Whenever you see the suffix “itis,” it means “inflammation.” Wrist tendonitis is simply inflammation of the tendons in the wrist.
Tendons are thick, fibrous cords that connect muscle to bone. When a sudden injury causes a sprain, or repetitive motions cause the tendon to rub against the bone, inflammation can result.
Wrist tendonitis is not necessarily confined to a single tendon or part of the wrist. There are several tendons that surround the wrist joint that can become injured or inflamed.
Together, these tendons are responsible for the complex and subtle movements we use in the wrist, hands, and fingers.
It is easy to tell if you have wrist tendonitis because you will experience pain and stiffness in the wrist, especially after you wake up in the morning. The area will also feel tender and sore when you put pressure on it.
Mild swelling may be visible. In addition, the inflamed tendon may make a creaking noise when you move it.
The pain of wrist tendonitis is not particularly severe. It’s often described as more of a dull, passive ache than a sharp, intense pain.
Wrist tendonitis can decrease the range of motion in your hand, and you may experience weakness when performing routine motions, such as:
- using a computer mouse
- using a computer game controller
When the tendons of the wrist are working properly, they slide in a sheath lined with synovial fluid to create frictionless movement. Injury or inflammation of the tendon can cause the sheath to thicken, enlarging it and restricting the fluidity of movement.
The most common cause of this inflammation is usually simple, repetitive motion that puts stress on the tendon over time.
In fact, wrist tendonitis is usually described as a repetitive strain injury because it’s frequently triggered by common everyday activities such as:
- playing sports
- using a computer
- working physically
While repetitive daily motions are the most common culprit for wrist tendonitis, this condition can also be caused by injuries and lifestyle habits. Some of these causes include:
- sudden injury (falling on, hitting, or bending the wrist)
- poorly positioned joints or bones
- weak wrist posture
- age and/or flexibility
It’s important not to confuse wrist tendonitis with arthritis of the wrist or carpal tunnel. One may aggravate the other, but they are different conditions:
- Arthritis is an inflammation of the joint.
- Carpal tunnel is caused by compression of a nerve.
- Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendon.
Your doctor has a variety of options to choose from when determining how best to treat your wrist tendonitis. Common treatments include:
- splints and compression to give the overworked tendon time to rest and heal
- stretching to improve flexibility
- hot and cold therapy to reduce swelling
- acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- corticosteroid injections to control inflammation
- occupational therapy to fix functional behaviors that lead to tendonitis
In more extreme cases, surgery can increase the space between tendons, but this solution is rarely needed.
It’s important to talk to your doctor about identifying wrist tendonitis and options for treatment.
If you can lessen or improve the kinds of repetitive motions you make with your hands, fingers, and wrists every day, you can take some of the strain off your tendons and keep them from getting inflamed.