Whether we realize it or not, our wrists are always getting a workout. From typing on a computer to carrying groceries or playing sports, we depend on our wrists to be in good shape all of the time. Though it is a common complaint, wrist pain especially affects older individuals that strain their wrists during work or play.
The wrist is a complicated structure made up of many different bones, ligaments tendons. Injury to any of these different parts can cause wrist pain. It’s important to determine if your pain in brand new (also called acute) or if you’ve had it for some time (called sub-acute or chronic). Acute wrist pain is most often caused by injury or sprain, while longer lasting pain is usually due to wear and tear. In rare cases, wrist pain symptoms can be a sign of infection or systemic illness that may deserve further investigation.
Some common wrist pain causes include:
- Repetitive Motions/Stress– Activities range from hammering, painting to typing – all done repetitively can cause stress. This stress causes the tissues around the joint to become inflamed, causing stress fractures and much pain.
- Sudden Impact– A fall in which you catch yourself on the palm of your hand can sprain, strain, or fracture the wrist.
- Arthritis– Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis cause pain to the joints, which includes the wrist.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome– Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the carpal tunnel passageway is compressed, causing pain and even numbness to the wrist.
- Cysts/ Nerve Compression– Cysts can cause a lot of pain to the wrists, even if they are small.
Since it’s a common problem, treatment options for wrist pain can seem overwhelming. The good news is there are easy, tried-and-true remedies that can be done in the comfort of your own home, and if those fail, a visit to the doctor can usually help.
At-home wrist pain remedies:
- Painkillers: Over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen help treat inflammation that causes joint pain, especially from wear-and-tear or overuse. Tylenol is a reasonable alternative.
- Brace: Using a wrist brace can help stabilize the joint and prevent painful movements.
- Take a break: Sometimes fixing pain may require giving the joint a break from repetitive or strenuous tasks.
- Optimize ergonomics: At the office, ensure your wrists are well supported and kept in a neutral position. Avoid typing with bent wrists or gripping the mouse too tightly.
- Heat or ice packs: Some people find gentle heat helpful in relieving pain, while others prefer ice. Try both and see what works for you.
- Pain creams: Topical medications contain ingredients like menthol or capsaicin that can make joint pain less noticeable.
Sometimes the pain may persist despite these steps and may require further evaluation and treatment by your doctor.
Other wrist pain treatment options:
- Steroid injections: This is a way of directly injecting anti-inflammatory medication into an area of pain.
- Casting: Fractures are often treated by application of a cast.
- Aspiration: If a cyst is the cause of your pain, the doctor can use a needle to remove the fluid inside.
- Antibiotics: Only pain caused by bacterial joint infection or Lyme disease requires antibiotic treatment.
- Rheumatologic medications: A rheumatologist can prescribe a wide range of medications if your joint pain is caused by autoimmune or crystal diseases.
- Surgery: While a more invasive option, a surgeon can help relieve pain caused by nerve compression, fractures, cysts, or ligament tears.
You should see a doctor right away if:
- Your joint is very warm, red, or swollen
- You have sudden onset of weakness, especially if it affects an entire arm or leg or if you also have slurred speech or a droopy face
- The pain is very severe
- Your wrist is deformed, looks pale or is very cold, especially after trauma or a fall
If you are experiencing constant wrist pain and none of the home remedies are working for you, please call us at Miller Orthopedic Specialists. Our orthopedic specialists can get you the care you need.