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Wrist Pain

Symptoms, Causes, Related Conditions, Questions & Related Topics

Key Points

  • The article identifies injury, repetitive motion, and inflammation as the top three causes of wrist pain.
  • Injuries to the wrist can stem from physical activities, sports, falls, or auto accidents, and can range from mild to severe.
  • Repetitive motion or overuse of the wrist, common in sports like golf and tennis or jobs involving heavy computer use, can lead to painful injuries.
  • Inflammation and related health conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can cause joint pain.
  • The article also explores conditions associated with wrist pain including arthritis, sprains, bursitis, tendinitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome, providing details on symptoms and treatment options.

Top 3 Wrist Pain Causes

1. Injury

Bruises, sprains, and fractures can all cause wrist pain. People who are physically active or who participate in certain sports might be at a higher risk of wrist injuries.[1] Other causes of wrist injury include falls and auto accidents. If your wrist pain is due to an injury, you might remember the exact moment the injury happened. You might have heard a popping or snapping sound or felt a sudden pain. Your wrist could feel hot or swollen.[2] Sometimes, a sore or bruised wrist heals on its own. However, more severe injuries could require medical care. Broken bones or torn ligaments sometimes require surgery.

2. Repetitive Motion

Repetitive motion or overuse of the wrist can cause pain and swelling. Sports such as golf and tennis can sometimes cause repetitive motion injuries, particularly among professional athletes and people who play regularly.[3] Other individuals suffer repetitive motion injuries due to their occupations. Jobs that require heavy computer use or typing can sometimes lead to wrist pain.[4] Repetitive motion injuries can cause stiffness or a reduced range of motion. You might experience symptoms in both wrists or only on your dominant side. Medical treatment is sometimes necessary with repetitive motion injuries.

3. Inflammation

Many illnesses and health conditions cause swelling or inflammation in the wrist. Osteoarthritis is a particularly common cause of joint pain, especially among older adults.[5] Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can also cause pain in the wrists or other joints.[6] Health conditions that cause joint inflammation can trigger pain in many different parts of the body. If your wrist pain is due to joint inflammation, you might also experience pain in your hands, knees, hips, or back. Autoimmune diseases can cause additional symptoms that include fatigue, swollen glands, skin problems, and digestive problems.[6]

Possible Conditions Related to Wrist Pain

1. Arthritis

Arthritis is a common cause of joint pain. There are more than 100 forms of arthritis, but the most common type is osteoarthritis, which develops when the cartilage inside your joints breaks down. This may occur due to advancing age or a past injury.[5] Arthritis symptoms might appear in your hands, wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, or feet. Some individuals also experience arthritis symptoms in their neck and back. If you have arthritis, you might notice that your joints feel stiff or creaky. The skin around your joints could appear red or swollen.[7] You can often treat mild arthritis symptoms at home. However, severe cases of arthritis require a doctor’s care. Prescription medications or steroid injections can provide relief from symptoms. If your arthritis has caused serious damage to the tissue in your joints, surgery might be necessary.[8]

2. Sprains

Sprains in the wrist occur when the ligaments surrounding your wrist become torn or strained. You can sprain your wrist during a sports injury or a fall.[9] If you have a sprain, your wrist might feel tender and swollen. Mild sprains often heal on their own within a few weeks. Report severe injuries or worsening pain to your doctor. Your doctor might recommend further tests to check for fractures or severely torn ligaments. If you have a bad sprain or a broken bone, you might need to wear a brace or a cast on your wrist while the area heals.[9]

3. Bursitis

Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs located inside your joints. These sacs reduce friction and allow your joints to move more smoothly.[10] Sometimes these sacs become swollen and inflamed, and this condition is known as bursitis. Bursitis can result from an injury, infection, or autoimmune disease.[10] If you have bursitis, your wrist might look red or swollen, and it can be very painful to the touch. Symptoms sometimes resolve on their own. If your bursitis is due to another medical condition, such as an injury or infection, medical care might be necessary.

4. Tendinitis

Tendinitis occurs when the tendons surrounding your wrist become torn or inflamed. This may occur due to an injury or overuse, and the condition is common among athletes and people who are very physically active.[11] If you have tendinitis, your pain might be much worse when you move your wrist. The area might be hot, red, or swollen or produce a grinding sensation when you move your wrist.[12] Tendinitis often requires with rest and ice.[12] You might need to wear a wrist brace while your wrist heals. More severe cases of tendinitis require physical therapy or steroid injections.

5. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome develops when one of the nerves that passes through your wrist becomes compressed. Carpal tunnel syndrome often occurs due to overuse or repetitive motion.[13] If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, your wrist or fingers may feel numb or tingly. You might experience burning pain or pain that travels through your hand and fingers like an electric shock.[13] Your hand could feel weak or clumsy, and you may have trouble holding objects or performing everyday tasks. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor might recommend resting the area or wearing a brace. Steroid injections or surgery can also help fix compressed nerves.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Your Wrist Pain

  • Have you recently injured your wrist?
  • Do you participate in any sports or physical activities?
  • What is your job?
  • Do you spend several hours a day on the computer?
  • Do you experience pain in one or both wrists?
  • Do you experience pain anywhere else in your body?
  • Do you experience any other symptoms?

Wrist Pain May Also Be Known as

  • Sore wrist

Frequently asked questions

  • What are the top three causes of wrist pain?

    The top three causes of wrist pain are injury, repetitive motion, and inflammation.
  • What are some examples of activities that can lead to wrist injuries?

    Activities like sports, falls, auto accidents, or jobs that require heavy computer use or typing can lead to wrist injuries.
  • How can repetitive motion or overuse of the wrist cause pain?

    Repetitive motion or overuse can lead to injuries in the wrist, causing pain and swelling.
  • What health conditions can cause inflammation and wrist pain?

    Health conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation leading to wrist pain.
  • What are some conditions associated with wrist pain?

    Conditions associated with wrist pain include arthritis, sprains, bursitis, tendinitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • What are the symptoms of these wrist-related conditions?

    Symptoms can vary but often include pain, swelling, and limited mobility of the wrist.
  • What are some treatment options for these wrist-related conditions?

    Treatment options can range from rest and physical therapy to medication and, in severe cases, surgery.
  • What might a doctor ask a patient experiencing wrist pain?

    A doctor might ask about the patient's activities, the nature of the pain, when it started, and if there are any existing health conditions.

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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