Learn about wrist pain

Wrists are complex and flexible structures that we use all the time, which is why they are prone to painful problems. Here we look at the common causes of wrist pain and how to treat them effectively.

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Symptoms of wrist pain

Wrist and hand pain may be experienced in many different ways and can really affect your quality of life.

Wrist pain may stop you from carrying out basic activities such as lifting things, writing, typing, or putting weight on your hand or wrist.

01

Weakness, numbness, tingling, tenderness, inflammation and problems moving wrists and hands freely can also occur in various wrist problems.

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If your wrist is injured it may appear bruised and swollen and you may have difficulties moving it.

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How wrist pain can affect you

Wrist pain can make it difficult to perform activities that require easy movement of your hands and wrist, such as typing or playing the piano.

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Did you know?

The bones in the wrist include the ends of the radius and ulna (the long bones of the forearm) and eight carpal bones (the bones of the wrist.)*

Globally, 51% of people with pain experience pain in their hands.**

*Principles of anatomy and physiology, eighth edition, 1996. Tortora GJ and Grabowski SR, eds. John Wiley & Sons
**GSK Global Pain Index Research 2014 – full report p. 47

Why do we experience wrist pain?

There are many reasons why you could be experiencing wrist pain, which can make it difficult to diagnose the exact cause of your wrist pain.

Common causes of wrist pain

Wrist pain is often caused by sprains or sprains from injuries, while injury or overuse can also cause tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons) or bursitis (where fluid builds up in the sac of fluid that cushions the wrist joints, called the bursa).

Some factors might increase the risk of wrist pain

There are some activities that are more likely to cause wrist pain, including sports that involve lots of wrist movement like bowls or tennis, and jobs that require repetitive work such as typing and cutting hair. If you’re overweight or have diabetes you are also more likely to experience wrist pain.

Expert treatment

Usually wrist pain does not require medical care and minor sprains and strains respond to ice, rest and over-the-counter pain medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These help reduce the inflammation and alleviate the pain. If the pain and swelling last longer than a few days or it worsens, it is recommended that you visit your doctor, who might order imaging tests (e.g. X-ray, MRI or CT scan), or a blood test to rule out underlying conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Your doctor might also suggest wearing a splint or brace or performing exercises to strengthen the hand and wrist.

How to alleviate wrist pain

Rest your wrist and do not exercise it when it is inflamed;
keep it raised above the heart level
Apply ice to the tender, swollen area
Follow advice from your doctor or pharmacist on taking
medicines to relieve pain and inflammation
Exercise your wrist to keep it flexible and strong

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*GSK Global Pain Index Research 2014, report, p.8

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