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Wrist pain is any discomfort in the wrist. It’s often caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. Other common causes include wrist injury, arthritis, and gout.
The following conditions are common causes of wrist pain.
The median nerve is one of the three major nerves in the forearm. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve becomes compressed, or pinched. It is located on the palm side of your hand, providing sensation to the following parts of the hand:
It also provides the electrical impulse to the muscle leading to the thumb. Carpal tunnel syndrome can occur in one or both of your hands.
Swelling in the wrist causes the compression in carpal tunnel syndrome. The pain is due to excess pressure in your wrist and on the median nerve. Aside from causing wrist pain, carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to numbness, weakness, and tingling on the side of your hand near the thumb.
Wrist swelling can occur and trigger carpal tunnel syndrome due to any of the following conditions:
An injury to your wrist can also cause pain. Wrist injuries include sprains, broken bones, and tendonitis. Swelling, bruising, or disfigured joints near the wrist may be symptoms of a wrist injury. Some wrist injuries can happen right away due to the trauma of an impact. Others may develop slowly over time.
Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid. Uric acid is a chemical produced when your body breaks down foods that contain organic compounds called purines.
Most uric acid is dissolved in the blood and removed from the body through urination. In some cases, however, the body produces too much uric acid. The excess uric acid can be deposited in the joints, resulting in pain and swelling. This pain frequently occurs in the knees, ankles, wrists, and feet.
Common causes of gout include:
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. The condition can cause swelling and stiffness in the affected part of the body. There are many causes of arthritis, including normal wear and tear, aging, and overworking of the hands.
There are many forms of arthritis, but the most common types include:
Wrist pain may be accompanied by the following symptoms:
Call your doctor immediately if your wrist is warm and red and if you have a fever over 100°F (37.8°C). These symptoms could signal infectious arthritis, which is a serious illness. You should also contact your doctor right away if you can’t move your wrist or if your hand looks abnormal. You may have broken a bone.
Your doctor should also evaluate wrist pain that becomes worse or interferes with your ability to do daily tasks.
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and order certain tests to diagnose the cause of your wrist pain. Your doctor may do the following:
Treatment options for wrist pain can vary depending on the cause.
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome may include:
Treatment for gout may consist of:
If you have sustained a wrist injury, you can help promote healing by:
If you have arthritis, consider visiting a physical therapist. A physical therapist can show you how to do strengthening and stretching exercises that can help your wrist.
You can help prevent wrist pain due to carpal tunnel syndrome by practicing some of the following strategies:
To help prevent future episodes of gout, consider:
You can also do simple wrist exercises at home to help aching wrists that may include:
This exercise involves placing your forearm on a table, with a cloth padding under your wrist. Turn your arm so your hand is facedown. Move your hand up until you feel a gentle stretch. Return it to its original position, and repeat.
Wrist supination and pronation
Stand with your arm out to the side, and your elbow bent at 90 degrees. Rotate your forearm so your hand faces up, and then turn it the other way so your hand is facing down.
Place your forearm on a table, with your hand hanging off and padding under your wrist. Have your thumb facing up, and move your hand up and down, as if you’re waving.
Written by: Natalie Phillips and Ana Gotter
Medically reviewed on: Apr 25, 2016: William A Morrison, MD
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