Chronic Wrist Pain

Wrist pain is very common in athletes and can often be treated at home without assistance from a doctor, but if the pain becomes overbearing and chronic then there may be a greater problem causing the injury. Problems arise in the wrist because it is intricately comprised of eight bones which are attached to the hand and forearm by ligaments, with muscles and tendons also in the area. If any of these components are injured this can lead to wrist pain.


Obviously the primary symptom will be pain that either comes and goes or continues without stopping. However, the pain will feel different depending on the exact cause of the injury and where the pain is found. For example, wrist pain associated with tendinitis provokes an intense pain that keeps jabbing at you, while osteoarthritis wrist pain may ache less intensely but continually. The pain may also radiate into your palm, fingers, or up to the elbow depending on the cause. Other common symptoms include numbness or a ‘pins and needles’ feeling in the wrist, hand or finger, bruising or inflammation, and weakness in the thumb that reduces your gripping ability. Other functions of the hand can also become painful and difficult to achieve. If the wrist pain is linked to ligament damage then the pain might only occur during physical activity.


Pre-existing or long term difficulties can lead to cause chronic wrist pain. Repetitive wrist motions carried out over a long period can result in tissue inflammation or a stress fracture due to continued strain. This can occur in sports including tennis, golf, gymnastics, and many more activities that rely on the wrist.

Complications from osteoarthritis are relatively rare in the wrist but can arise in older people with a history of wrist injuries. This often manifests in pain at the base of the thumb. Prior wrist breaks or tendinitis can increase the risk of developing chronic pain. Other conditions that can contribute to chronic wrist pain include carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, ganglion cysts, and Kienbock’s disease.


You should see a doctor if the pain is major or continues for a number of days, and particularly if it gets gradually worse. If the injury does require medical treatment then the longer it goes unexamined the slower and less successful the healing may be. A doctor will try to find out the cause of the injury as soon as possible through examining the wrist, asking about your symptoms, and ordering any necessary tests. Treatment will depend on the specifics of the injury. Sometimes a period of rest can be sufficient in conjunction with pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen (or stronger remedies if needed). However, for injuries involving torn ligaments or tendons, broken bones, or those associated with a condition like carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery might be the best option.


For many injuries a cast or splint is used during the recovery process in order to facilitate successful healing. When the wrist has recovered and the symptoms have gone, a program of appropriate exercise can help to gradually restore full movement and strength to the area.

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