What causes wrist pain? 14 possible conditions

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Dr. George Krucik

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Click through the list below to explore each of the remaining possible causes of your wrist pain.

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Did you hurt yourself in an accident or sports injury? Yes
Was your pain followed by fever or chills? No
Do you have a tingling sensation in your fingers? No
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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.



Tendons are thick cords that join your muscles to your bones. Tendinitis occurs when tendons become irritated or inflamed. This condition causes acute pain and tenderness, making it difficult to move the affected joint.

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Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursae, the fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction where tendons, skin, and muscle tissues meet bones. Inflammation can cause discomfort and limit range of motion.

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Tendon Sheath Inflammation (Tenosynovitis)

Tendons, the fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones, are covered by a protective sheath called synovium, which keeps tendons lubricated. Injury to this area can disrupt this function, causing inflammation.

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Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome is the compression of the median nerve, the nerve that passes through your wrist. A common symptom is numbness or tingling in the thumb and first three fingers.

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What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, causes inflammation of the joints in the body. Explore our doctor-reviewed health articles and learn more about osteoarthritis.

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Sprains & Strains

Sprains and strains are injuries to the body, often resulting from physical activity. These injuries are common and can range from minor to severe, depending on the incident. Most don’t require medical attention.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis Overview

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, a disease in which the immune system mistakes the body’s own cells for invaders. In RA, the immune system attacks the synovia, the membranes lining the joints.

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Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a form of chronic arthritis that affects children. It is a long-term autoimmune condition characterized by stiffness and swelling in the joints. Most cases of JRA are mild.

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A dislocation occurs when the bones that are usually be connected at a joint separate. You can dislocate a variety of different joints in your body, including your knee, hip, ankle, or shoulder. Since a dislocatio…

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Gout Overview

Gout is a type of arthritis caused by too much uric acid in the blood. When the concentration of uric acid gets too high, sharp urate crystals form and collect in the joints, causing swelling and intense pain.

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A fracture is a broken bone that typically occurs when a bone is impacted by more force or pressure than it can support. In an open fracture, the ends of the broken bone tear the skin.

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Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is a possible and potentially serious complication of strep throat. It tends to occur in children between five and 15 years old. Rash is one possible sign of this condition.

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Acromegaly is a rare condition. It causes excess growth in the bones and soft tissues of the body. Children with the condition can grow to abnormal heights. They may also have an exaggerated bone structure that give…

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Arthritis is inflammation of the joints (where bones meet) in one or more areas of the body. This condition is most commonly seen in adults, but it can also develop in children and teens.

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What Is Wrist Pain?

Wrist pain is pain located in the wrist. It is often caused by carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Other causes include arthritis, injury, and gout.

What Are the Causes of Wrist Pain?

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
  • overeating
  • surgery
  • trauma
  • 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.

What Are the Symptoms of Wrist Pain?

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.

How Is Wrist Pain Diagnosed?

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

What Are the Treatments for Wrist Pain?

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

How Can I Prevent Wrist Pain?

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
Written by
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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