Wrist Pain: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and Diagnosis

Wrist Pain

What is Wrist Pain?

Wrist pain is a common ailment with numerous causes. Pain disrupts daily activities and even have an impact on a person’s quality of life.
Since there are numerous causes of wrist pain, pinpointing the exact cause can be challenging. However, an accurate diagnosis is critical for proper treatment and healing.

Wrist Pain And Associated Symptoms

Wrist pain can range from mild to severe, depending on the cause. For example, osteoarthritis pain is frequently described as a dull toothache, whereas carpal tunnel syndrome typically causes a pins-and-needles or tingling sensation, especially at night. The precise location of your wrist pain also reveals more about what’s causing your symptoms.
The following symptoms may accompany your wrist pain, depending on what is causing it.

  • Difficulty making a fist or gripping objects.
  • Numbness or tingling sensation in the hands.
  • Pain, numbness, or tingling that gets worse at night
  • Swelling or redness around the wrist
  • A deformed joint
  • Inability to straighten or flex the joint

Wrist Pain Causes

When you have wrist pain after a fall, an X-ray may reveal a fracture.
The hand surgeon will assess whether the pain is on the side of your thumb or on the side of your small finger or it is in the centre of your wrist. An injury in the remote past may reveal a fracture you had probably not gotten treated. This is called probably a condition called nonunion scaphoid.
Carpal tunnel syndrome develops when the median nerve gets compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel. It can result in tingling, numbness, and pain, particularly in the hand and fingers. Similar symptoms can occur in the wrist and forearm. Symptoms are frequently worse at night.

  • De Quervain’s tendinopathy is a common condition that affects the tendons in the wrist, causing pain around the wrist and at the base of the thumb. The pain usually subsides with rest and worsens with activity. Pregnancy can make the symptoms worse. Intersection Syndrome is another condition which produces wrist pain.
  • The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. It can cause problems with the hands and wrists, particularly the joints at the fingertips and the base of the thumb. After getting an x-ray for further confirmation, the hand surgeon will make diagnosis of “first carpometacarpal joint arthritis”.
  • Avascular Necrosis of Lunate or Keinbock’s disease can produce pain in the wrist, restrict wrist movements. The pain worsen over weeks and months if early treatment is not sought.
  • Occult ganglion, ganglion, dorsal wrist syndrome. These conditions cause localised pain in the centre of the wrist.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes joint inflammation, manifesting in the hands and wrists, thus, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. It is much worse in the morning. The stiffness can last more than 30 minutes and does not go away with movement. The joints can feel warm and red at times.
  • TFCC tear. At times, one may hear about a diagnosis of a ligament tear or an MRI report which states tear of a ligament. The forearm bones are held together by certain supporting structures which may rupture due to aging or due to a fall. TFCC stands for triangular fibrocartilaginous complex. Put simply it is a supporting structure holding forearm bones together.
  • Ulnar impaction syndrome. The wrist pain comes up with rotation of the forearm like when turning a key or a knob.

There are several other causes of wrist pain. In fact, wrist pain is a vast subject in itself.

Wrist Pain Diagnosis

The hand surgeon will want to know what symptoms you’ve had and how long you’ve had them to diagnose a problem with your hand and wrist. They will examine your hand and wrist to pinpoint the exact location of pain and your range of motion, sensation, and strength. Various precipitating tests are carried out to further localise the source of pain.

  • You may be asked for certain blood tests to look for inflammation.
  • X-rays, ultrasound scans, computerized tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are all used to help doctors see what’s happening inside your hand and wrist.
  • A nerve conduction study is sometimes required to determine how well your nerves work.

Wrist Pain Treatment

Wrist pain treatments differ depending on the cause. A fracture may require a protective splint or a cast. If the fracture is unstable, you may require surgery. Wearing a cast, brace, or splint can help relieve pain caused by a sprain, carpal tunnel syndrome, or arthritis. Surgical intervention may be necessary on other occasions.
Your hand surgeon may recommend the following for chronic, relentless or severe pain:

  • Medications to alleviate symptoms.
  • Carpal tunnel surgery gets performed to relieve pressure on the median nerve.
  • Tendons that get compressed are surgically released.
  • Surgery to reduce bone-on-bone contact caused by arthritis. It may include motion-preserving procedures such as potential wrist fusion, bone removal, or total or partial wrist replacement.
  • The inflamed tissues are removed (synovectomy). Your surgeon may perform an open or arthroscopic (minimally invasive) surgery.

Wrist Pain Prevention

Specific repetitive movements can cause or aggravate wrist pain. Most of us spend a significant amount of time typing on the keyboard. You can change how your desk gets set up to relieve wrist and tendon irritation.

Here are the following steps can help prevent wrist pain:

  1. Lower your keyboard to prevent your wrists from bending upward as you type.
  2. Take breaks from typing to rest your hands regularly.
  3. Use a wrist rest when using your keyboard, mouse, and trackpad.
  4. Change your “mouse hand” or learn to use a mouse with your non-dominant hand.

Wrist Pain Relief Exercises

If your wrists are stiff and achy due to overworking them (for example, working for too long on your computer in one position), you can do some simple wrist exercises at home to help relieve the stiffness and tension. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome or another condition that affects your wrists, consult your doctor before beginning any wrist exercises.

1. Flexions and extensions of the wrist
Place your forearm on a table with a cloth padding under your wrist. Turn your arm so that your hand is down. Then, raise your hand until you feel a slight stretch. Next, return your hand to its original position and repeat the process.

2. Supination and pronation of the wrist
Stand with your arm outstretched and your elbow at a 90-degree angle. Rotate your forearm so that your hand is facing up. Then the other way so that it faces down.

3. Deviation of the wrist
Place your forearm on a table, hand dangling and padding under your wrist. Your thumb should be facing up. Wiggle your hand up and down as if waving.

Wrist Pain Risk Factors

Wrist pain can affect anyone, whether they have a sedentary or have an active lifestyle. However, the following factors may increase your risk:
1. Participation in sports
Wrist injuries are common in many sports, including those that involve impact as well as those that involve repetitive wrist stress. Football, bowling, golf, gymnastics, snowboarding, and tennis are examples.

2. Repetitive tasks
Almost any activity, which involves your hands and wrists, including knitting and hair cutting, can cause disabling wrist pain if done forcefully and frequently enough.

3. Specific illnesses or conditions
Carpal tunnel syndrome can get exacerbated by pregnancy, diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.

When to See a Hand Doctor for Wrist Pain

Persistent wrist pain necessitates medical attention. Minor sprains and strains can usually get treated with ice, rest, and over-the-counter pain relievers. However, if the pain and swelling persist for more than a few days or worsen, consult your hand doctor. Delays in diagnosis and treatment can result in poor healing, limited range of motion, and long-term disability.
However, you should see your hand surgeon if:

  • Your pain isn’t getting better after two weeks of home treatment.
  • The pain is getting worse.
  • The pain is preventing you from doing your daily activities.
  • Your hands are stiff and swollen, especially in the mornings.
  • Your hands are warm and red in addition to being swollen and stiff.


Wrist Pain Related FAQs

Q1. Why my wrist is paining?
Sprains or fractures from injuries remain common causes of wrist pain. However, wrist pain can be caused by long-term issues such as repetitive stress, arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. You can try over-the-counter treatment for occasional wrist pain, but if it does not go away, you may need to see a hand doctor for further evaluation.

Q2. How to cure wrist pain?
You can try to rest your wrist whenever possible or wrap a towel around an ice pack and place it on your wrist for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. You can also keep your hands and wrists moving with gentle exercises to help relieve pain and stiffness, or you can take paracetamol. This is okay for an occasional pain only.

Q3. How to find relief from wrist joint pain?
You can use cold compresses for acute injuries and warm compresses for chronic conditions. You can also start with hand exercises guided by hand therapists. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and topical NSAIDs applied to the skin (pain-relieving creams) can also be effective for occasional pain.

Q4. How to prevent wrist pain when working out?
To help prevent wrist injuries and pain, you will have to strengthen the muscles in your forearms by resisting wrist motions with light resistance bands or small weights. Put your wrists in the most stable position possible. During exercises, maintain a straight alignment of your hand and forearm.

Q5. How to reduce arthritis pain in wrist?
Aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can help with pain and swelling. They have to be taken under medical supervision to avoid detrimental effect on other organs like kidney, liver and heart. Topical NSAIDs can be applied to the skin directly over the joint. Specific exercises will help you improve your wrist’s range of motion and function.

Q6. Can a broken wrist cause elbow pain?
You will usually feel pain and swelling in the forearm, wrist, or elbow. If the fracture is severe enough, you may develop a deformity of your wrist. Bruising (black and blue discoloration) is quite common. Consult your doctor if the pain in your arm prevents you from using it naturally.
Q7. Can wrist pain be serious?
Minor sprains and strains usually get treated with ice, rest, and over-the-counter pain relievers. However, if the pain and swelling persists or worsen, consult your hand doctor.

Q8. How to relieve carpal tunnel pain in wrist?
Take aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain under medical supervision. You can wear a wrist splint at night. Most drugstores and pharmacies sell these over the counter.

Q9. Is treatment same for all wrist pain?
Each condition has different causation and need a very different treatment. There may be 6-8 causes of pain on the radial side of the wrist. Similarly, there are 30 causes of pain on the ulnar side. Each condition is caused differently and needs different treatment.


You may not realize the importance of your wrists until one of them is injured. An injury to the wrist can make it challenging to use electronics, drive a car, or hold a pencil. Many people experience wrist pain at some point in their lives.
Aside from a sprain or fracture, the most common causes of wrist pain are carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and arthritis. Your doctor can help you determine what’s causing your wrist pain and recommend treatments. Nonsurgical treatments such as wearing a splint, modifying activities, and performing hand exercises can often alleviate symptoms. If wrist pain interferes with your ability to work, sleep, or perform daily activities, you may benefit from surgery.

Make an Appointment with Us

Whether it’s an injury, fracture, pain, paralysis or deformity or any other hand issue that you may face, Dr. Jindal at Pune Hand Surgery Clinic or at Jindal academy for hand surgery will assist you and ensure that you get appropriate treatment. With best-in-class infrastructure and expertise, you will find yourself in good hands. You can contact us through our contact number or book an appointment through this form.