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Hand and wrist pain affects around 10% of the UK population.*
The wrist, also known as the radiocarpal joint, is a complex collection of bones, joints and ligaments that link the hand to the forearm. With so many different moving parts, the term ‘wrist pain’ covers a multitude of complaints.
Wrist pain can happen to anyone at any time, but there is an increased risk from certain medical conditions, playing sports or undertaking repetitive activities. Generally speaking, the causes of wrist pain come under two categories:
Sudden impact Injuries – Falling on an outstretched hand, when playing sport for example, can cause immediate musculoskeletal injuries: strains, sprains or fractures.
Repetitive stress – Any repetitive activity, from typing to knitting to playing tennis, can inflame the tissues around joints, causing stress fractures or dull aches.
Arthritis – Osteoarthritis can occur in a wrist that’s been previously injured. Rheumatoid arthritis in the wrist is much more common and leaves the joint inflamed and feeling tender.
Carpal tunnel syndrome – This often develops as the result of another condition e.g. pregnancy or diabetes. It’s caused by increased pressure on the median nerve in the wrist and can be debilitatingly painful.
Ulnar wrist pain is an often-diagnosed type of pain that’s specifically located on the pinkie side of the wrist. The name ‘ulnar pain’ is a catch-all term linked to any number of different wrist injuries.
A frequent cause is a fall onto outstretched hands that causes bones in the wrist to break. Certain professionals like carpenters or plumbers are also at risk if they bend their wrists awkwardly using tools in small spaces.
Because so many different ligaments, bones and joints meet at the wrist, correctly diagnosing the cause of wrist pain can sometimes be difficult. If you’re unsure as to what’s causing pain in your wrist, matching the following symptoms is a good general guide.
Aching wrist pain – Arthritis, osteoarthritis more over than rheumatoid arthritis, can be described as feeling like a dull toothache. Injuries brought about by repetitive stresses are known to ongoing, low-level aches.
Numbness or pins and needles – This type of pain in the wrist is often linked to carpal tunnel syndrome. The symptoms are notable for becoming worse at night.
Pain, swelling and bruising – This type of pain is an indication of a soft tissue injury, like a sprained wrist.
Sudden, sharp pain and swelling – These symptoms around the wrist typically denote a broken finger or thumb
Shooting wrist pain – Shooting pain is a classic symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome, caused by sudden pressure on the nerve. It’s a debilitating type of pain that’s consistent with general nerve damage around the wrist and hand.
Treating wrist pain is made more difficult by the amount that we regularly move our hands and wrists. But if you’re struggling with it, it’s important to try some of the following pain-relieving treatments, which in the case of injuries, can also stimulate the healing process.