Do you have wrist pain when writing, texting, or doing other day-to-day activities? Do you feel your painful wrist is affecting your quality of life? If your answer is yes, then the chances are that you are suffering from a sprained wrist.
Your wrist is not a simple joint. Rather, it is made up of several small joints that connect your hand to your forearm. Wrist pain is common and has several causes.
What Are the Causes of Wrist Pain?
Wrist pain can occur if any portion of the wrist, such as ligaments, bones, tendons, or nearby nerves, gets an injury. Recurring wrist pain generally occurs due to inflammation and repetitive stress on the joint.
The causes of wrist pain are categorized as follows:
Injuries or Wounds
• Impulsive impacts. If you fall frontward, you generally outstretch your hand to protect yourself. This can lead to sprains or even fractures. One such factor includes a scaphoid fracture which involves a bone of the wrist towards the thumb. This fracture may not be seen on x-rays instantly after the injury.
• Recurring stress. Activities involving repetitive movement in the wrist, for example, hitting on a tennis ball, may cause inflammation in the tissues surrounding joints or stress fractures. De Quervain’s disease occurs due to repetitive stress injury resulting in pain at the base of the thumb.
Wrist pain & Arthritis
• Osteoarthritis. In this condition, damage occurs to the cartilage cushioning the bone ends over time. However, in general, wrist osteoarthritis is commonly only found in individuals who have had a wrist injury in the past.
• Rheumatoid arthritis. It is a disorder that involves the immune system attacking its own tissues and commonly affects the wrist. The involvement of one wrist generally affects the other one too.
Other Disorders and Conditions
• Carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition develops with an elevated pressure over the median nerve along its route through the carpal tunnel. A carpal tunnel is a corridor in the palm side of the wrist.
• Ganglion cysts. These are soft tissue cysts that are most commonly found on the wrist side opposite to the palm. These cysts can be painful, which may improve or worsen with activity.
• Kienbock’s disease. It generally affects young adults and involves a deficiency in the blood supply of the small wrist bones leading to their progressive collapse.
Wrist Pain Symptoms
The symptoms of wrist pain may differ according to your cause. Some individuals can have dull or achy pain, while others have sharp pain sensations. Pain may also occur at different locations.
Other symptoms may also occur in addition to pain. Injury can cause wrist sprain, the symptoms of which include bruising and swelling. Carpal tunnel syndrome includes numbness, weakness, and tingling of the hand. Following symptoms may also occur in some individuals:
• Stiffness can occur in the wrist and fingers.
• Gripping objects may be difficult or uncomfortable.
• Clicking sound with the movement of the wrist – the sound may become severe after periods of rest.
The symptoms may become mild to severe according to the cause with time.
In the initial stage, pain can occur during specific activities. With the increasing severity of the condition, pain can occur even at rest. In severe cases, one may feel numbness, cold, or heat and might drop things.
Diagnosis of Wrist Pain
Your clinician will ask you several questions in your first consultation related to your wrist pain. Inform your doctor of your relevant history, including any trauma or injury you have had.
Your hand, wrist, and arm will be examined during your physical exam for swelling, bruising, muscle wasting, or skin changes. Tenderness and deformities will then be checked for by pressing on the muscles and bones and checking your wrist’s range of motion by moving it around.
Several imaging tests are commonly used for the diagnosis of wrist pain. These include:
• Computed tomography (CT) scan
• Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
• Nerve tests
• Special tests needed in some cases include the Tinel test used to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. The Finkelstein test may also help de Quervain’s tenosynovitis.
How Can Wrist Pain Be Relieved?
Your treatment for wrist pain will vary according to several factors. These include:
• Severity, type, and location of your condition
• Your age
• Overall health
Medications used for wrist pain include over-the-counter painkillers, including ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which may help reduce wrist pain. For severe pain, strong pain relievers can be obtained on prescription.
Particular treatments and exercises are done by physical therapists for wrist injuries and tendon issues. In case you require surgery, rehabilitation is done by a physical therapist who can help you recover better after the operation.
The ergonomic evaluation may also benefit you as it assesses causative factors of wrist pain at the office. In case of a broken bone, your specialist will align the pieces for the bone to heal properly. A splint or cast is used to heal the fragments of bone.
In case of a strain or sprain, your doctor may recommend you wear a splint to protect the injured tendon or ligament while it heals. Typically, splints are beneficial for overuse injuries that occur due to repetitive movement.
There are some cases that may need surgery. These include the following.
Carpal tunnel syndrome. In case of severe symptoms, the ligament that makes the tunnel’s roof may need to be cut open to relieve the pressure on the nerve.
Bone fractures. Surgery may be needed for the stabilization of bone fractures to allow healing. Bone fragments may also be needed to be connected with the help of metal hardware.
Ligament or tendon repair. Ruptured ligaments or tendons may also need surgery.
While wrist pain is not a life-threatening condition, it can be debilitating and may also compromise your quality of life. Hence, it is essential to visit your doctor and get a proper diagnosis of why your wrists are hurting. Get adequate management of your condition so that you can perform your daily activities at the workplace and home with zeal and zest.
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