be caused by typing, ensure that the keyboard is low enough that the wrists aren’t bent upwards while using it.
Wrist splints may help to better support the wrists and reduce the risk of pain. Similarly, hot or cold compresses might help to prevent or reduce inflammation which could cause pain.
Flexibility and strengthening exercises may help to prevent wrist pain. A physical therapist should be able to recommend appropriate daily exercises, but these should not be performed while the wrist is inflamed or painful.