What Causes Wrist Pain and How to Treat It
Wrist pain is a very common condition that has various causes. Our wrists plays a crucial role in our basic movement abilities, from writing to texting. When people experience wrist pain, it can greatly impact a person’s quality of life and interfere with their daily activities. The wrist is made up of several small joints where the bones of the forearm and hand meet.
Wrist pain can develop as a result of an injury or sudden impact. For example, if you overstretch a ligament in a wrist sprain, it can cause you to feel pain. This type of pain will usually appear abruptly after an injury. We are going to explore the top causes of wrist pain, and look at treatment options.
Causes of Wrist Pain
There are many possible reasons for pain to occur in your wrists, either due to an underlying issue or a simple fatigue. But the most common cause is an injury to the wrist. There are many nerves that pass through the wrist, and squashing them can also cause pain. Here are some of the most common causes of pain:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
A condition called carpal tunnel syndrome arises when a ligament thickens and ends up exerting pressure on a nerve. The squeezed nerve can cause you to feel pain, weakness, and numbness in the hand. People who have arthritis, diabetes or are obese, are at a higher risk of getting carpal tunnel syndrome. Other causes linked to this condition include repetitive works such as typing, lifting, or using equipment that constantly vibrates the hand.
Osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage which covers the bones degrades, causing inflammation of the joints. A wide range of joints can be affected by this condition, including the wrist. Osteoarthritis of the wrist most commonly occurs in people of middle age or older, and those who have a family history of the condition.
An autoimmune disease called rheumatoid arthritis is where the body’s immune system breaks down healthy tissues. If the joints in the wrist area are affected, this can cause pain.
De Quervain's Disease
This is a condition where the tendons and their thumb side coverings get inflamed and swell. The exact cause of this is not yet known, but it’s commonly connected with an injury to the area or overuse. Symptoms include swelling, grating feeling inside the wrist, and weakness along the thumb, forearm, and wrist.
Repetitive Motion Syndrome
Repetitive motion syndrome, as the name suggests, develops from constantly repeating a certain task, such as knitting or typing. The joint gets overworked and swells, adding pressure on the surrounding nerves. This can not only affect your wrist, but other joints in the body as well.
Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex Injury
The triangular fibrocartilage is situated on the pinky side of the wrist. It serves as support and cushion for the small bones. The cartilage can tear after an injury or degrade over time.
Wrist tendonitis appears when the tendons of the wrist become irritated and inflamed or develop small tears. This condition is also cause by repetitive movements of the wrist.
Small fluid-filled sacs called bursa help to cushion your joints. When these become inflamed it is referred to as bursitis. This can affect many areas of your body, including the wrist. Symptoms include swelling, redness in the region, and tenderness over the tendons.
Ganglion cyst is when the fluid-filled soft tissue cysts that sometimes develop on the wrist opposite the palm but will occur on the palmar aspect of the wrist, causing wrist pain. Smaller cysts commonly tend to hurt more than the larger ones.
Wrist sprain is typically the result of falling and bending the wrist backwards when the hand hits the ground. This movement over-stretches the ligament.
Treatment & Prevention of Wrist Pain
Methods of treatment for wrist pain largely depend on the cause of the pain and it’s intensity. You will first start out with the least invasive treatment before other treatments are recommended. They include:
Home Treatment - sometimes an effective way to treat wrist pain is to let it rest and allow it time to heal. Ice and pain medication can also be used to reduce pain and inflammation.
Splints - In certain cases, wearing a wrist splint may help by preventing wrist movements that cause additional irritation. They are also sometimes helpful in reducing the squeezing of the nerves.
Exercises - wrist exercises can sometimes help, depending on the type of pain you have. Specific exercises can be used to stretch and lengthen tendons and muscles. It’s best to consult with a doctor or physical therapist to see which exercises would be best for you.
Additional treatment - another effective way to reduce inflammation and pain is cortisone injections.
Surgery - if less invasive treatments failed to work, surgery may be appointed. The cause of the pain will determine the type of surgery to be performed. For carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery entails cutting a ligament in the wrist to relieve nerve pressure.
Treatments are done by process of elimination until the issue is resolved. In some cases, physiotherapy can help. Here are some preventative measures you can apply to reduce your chances of developing wrist pain:
Maintaining proper posture when sitting behind a computer, and keeping your wrists in a relaxed position.
Getting a wrist-friendly keyboard.
Learn the proper way of handling hand tools, to reduce the stress placed on the wrist and hands.
Using wrist guards when engaging in sports, such as snowboarding, skateboarding, and rollerblading.