Pain in Wrists and Ankles: Causes and Treatments

There can be a range of possible causes behind joint pain. Generally, the ache is from injury or arthritis. If there is pain in more than one joint, such as in your wrists and ankles together, then it is likely from arthritis. It can also be from other factors though. If you are experiencing joint pain, it is recommended that you visit your doctor to help find the cause, especially if you can’t find relief after a couple of days. The earlier you detect the cause for pain in your ankles and wrists, the more effectively you can treat it.

What Causes Pain in Wrists and Ankles?

Generally, pain in the two joints is caused by arthritis. This can either be rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or osteoarthritis (OA). When people are over 40, they are more likely to have OA. This starts slowly, hitting joints used the most, such as ankles, knees, hips, hands and wrists. OA joint pain is caused by the cartilage breaking down, which serves as a shock absorber or cushion to your joints.

Women are more likely to have RA than men. It tends to debilitate and deform the joints through time. RA is the cause of fluid buildup, inflammation and pain because the immune system is attacking the joints at the membrane.

More Possible Causes

There are some diseases that can cause pain in wrists and ankles and other joints, including:

  • Rubella
  • Virally spread hepatitis
  • Scleroderma
  • Lupus
  • Reactive arthritis, juvenile arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and other rarer types of arthritis
  • Henoch-Schonlein Purpura
  • Bechet’s Syndrome 
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Hypertrophic pulmonary osteoarthropathy 
  • Isoniazid, hydralazine and steroid therapy

When to See Your Physician

Make a doctor’s appointment if you have joint pain and:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth or tenderness around the joints

Seek immediate medical attention if your joint pain comes from an injury and you have:

  • Intense pain
  • Joint deformity
  • Inability to use the joint
  • Sudden swelling

How to Treat Pain in Wrists and Ankles

Generally, your doctors will want to give you a physical exam. They will ask you several questions about the joint pain to help discern what can be the cause.

They may decide whether you need an X-ray of the joint to see if there is damage. If your doctors think there is another cause, they may ask for a blood test and other autoimmune disease screenings. These tests will help them see the bigger picture and properly diagnose the cause. Different conditions require different treatments.

How to Treat Arthritis

Arthritis is the most common cause of pain in the two joints; some treatment options include:

1. Natural Remedies

Your arthritis symptoms can often be reduced with the following measures:

  • Reduce your weight: You will have less stress on your joints. This will help to increase your mobility, add flexibility and relieve pain.
  • Get regular exercise: Exercise can help keep your joints flexible. This can include water aerobics, swimming and other exercises in the water. This is because the buoyancy of the water will help keep stress away from your joints.
  • Have cold and hot therapy: Using heating pads and ice packs can help provide relief from your arthritis pain in wrists and ankles.
  • Try assistive tools: Using a cane, walker or a toilet seat specially designed can help relieve the pain.
  • Get acupuncture: This Chinese medical treatment has been shown to provide relief for those suffering arthritic pain. For best results, seek an acupuncturist that is well-reviewed and has good references.
  • Get regular massages: The Arthritis Foundation has shown that getting regular massages can help reduce stiffness and pain. It is best to seek a massage therapist who has experience with patients that have arthritis.

2. Medications

The following are some common medications. Consult your doctor about which one that suits you best.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs
  • Analgesics
  • Counterirritants
  • Biologic response modifiers
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • Corticosteroids

3. Physical Therapy for Arthritis

Many times, doctors will recommend physical therapy to help with arthritis symptoms. This can include:

  • Hydrotherapy – It is warm-water pool exercise to help ease stiffness. The water will support you so less strain is put on your joints and muscles.
  • Physiotherapy – It works to improve your muscle strength and overall fitness. This will include exercises that are tailored to your individual fitness level and needs. Often it will combine some pain relief methods through massage or hot and cold therapy.
  • Occupational therapy – It will help you with your everyday tasks. This is tailored to provide you with some pain relief as well as prevent further damage.

4. Surgery

When other measures don’t help, your doctor may recommend surgery. This may be:

  • Joint repair: Joint surfaces are smoothed or realigned to help improve function and reduce pain. It is done through small cuts above the joint.
  • Joint fusion: This is a procedure that is generally performed on smaller areas such as fingers, ankles and wrists. The joint ends are removed and then locked together so they heal into one unit.
  • Joint replacement: This is a procedure where your damaged joint will be removed, and replaced with a healthy, artificial one. But this is commonly done with knees and hips.