Wrist pain is an irritation felt in the areas around the wrist. It is often caused by injuries or long-term ailments. Carpal tunnel syndrome and some other conditions such as arthritis and gout can also be a cause of wrist pain.
Sprains, strains, and fractures can also result in wrist pain. Repetitive stress can also cause discomfort in the wrist.
Because wrist pain can be caused by several reasons, diagnosing the precise cause can be hard, but a detailed diagnosis is imperative before treatment can commence.
Causes of Wrist Pain
There are numerous causes of wrist pain. The following are some causes of wrist pain:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The median nerve is one of the three important nerves in the forearm. Carpal tunnel syndrome often happens when the median nerve becomes pinched. It is found on the palm side of the hand, giving sensation to the following parts of the hand:
- Index finger
- Middle finger
- Part of the ring finger
It also causes electrical stimulus in the muscles that lead to the thumb. Carpal tunnel syndrome can happen in one or both of your hands.
Apart from wrist pain, carpal tunnel syndrome also causes numbness, feeling of weakness, tingling on the sides of the hand close to the thumb.
Swelling of the wrist can happen and stimulate carpal tunnel syndrome because of the following conditions:
- Performing repetitive activities with the hands, such as typing, painting, drawing, and sewing.
- Obesity, pregnancy, or going through menopause stages.
- Specific medical conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, or an underlying thyroid.
Getting injured in the wrist can also result in pain. Wrist injuries include sprains, fractured or broken bones, and tendonitis.
Swelling, inflammation, bruising, disfigured joints close to the wrist may also be symptoms of a wrist injury. Some wrist injuries occur as a result of sudden trauma from an impact.
Gout occurs due to the buildup of uric acid. Uric acid is a chemical produced from the breakdown of foods containing compounds known as purines.
Oftentimes, Uric acid is dissolved in the blood and passed out from the body through urination. In some rare situations, the body often produces excess uric acid. The remnant uric acid is often laid in the joints causing discomfort and swelling. This discomfort often happens in the knee, ankles, wrists, and feet.
Usual causes of gout include:
- High intake of alcohol
- Special medical conditions e.g diuretics.
- Certain medical conditions include high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney disease or failure.
Arthritis is the swelling or puffiness of the joints. It can cause inflammation and stiffness in the part of the body that was affected. There are so many factors that can cause arthritis, which include wear and tear, aging, and overuse of the hands.
There exist various types of arthritis, but the usually seen types include;
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): This is an autoimmune disease that impacts both wrists. It often occurs when the immune system accidentally impacts the lining of the joints, including the wrists. This can often result in painful swelling, which eventually results in the bones getting eroded.
- Osteoarthritis (OA): This is a degenerative joint disease and it is often seen among aged adults. It is often a result of the deterioration of the cartilage that protects the joints. This protective tissue often wears down as an individual gets older and through repetitive activities. The friction between bones of the joint is increased as they rub against each other causing swelling and discomfort.
- Psoriatic arthritis (PsA): This is a variant of arthritis that is often seen in people with a skin disorder known as psoriasis.
Wrist pain without injuries
Wrist pain or injuries can also have causes that are not caused by injuries. These injuries include:
- Repetitive motion syndrome: This often occurs from performing repetitive tasks time and again such as typing, or knitting. Overusing the joint can make it swelling, placing a burden on the surrounding nerves. It can impact many joints in the body including the wrist.
- Wrist tendonitis: This often occurs when the tendons of the wrist develop small tears or become inflamed.
- Wrist bursitis: Bursa is small sacs filled with fluid that help cover joints. When there is an inflammation in these sacs, it is known as bursitis. It can appear in any part of the body including the wrist.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: This is an autoimmune disease that occurs when healthy tissues are attacked by the body’s immune system. This can result in wrist pain.
A sprained wrist is caused by the stretching or tearing of ligaments that connect the bones and joints in the wrist. It is often caused by injuries from sporting activities or sudden impact. It can also be a result of falling or bending the wrists backward when the hand hits the ground. This motion often overstretched the ligament.
Wrist pain from twisting or bending
Severe Injuries such as falling on your hands or a twisting injury while gripping can cause pain on either side of the wrist.
Sudden Impact: Wrist injuries can occur when you fall forward onto your outstretched hand. This often results in sprains, strains, and sometimes, fractures. A scaphoid fracture involves a bone on the thumb side of the wrist. This type of injury does not immediately show on the X-ray after the injury as it often takes time to manifest.
Ganglion Cysts: These soft tissue cysts often occur on the part of the wrist opposite the palm. Ganglion cysts can be painful and pain may worsen with increased activity.
Wrist Pain Symptoms
Wrist pain often shows certain symptoms. Some of the symptoms are listed below:
- Swollen fingers
- Unable to make a fist or grip objects
- Feelings of numbness or tingling in the hands
- Discomfort, feelings of numbness, or tingling that worsens at night
- Abrupt and harsh pain in the hand.
- Inflammation, redness, or swelling around the wrist.
- Feelings of warmth in the joint surrounding the wrist.
(N.B: Do not hesitate to call your doctor if your wrist is warm, with a red hue. If your fever is also above 100•F (37.8•C))
Wrist Pain Relief
The following are ways to relieve wrist pain and injuries:
- Putting on a wrist brace or splint to decrease inflammation and alleviate wrist pain.
- Ice pack massages for 10-20 minutes a day.
- Heat massages or compression for 20 minutes every day.
- Taking anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving pills such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
Wrist Pain Stretches
Below are some stretches that can be used to relieve wrist pain. Some of them can be done on your office desk:
Praying Position Stretches
- While in a standing position, bring your palms together in a praying position. Make sure your elbows are making contact. Ensure your hands are in front of your face. Your arms should make contact from the tips of the fingers to your elbows.
- While pressing your palms together, gently open your elbows. Do this as you bring your hands down to waist level. Stop when you can feel your hands opposite your belly button.
- Maintain the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat.
- Stretch out one arm and keep it shoulder level.
- Ensure your palm is facing the floor.
- Slowly part your wrist so that your fingers face downwards.
- Using your free hand, gently hold your fingers and pull them in the direction of your body.
- Hold for 10-30 seconds.
- Stretch out your arm while making sure that your palm is facing the ceiling.
- Using your free hand, gently press your fingers in the direction of the floor.
- Gently pull your fingers towards the direction of your body.
- Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat with the other arm
This exercise helps in building strength in the muscles that move from the wrists to the inner elbows.
- While on your seat, face your palms up under a desk or table.
- Press upwards against the table.
- Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
Tennis ball squeeze
This exercise should not induce pain. It helps in strengthening the wrist muscles.
- Get a tennis ball or stress ball and squeeze firmly for 5 to 10 seconds.
Yoga is also a great way of stretching the muscles of the wrists and the hands.
This is an inflammation of the tendons that acts as a connection between the muscles and bones of the wrist.
Overuse or overexertion of the tendons which comes from activities that include heavy use of the hands can cause wrist tendonitis. Symptoms often include; paralysis, discomfort, and pain.
It can be treated through:
- Ice massages
- Use of pain relievers
Mild wrist tendonitis can be healed within a few weeks of treatment, while severe cases can take six months or longer.
Carpal Tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is also called median nerve compression. It is often noticed as numbness or tingling in the hand and arm which is caused by a compressed (or pinched) nerve in the wrist.
Underlying health conditions can also cause carpal tunnel syndrome. It can also be caused by high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, fractures or sudden impact on the wrist, rheumatoid arthritis, fluid retention from pregnancy, or menopause.
Symptoms often include pain in the arm and the hand with feelings of numbness and a tingling sensation. Weakness in the hand and inability to grab things is also a symptom.
Treatment methods include:
- Wrist splints
- Cortisone injections
Wrist pain treatment
Your physical therapist might ask you to perform some basic Range of Motion (ROM) exercises to reduce the pain from the injury and also to determine how well you can move the affected joint. Below are some of the exercises your physical therapist might recommend:
Extension and Flexion
This exercise is effective in treating symptoms of carpal tunnel or arthritis. To gain the full benefit of this exercise, arrange your hands palm-down with any padded object under your wrist. Gradually lift your hands at the wrist until you can feel a slight stretch. Gently return your wrist to its original position, and then bend it in a downward position. Repeat this exercise 10 times or as much as your therapist recommends.
Supination and Pronation
This exercise can be done either in a sitting or standing position. While sitting or standing, place your arms at your side, while bending your elbows at 90 degrees, and make sure your hand is facing forward. Gently turn your wrist as far as it can go comfortably, then return to the starting position. Bend your wrist to the other position next, and repeat this exercise as many times as possible or as recommended.
Acupuncture can be used to relieve wrist pain and it also has anti-inflammatory effects and can treat most wrist injuries. It is safe, low-risk, and has little to no side effects. It helps the energy move faster and better between the pathways. Acupuncture is a procedure that entails the use of special needles in treating injuries. It is often recommended because of its swift results. It also has immense benefits for treating both acute and severe cases.
Wrist support or wrist splints might be recommended for people who need support for swollen, painful, or weak joints. They are often used to protect the wrist after an injury or prevent an injury. They are used to treat long-term wrist pain conditions and are often recommended by doctors to aid recovery.
Exercises for Wrist Pain
Below is a list of exercises for wrist pain:
- Rotate your wrist in four directions (up, down, left side, right side). Repeat 4 times.
- Keep your fingers wide apart, relax them, then stretch them again. Repeat 4 times.
- Stretch your thumb by pulling it back slowly, holding it, then releasing it. Repeat 4 times.
- Begin by placing your palms together in front of your chest, just below your chin.
- Gently lower your hands towards your waist, making sure your hands are close to your stomach and your palms together. Do this until you can feel a mild stretch under your forearms.
- Maintain this position for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
- Place your forearm on a table with your hands hanging off.
- Make sure there is padding under your wrist.
- Make sure your thumb is facing upwards.
- Move your hands up and down, in a waving motion.
Natural remedies for Wrist pain
Below are some natural remedies for wrist pain:
- Wear a wrist brace or wrist splint to alleviate swelling and ease the pain.
- Apply heat or cold massages for 10 to minutes at a time.
- Use a natural ointment that will reduce pain and increase mobility.
- Use of anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
- Increasing the intake of water to reduce the level of uric acid.
- Reducing the intake of high-fat foods and alcohol.
- Eating mild amounts of protein.
Wrist pain and injuries can be an issue if not well treated. The wrist is an important part of the body because it is used to perform numerous activities and tasks, therefore, an injury to the wrists is sure to destabilize our daily activities, leaving us unable to perform our daily activities.
While it is good to seek medical attention anytime you feel numbness or tingling sensations in your wrists, not all wrist conditions require medical care. Some minor cases such as sprains and strains can often be treated with ice, taking a rest, and over-the-counter pain medications.
However, if the pain, inflammation or discomfort last longer than a few days or worsens, do not hesitate to seek medical aid. Delaying the diagnosis and treatment would only lead to an increasing in pain, delayed time of healing, reduced range of motion, and in severe cases, long-term disability.