Wrist Pain: Why and What to Do

Have you ever went to open a jar and when you turned the lid searing pain shot through your wrist and up your arm? Or perhaps you’ve been working at the computer, typing away, and your wrist becomes numb and tingly. Wrist pain can come in many forms and can be caused by a variety of issues. What’s causing your wrist pain and what can you do to alleviate it?

Causes of Wrist Pain

Wrist pain may be caused by problems ranging from injuries to serious underlying diseases. Check the main causes below to find what makes your wrist painful.  

1. Injury

Injuries are the easiest to diagnose, especially if you are aware of when the pain started. Ifyou’ve taken a fall, banged your wrist against something hard, or suffered another type of accident where your wrist was dealt a sudden impact, you can easily fracture, strain, or sprain your wrist.

In the case of minor injuries medical care is not often necessary. These types of wrist injuries usually respond well to treatment with ice, rest, and over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen. If, however, the pain and swelling persists more than a few days, you should get it checked out. An undetected fracture or other serious injury can have long-lasting effects.

2. Repetitive stress

Whether it’s typing, painting, swinging a golf club, or driving long distances, activities that involve repetitive wrist motions can cause stress injuries to the soft tissues in the wrist.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common types of repetitive stress injuries. Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the median nerve (the nerve that directs feelings and movements in areas of the hand) is compressed by localized swelling. This is also common amongst people who are pregnant, overweight, diabetic, or menopausal.

3. Arthritis

Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can cause wrist pain. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that normally cushions the ends of bones gradually deteriorates. When the wrist pain is caused by this type of condition, it is often because the wrist was injured earlier in life. Rheumatoid arthritis is the result of an immune disorder that causes the body to combat its own tissues. In this case the pain often occurs in both wrists.

4. Ganglion Cysts

These are fluid-filled sacs often found near a joint or tendon especially in the wrists or hands. Also known as synovial cysts, they can be as tiny as a pea or as large as a golf ball. Sometimes they do not cause any pain, but if they are located next to a nerve, pain can appear.

5. Gout or Pseudogout

Gout is caused by excess uric acid in the bloodstream. Normally this waste product is excreted through the urinary system but when the body produces an overabundance of it, the uric acid forms crystals in your joints. Pseudogout is a result of calcium deposits developing in your joints. The wrists and knees are most commonly affected by pseudogout.

6. Kienbock’s disease

This condition most often develops in young adults and is a result of a small bone in the wrist slowly collapsing, progressively compromising the blood supply to that bone.

Who Is Most at Risk for Wrist Pain?

Anyone can suffer from a sore wrist, especially if you injure it. Those most likely to develop wrist pain without injury include people who do repetitive work with their hands like painters, typists, hair stylists, seamstresses, and others who do frequent hand work. You may also be susceptible to wrist pain if you suffer from certain diseases and medical conditions such as those mentioned above.

Coping With Wrist Pain

Pain in your wrist can be mild or severe enough to be nearly debilitating. If your wrist pain is interfering with your everyday life you should seek medical advice so the problem can be diagnosed and treated. Treatment may be as simple as over-the-counter medications or may be more involved and include physical therapy or even surgery. There are also things you can do at home to help relieve your wrist pain.

  • Taking medicationssuch as acetaminophen or ibuprofen often provides temporary relief from pain in the wrist.
  • There are also some proactive steps you can take to prevent and relieve wrist pain, especially if it is caused by carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis. For instance, if you must type frequently, consider using dictation software with your computer to avoid the repetitive motions. Make sure your keyboard is placed at a level where your wrists aren’t bent while typing and take advantage of foam pads where you can rest your wrists.
  • Wrist and hand braces may prove helpful for limiting the movement of the wrist. Your doctor or physical therapist can help you select the brace that is best for you.
  • There are many helpful gadgets now available for those who suffer from wrist pain. Special can openers, fatter handles on tools and utensils, and lighter-weight cookware are all good ideas for those who have wrist pain.
  • You should take work off your wrist. Use larger joints to perform tasks you usually do with your hands, like using a hip or shoulder to push a door open or carrying a shoulder bag instead of gripping a purse. Or you can use non-slip grips to open jars and on your kitchen hand tools to prevent you from applying as much pressure as you would need to use without the help of the gadgets.

Watch the video below to learn some exercise to soothe your wrist pain: