What causes wrist pain? 14 possible conditions
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Wrist pain is pain located in the wrist. It is often caused by carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Other causes include arthritis, injury, and gout.
CTS is a common condition in which swelling in the wrist tightens around the median nerve. Swelling may occur if you:
- perform repetitive tasks with your hands such as typing, drawing, writing, or sewing
- are overweight, pregnant, or menopausal
- have a disorder such as diabetes, arthritis, or an underactive thyroid
An injury to your wrist will cause pain. Wrist injuries include sprains, broken bones, and tendinitis. Swelling, bruising, and disfigured joints may signify a wrist injury.
Gout, a condition in which the body over-produces or under excretes uric acid, can cause wrist pain. When circulating uric acid level are abnormally high, the uric acid crystals can deposit in the joints. Gout frequently occurs in the knees, ankles, and wrists. Pseudogout is a similar condition where calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate (CPPD) deposits appear in the joints. Joints are often red and swollen.
Causes of gout include:
- drinking too much alcohol
- certain medications
Conditions such as high blood pressure, pregnancy, diabetes, and obesity can trigger gout.
Arthritis is a condition in which the joints are inflamed. The condition can cause swelling and stiffness. There are many types of arthritis. Common types include:
- rheumatoid arthritis—an autoimmune disease common among women, usually affecting both wrists
- osteoarthritis— a disease of joint “wear and tear” common among the elderly
- psoriatic arthritis—a condition that includes a skin disorder
Arthritis can occur from many causes. These include aging, normal wear and tear, and overworking the hands.
Symptoms of CTS include:
- trouble making a fist or gripping objects
- a sensation that the hands have fallen asleep
- swollen fingers
- pain, numbness, and/or tingling that may get worse at night
Symptoms of gout include:
- sudden, sharp pain
- swelling or redness
- warmth in a joint
Symptoms of gout may go away and return months or years later.
Arthritis has many similar symptoms to CTS, including difficulty gripping items, swelling, and pain. Seek immediate medical attention if your wrist is warm and red and if you have a fever over 100 degrees F. These factors may signify infectious arthritis, a serious illness.
Your doctor will give you a physical examination to diagnose wrist pain. He or she may diagnose wrist pain by:
- bending your wrist forward for 60 seconds to see if numbness or tingling occurs
- tapping the area over the median wrist to see if pain occurs
- testing your grip
- asking you about your medical history
- ordering tests such as an electromyography or nerve conduction velocity
- taking X-rays of your wrist
Your doctor may check for gout by:
- ordering an X-ray of your joints
- ordering a screening test of your urine and blood
- examining a sample of fluid taken from your joints to check for crystals or calcium
Treatment options for CTS may include:
- wearing a wrist brace or splint to reduce swelling and ease wrist pain
- applying hot or cold compresses
- taking oral or injected anti-inflammatory drugs
- surgery, in severe cares
If you have undergone a wrist injury, you can help healing by:
- resting your wrist and keeping it elevated
- placing an ice pack on the affected area to lower swelling and numb pain
- taking a mild pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- wearing a wrist splint
Get immediate medical attention if you cannot move your wrist or if any part of your hand looks deformed. You may have broken a bone.
If you have arthritis, consider visiting a physical therapist. A physical therapist can show you some strengthening and stretching exercises for your wrist.
If you have gout, your doctor may recommend:
- taking an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen
- drinking lots of liquid to reduce the concentration of uric acid
- cutting back on fat and alcohol intake
You can help prevent wrist pain by:
- using an ergonomic keyboard to keep your wrists from bending upwards
- resting your hands often while typing or doing similar activities
- working with an occupational therapist to stretch and strengthen your wrists
To help prevent future gout attacks, consider:
- drinking more water and less alcohol
- eating less liver, anchovies, and other smoked or pickled fish
- eating moderate amounts of protein
- taking medication, as prescribed by your doctor
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. (n.d.). The University of Chicago Medicine. Retrieved July 13, 2012, from http://www.uchospitals.edu/online-library/content=P01102
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. (2010, May 25). National Center of Biotechnology Information. Retrieved July 13, 2012, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001469/
- Gout. (2005). University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Retrieved July 13, 2012, from http://www.uihealthcare.com/topics/bonesjointsmuscles/bone4239.html
- Wrist Pain. (2011). University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved July 13, 2012, from http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/003175.htm
See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.
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