What is wrist pain?
Your wrists are made up of a lot of different bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments, and it is common to experience pain in them. Wrist pain can often be caused by an injury, such as a fracture or sprain, which can result in instant pain. However, pain and swelling in the hands and wrists can also be the result of long term (chronic) problems too, which may develop over time.
If you’ve got a minor sprain, you may not require medical attention. Over-the-counter pain medication and rest may be all that is required.
However, if you’re struggling with wrist pain, or if you believe it’s being caused by an underlying condition, our doctors can help. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the causes of wrist pain in more detail.
What are the symptoms of wrist pain?
The symptoms of wrist pain will depend on what’s causing it. It may be difficult to diagnose the cause of wrist pain because there are so many things that can cause pain in this area. Common symptoms to look out for include:
- pain when moving your wrist
- a dull, achy feeling
- pins and needles
- a clicky joint
- bruising, swelling, redness and warmth at the joint
- it may be difficult to make a fist or to grip objects
What can wrist pain be a symptom of?
Wrist pain can be a symptom of many things. Here we cover some of the causes of wrist pain:
Sprains and strains, or even a broken bone, can be the result of an accident. For example, when you fall you often put your hands out in front of you to break the fall, which can result in damage to the wrists.
With rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system mistakenly attacks your body’s own tissue, in this case, both wrists are usually affected.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition and although it is uncommon for it to occur in the wrists, it can happen. It’s most common in older people, whose joints have been through a lot of wear and tear.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
This occurs when the median nerve is compressed or pinched. This can affect just one, or both of your wrists, and you’ll usually experience pain, tingling or numbness on your hand, near your thumb.
Tendinitis of wrist
Wrist tendinitis is a condition where the tendons of the wrist become irritated and inflamed, causing pain.
These are a type of cyst that can develop on your wrist joints.
Gout causes inflammation in your joints because your body struggles to process uric acid. This acid this can form crystals in the wrist joint, leading to a gritty feeling and pain.
When the fluid filled sacs that surround your joints become inflamed, it can cause discomfort and pain, as well as swelling and redness in the affected area.
Repetitive stress injury
Any action that requires repetitive movement of the wrist can cause a repetitive stress injury. This could cause joint inflammation or stress fractures. You are at particular risk of this if you continue the movement, without a break for hours on end.
What should you do if you have wrist pain?
Minor wrist pain should heal itself after a week or so with rest - you can use over-the-counter painkillers if needed and putting ice on the joint at regular intervals may help relieve pain.
However, if you have wrist pain that hasn’t gone away after rest, or gets worse, then it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Likewise, if you’re showing signs of infection, such as redness in the area, or a temperature, you should also see a GP.
Our doctors can take a look at the affected wrist over a video consultation. They’ll ask about your symptoms, the type of pain you’re experiencing and when you’re experiencing it.
The treatment you may need will depend upon the underlying cause. If the doctor can’t diagnose your condition over a video consultation, they may need to refer you to a specialist for further investigation.
Tests for wrist pain
Often, further tests won’t be required. However, if they are, it may include:
- imaging tests such as x-rays, a MRI, a CT scan or ultrasound
- nerve tests, if carpal tunnel syndrome is suspected to be the cause
- a physical examination
- blood tests
- urine tests
- a sample may be taken, for laboratory tests
In some instances, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, bone fractures, tendon or ligament rupture,surgical intervention may be needed in order to relieve your wrist pain.
How can Push Doctor help?
You can see an understanding doctor about your wrist pain at a time that suits you. Our doctors are available 7 days a week. They can offer you the advice, diagnosis and treatment you may need. When required, they can also refer you to a specialist for further investigation or treatment.
- Dr Colin Tidy. Patient info, Hand Injuries and their Assessment, 18/12/2015.
- Dr William Morrison, Natalie Phillips, Ana Gotter. Healthline, What Causes Wrist Pain?, 25/04/2016.
- Mayo Clinic, Wrist pain, 26/10/2017.
- Dr William Morrison & Mary Ann De Pietro, DWrist pain: Causes, symptoms, and treatment, 23/05/2017.