Bone, Nerve, Tendon, Or Ligament: What Is Causing Your Wrist Pain?

From minor sprains to carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful wrist can result from a number of various causes.  It is important to obtain an accurate diagnosis in order to pursue effective treatment.  Any wrist pain that persists for more than a few days warrants an evaluation by a physician before long-term effects such as permanent joint damage and decreased range of motion set in.

Causes of Wrist Pain

Your wrist joint is a network of eight bones, tendons, ligaments, and bursae that connect the forearm to the hand.  A sustained injury to any of these components can present with pain. Impacts from physical trauma can result in the following injuries:

  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Fractures

One common scenario that results in an impact injury to the wrist occurs when someone falls directly onto the hand that is outstretched to brace the impact, which bends the wrist backward.  

Stress injuries to the wrist can result from activities and occupations that require repetitive motions, such as playing tennis or hammering, for extensive periods. Stress injuries include the following:

  • Tendonitis, which is an inflammation of the tendons  
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome, which is sustained compression of the portion of the median nerve that sits between the palm of your hand to the inside surface of your wrist

Carpal tunnel syndrome predominantly affects those whose occupations require extensive typing. 

Degenerative joint disease, such as osteoarthritis, can inflict pain on the wrist as the cartilage between the bones suffers wear and tear and the bones end up rubbing directly against one another during movement.  

Other conditions that can cause wrist pain include the following:

  • Gout, which results from the formation of uric acid crystals in the joint
  • Bursitis, which occurs if repetitive motion or friction causes inflammation of the bursa
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints 
  • Ganglion cyst, which is a small, fluid-filled sac that forms in the tissues of the joint

If you are experiencing pain, inflammation, swelling, bruising, redness, or interference with the movement of your wrist, schedule an examination with your physician so that the cause of your symptoms can be identified.

Diagnosing Wrist Pain

The process of attaining a wrist pain diagnosis begins with a physical examination in which your physician will evaluate your wrist for swelling, tenderness, and range of motion. He or she will perform some basic physical manipulations to assess strength and range of motion throughout your hand, wrist, and forearm and to pinpoint which movements or positions incite pain.  

Based on your physician's findings, diagnostic imaging tests may be recommended. Basic radiographs will verify the presence of any broken bones or evidence of osteoarthritis. More advanced diagnostic imaging tests include the following:

  • A computerized tomography scan provides a more detailed and multidimensional view of your wrist's bones.
  • An ultrasound enables visualization of tendons, ligaments, cysts and other soft tissue. It also provides views in real time, so movement can allow the clinician to evaluate the mobility of these structures further. 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging offers a complete view of all of the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the wrist in the most detail.  

If none of these non-invasive imaging options offer a conclusive diagnosis, then an arthroscopy may be necessary.  During this test, a tiny camera-like instrument, which is called an arthroscope, is inserted into the wrist through a small incision to project an internal view onto a monitor screen.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is confirmed through nerve conduction tests that include an electromyogram, which measures electrical impulses in the muscles of the hand and wrist and evaluates functional capacity of the median nerve.

Once the cause of your wrist pain has been diagnosed, your physician can formulate a treatment plan to relieve your discomfort.

Treatment for Wrist Pain

Treatment protocols for relieving wrist pain depend upon the diagnosis. Simple home remedies such as resting the joint, applying ice packs or heat therapy, wearing a splint to stabilize the joint, and taking symptomatic medication, such as ibuprofen, can help to alleviate the pain and inflammation of certain injuries, such as a sprain or tendonitis, during healing. In some cases, your doctor may also recommend physical therapy.

For certain long-term conditions, such as osteoarthritis, taking joint supplements and engaging in prescribed routines of hand and wrist strengthening exercises can be helpful. Some situations, such as ruptured tendons, carpal tunnel syndrome or bone fractures, may require surgery in order to eliminate pain and preserve mobility and functionality of your wrist and hand.

For more information, contact a company like Northern Care Inc Prosthetics & Orthotics.