Man holding wrist in pain

Wrist Pains and Strains

July 18th, 2022

Whether it’s from a direct injury or soreness due to arthritis, wrist pain can be incredibly uncomfortable and leave you unable to do your everyday tasks. Wrist injuries are common in sports and falls, but can also occur through overuse or as a symptom of an autoimmune disease. Luckily, there are steps you can take to treat wrist injuries, as well as prevent them. 

Wrist injury

If you experience a fall, a hit to the wrist, or are experiencing pain in the area, you may have a wrist sprain. A sprain can occur when the muscle, connecting tendons, or ligaments are damaged. These injuries have similar symptoms, like tenderness in the area, redness, clicking noise with movement, and weakness that persists for more than several days. To determine whether you have a wrist sprain and if you need to begin treatment, you’ll have to get the injury examined by a physician. 

Levels of sprained wrists

A sprain in the wrist occurs when the fibers that hold the wrist joint together become torn or unattached. These tears are categorized by severity of the injury, the condition of the fibers, and the overall stability of the wrist.

The least significant type of sprain occurs when the ligament has only been slightly overstretched. This sprain comes with mild pain, slight swelling, and tenderness to the area. With this type of wrist sprain, you can likely still use your wrist with some discomfort and rarely need surgery or a brace to heal. 

The next type of sprain usually involves a partial tear of a ligament. These sprains usually occur through some sort of injury rather than overuse. You will likely experience moderate pain, bruising, and swelling. In addition, you’ll experience more intense pain with use and need to see a physician to treat your injury. 

The most severe wrist sprain could be a complete rupture of a ligament and could predispose you to instability in your wrist. With this type of wrist sprain, you’ll experience severe pain, bruising, swelling, and difficulty moving the wrist and hand. If you experience this type of injury, you should see a physician immediately for treatment. 

With each level of a wrist injury, you will experience some aches and pains. It’s important to treat your injury properly and get it examined by a physician. Without proper treatment, you’ll risk further damaging the wrist, extending your discomfort, and possible long-term consequences. 

Arthritis of the wrist

Arthritis is the inflammation and swelling of a particular joint. It can happen in any joint, but is particularly common in the hands, wrists, and knees. According to the National Library of Medicine, one in seven people in the United States suffers from wrist arthritis. Anyone can experience wrist arthritis, but it is diagnosed more in individuals over 60 years old. Common symptoms of wrist arthritis are: 

  • Stiffness 

  • Swelling

  • Tenderness

  • Redness and slight bruising 

  • Weakness and difficulty gripping objects 

  • Grinding and clicking noises with movement

Wrist arthritis treatment

There are multiple non-surgical treatment options for wrist arthritis. First, your doctor will likely recommend bracing the wrist and treating the pain and inflammation with medication. If these solutions don’t work, the next step is usually a corticosteroid injection into the wrist to relieve inflammation and physical therapy to help regain strength. 

If these non-invasive treatment options don’t help, your doctor may consider surgery. There are a wide range of treatments for wrist arthritis depending on the condition of the wrist. In general, there are three main surgical strategies: 1) Resection of one or multiple bones in the wrist; 2) Partial or complete fusion of the wrist; and 3) Wrist arthroplasty (wrist replacement). Resection of bones removes the pain-generating joint surface and allows flexibility at the wrist. 

The fusion procedures eliminate the painful joint surface while allowing painless use of the hand despite less movement in the wrist. During a total wrist arthroplasty, your surgeon will replace the damaged joint with an artificial joint made of metal, silicone, or plastic. The main goal of all techniques is to minimize pain and ensure stable and painless use of the hand. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common reason for hand pain. It is caused by pressure on the median nerve at the wrist – which usually occurs through certain wrist activities or trauma to the hand or wrist. It can also be associated with a range of medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, and auto-immune conditions. Three to six percent of the world’s population experiences carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome start gradually and increase over time. These symptoms include: 

  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers, especially at night

  • Pain and soreness in the thumb, index, and middle fingers, especially at night

  • Weakness in the hand

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, be sure to bring it up to your doctor right away. There are multiple ways of treating carpal tunnel syndrome, including splints, medication to reduce inflammation, as well as surgery in more severe cases. But leaving carpal tunnel syndrome untreated can lead to permanent dysfunction and loss of sensation in the hand. 



If your wrist pain has made it difficult to complete your everyday tasks, it’s time to see a doctor. Putting off treatment can further damage the joint, leaving you in discomfort for longer. Make an appointment at Rothman Orthopaedics online or by calling 1-800-321-9999, and get back to living comfortably. 


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