Wrist Pain By Location

Wrist pain zones

Here we explain the causes of wrist pain by specific location or region. Below we outline the common terms used for identifying areas of the wrist along with the most common and less common injuries affecting that particular area, as well as important conditions often missed.

Dorsal wrist pain

This is pain at the back of the wrist and is subdivided into radial (thumb side), central and Ulnar (little finger side) zones.

Radial zone

The dorsal radial zone is the area of the wrist near the thumb over the palm side.

Most common:

  • Extensor carpi radialis tenosynovitis – inflammation of the sheath surrounding the tendon.
  • DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis – inflammation of the sheath that surrounds two tendons in the wrist at the base of the thumb.
  • Scaphoid fracture – a fracture to the carpal bone in the wrist called the Scaphoid.
  • Distal radius fracture – a fracture of the end of the radius bone in the forearm.

Less common:

Important not to miss:

  • Carpal dislocation – dislocation of any of the small bones which make up the wrist.
  • Radial epiphyseal stress reaction – an overuse injury affecting the growth plate of the radius bone. This is more likely to affect young athletes.

Central zone

The dorsal central zone is the middle area of the wrist on the inside or palm side.

Most common:

Less common:

  • Impingement syndromes

Important not to miss:

  • Scapholunate dislocation – this is dislocation of the scaphoid bone where it connects to the lunate bone.
  • Perilunar dislocation
  • Kienbocks disease

Ulnar zone

The dorsal ulnar zone is the area of the wrist on the inside near the little finger.

Most common:

Less common:

  • Distal radioulnar joint instability
  • Ulnar fracture
  • Luno-triquetral ligament sprain
  • Extensor carpi ulnaris subluxation

Volar wrist pain

This is pain on the inside or underside of the wrist. Volar wrist pain can also be divided into radial (thumb side), central and Ulnar (little finger side) zones.

Radial zone

Most common

  • Carpo-metacarpal osteoarthritis

Less common

  • Flexor carpi radialis tendinopathy

Important not to miss:

  • Carpal instability

Central zone

Most common

Less common

  • Pisotriquetral degenerative joint disease

Ulnar zone

Most common

Less common


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This article has been written with reference to the bibliography.