Wrist bursitis is inflammation of a bursa, which is a small sack of fluid that helps lubricate the movement of tendons over bone. There are two bursas in the wrist, and repetitive trauma or friction can cause them to become inflamed. Treatment involves rest and reducing inflammation.
On this page:
- Causes & anatomy
Wrist bursitis symptoms
Symptoms include pain in the wrist, especially when the wrist is bent back (extended) or when performing weight-bearing activities or sports. A small lump or swelling may be seen in the top of the wrist which may be tender and warm to touch.
Wrist bursitis causes & anatomy
Bursas are found all over the body, in places where soft tissues may rub against each other or the underlying bone. They affect people who tend to put a lot of weight on their hands, for example, cyclists.
There are two bursas in the wrist; the radial bursa and the ulnar bursa. The radial bursa surrounds the flexor pollicis longus tendon on the thumb and palm sides of the wrist. The ulna bursa surrounds the tendons of the flexor digitorum superficialis and profundus muscles, more centrally in the palm side of the wrist.
Bursitis can be caused by a sudden impact, or more regularly by repeated movements and is a form of repetitive strain injury (RSI). The bursa becomes inflamed and swollen due to repetitive friction.
Rest and apply cold therapy if it is acute or painful. Use a compression bandage to help reduce swelling.
A doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen. Ultrasound therapy may be used to help reduce pain and inflammation. In more severe cases the bursa can be aspirated, where a needle is inserted to suck out the fluid, although it is possible the bursa will return. Bursitis usually dies down after a week or so if it is left to recover.