Here we explain the common causes of wrist pain both gradual onset (chronic) and sudden-onset (acute) injuries.
Select the type or location of wrist pain:
Acute wrist injuries
Sudden onset injuries or acute injuries include wrist fractures, sprains, strains, and contusions.
Wrist fractures – (broken wrist) is a fracture or break of either the radius and/or ulna forearm bones. Or any of the smaller carpal bones in the wrist. There are a number of different types of wrist fractures, so an accurate diagnosis is essential.
Wrist strain – is often a general term used to describe pain in the wrist. Strictly speaking, a strain is a tear of a tendon that attaches muscle to bone. Wrist strains can occur suddenly, or develop gradually through overuse.
Wrist sprain – is an injury to any of the ligaments which connect bone to bone in the wrist. It is a common wrist injury, usually caused by a significant impact like a fall. There are different grades of a sprain, depending on its severity.
TFCC tear – is an injury to the triangular fibrocartilage complex, found in the wrist, between the end of the ulna bone and the carpals. A tear can be caused by a specific incident or come on gradually, resulting in wrist pain and restricted wrist and hand function. This wrist injury can often be treated with a splint, although if it is too severe, surgery may be needed.
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Chronic wrist pain (gradual onset)
Gradual onset injuries or chronic injuries occur over a period of time and often cannot be traced back to a single incident or cause.
Wrist tendonitis – is inflammation, or more likely degeneration, of any of the flexor or extensor tendons that cross the wrist joint. Repetitive movement and overuse can cause stiffness and pain in the wrist, and there can also be swelling. Sports and repetitive work are common causes of tendonitis.
Carpal tunnel syndrome – is a common cause of wrist pain. A dull ache is felt in the wrist and forearm with pain that may radiate into the hand and fingers. It is often worse at night and a tingling sensation can be felt. We explain the symptoms, causes, and treatment including exercises and surgery.
Distal radial epiphyseal injury – A distal radial epiphysis injury is an injury to the growth plate at the wrist end of the radius bone in the forearm. It mostly affects young athletes and is most often caused by overuse.
Ganglion cyst – or wrist ganglion is a small lump that appears in the wrist, often attached to a ligament. The size of the cyst and the severity of the wrist pain varies from person to person. Some ganglions are not painful so can be left, but others can hinder movement and cause pain, so may require treatment. Read more about the causes, symptoms, and possible treatments for ganglions.
Wrist bursitis – a bursa is a small sack of fluid that lubricates where tendons move in joints, of which there are two in the wrist. If a bursa is subjected to repeated trauma or friction then it can become inflamed and swollen, causing wrist pain. Although the pain can be severe, wrist bursitis can often go away with rest, ice and compression, without the need for any major treatment.
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