Wrist flexion is the action of bending your hand down at the wrist, so that your palm faces in toward your arm. It’s part of the normal range of motion of your wrist.
Flexion is the opposite of extension, which is moving your hand backward, so that your palm is facing up. Extension is also part of normal wrist range of motion.
If you don’t have normal wrist flexion or extension, you may have trouble with daily tasks involving wrist and hand use.
A doctor or physical therapist can test your wrist flexion by instructing you to flex your wrist in various ways. They’ll use an instrument called a goniometer to measure how many degrees of flexion your wrist has.
Being able to flex your wrist 75 to 90 degrees is considered normal wrist flexion.
Wrist flexion with support: Put your forearm on a table with your hand hanging off the edge and a towel or other soft object under your wrist.
Move your palm toward the underside of the table until you feel a gentle stretch. You can use your other hand to push gently if necessary. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position, and repeat.
Wrist flexion without support: Once you’re comfortable with the above exercise, you can try it without the support.
Hold your arm out in front of you. Use your other hand to gently press on the fingers of your affected wrist as you drop your hand to flex your wrist. Do this until you feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold for a few seconds, then release and repeat.
Wrist bend with clenched fist: Make a loose fist and lean the side of your arm on a table or other surface. Bend your fist in towards the underside of your wrist and flex. Then bend it back the other way, and extend. Hold each one for several seconds.
Side to side wrist bend: Put your palm on a tabletop. Keep your wrist and fingers straight, and bend your wrist as far as is comfortable to the left. Hold for a few seconds. Move it back to center, then to the right and hold.
Flexor stretch: Hold your arm in front of you with your palm facing up. Use your unaffected hand to gently pull your hand down towards the floor.
You should feel a stretch in the underside of your forearm. Hold for a few seconds, then release, and repeat.
The most common cause of wrist flexion pain — which is pain when you flex your wrist — is overuse injuries. These are usually caused by repetitive motion, such as typing or playing sports like tennis.
Other causes of wrist flexion pain include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by increased pressure on your median nerve as it passes through a passage on the palm-side of your wrist. This increased pressure causes pain. In most cases, carpal tunnel syndrome is a type of overuse injury.
- Ganglion cyst: Ganglion cysts are soft cysts that usually appear on the top of your wrist. They may not cause any symptoms beyond a visible bump, but they can also be painful and prevent your wrist from moving normally. Ganglion cysts often go away on their own, but can be removed through surgery if necessary.
- Arthritis: Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can cause wrist flexion pain. Osteoarthritis may cause pain in one or both wrists, but wrists aren’t a common place for osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis does commonly appear in the wrists, and usually causes pain in both wrists.
- Injury from sudden impact: A sudden impact, such as falling on your wrist, can cause wrist flexion pain, even if it doesn’t cause a sprain or break.
First, your doctor will take a general medical history, and ask you more about your wrist flexion pain or issues. They might ask when the pain started, how bad it is, and if anything makes it worse.
To narrow down potential causes, they may also ask about recent injuries, your hobbies, and what you do for work.
Then your doctor will measure how much you can move your wrist by having you do a series of movements. This will help them see how exactly your wrist flexion is affected.
The physical exam and medical history are usually enough to allow your doctor to make a diagnosis. However, if they’re still unsure, or you’ve had a recent injury, they might suggest an X-ray or MRI to help diagnose the problem.
The exercises listed above can help treat wrist flexion problems. Other treatments include:
- Ice the affected area to help reduce pain and swelling.
- Rest, especially for problems caused by repetitive motion.
- Adjust your sitting position if your wrist problems are caused by typing or other repetitive office work.
- Splinting can help with carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive motion injuries, and sudden injuries.
- Physical therapy can reduce pain, and improve mobility and strength.
- Corticosteroid shots can help treat wrist flexion problems that don’t respond to other treatment.
- Surgery can be a solution for ganglion cysts that don’t go away on their own, carpal tunnel syndrome that doesn’t respond to other treatment, or traumatic injuries such as a broken bone or torn tendon.
There are many potential causes of wrist flexion pain. While some resolve on their own, others require treatment by a doctor. If your wrist flexion pain or problems are long-lasting or severe, see a doctor.