Wrist Pain

Wrist pain can be caused by many different conditions. It sometimes is related to a specific injury or stress to the wrist. More typically there has been some sort of repeated use or motion of the hand and wrist in the weeks or months before symptoms start.

A frequent problem is acute tendonitis, which is often prominent on the back of the wrist or thumb, and is made worse by flexing or waving the hand. Another painful condition results from chronic injury to the ligaments and muscles of the wrist and is seen typically in assembly line workers. It is referred to as "overuse syndrome" or "repetitive strain injury". A more specific problem known as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) results when a nerve on the palm side of the wrist becomes compressed or entrapped in a narrow band of tissue because of local swelling or scarring. Often there is a burning pain in the hand, palm or forearm, particularly at night. Some fingers may feel tingly or numb. Temporary improvement occurs with rubbing or shaking the hand or wrist. Special nerve function tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis. (X-rays do not help). Carpal tunnel syndrome may improve with resting the affected hand, wrist splints, oral medications or local cortisone injections. In progressive cases where improvement is minimal, surgery may be necessary and it usually cures CTS.

Home Care for Wrist Pain

  • Your urgent care provider will give you an idea of the most likely reason for your wrist to be painful. Initial treatment usually consists of immobilizing the wrist, restricting activity with the hand and often the use of oral anti-inflammatory medications if tolerated. Follow the advice regarding the use of the splint.

  • Generally, a follow-up visit with your own provider is recommended in 1-2 weeks. At that time, depending on your progress, you may require further tests, physical therapy or referral to a specialist. Most cases of tendonitis will resolve by this time, and you should request advice on how to use your wrist to reduce the chance of recurrence.

  • Certain medical problems may increase the risk of developing CTS. Be sure to let your follow-up provider know if you have diabetes, thyroid disease, and fluid retention or are pregnant. A careful occupational history is also very helpful.


Call or Return If Any of the Following Occur:

  • Any problem with your medication or splint

  • Increasing pain during proper rest and treatment

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