Wrist injuries are relatively common, in part because we use our wrists so frequently. They’re also common because the joint is so complex, meaning there are lots of parts that can be injured. While some types of mild wrist pain may go away with a little TLC, other types can quickly worsen or lead to long-term disability in the joint.
Like other joint injuries, proper care is essential for prompt healing, pain relief, and preventing further problems. In this post, Thomas Powell, MD, of Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, explains the basics of wrist pain, so you can decide when it’s time to seek medical care.
Common causes of wrist pain
Your wrist is made up of more than a dozen bones, along with tendons, ligaments, nerves, and other structures, making it prone to both traumatic and nontraumatic injuries. Traumatic injuries, such as fractures and sprains, usually happen from falls, car accidents, or sports injuries that involve direct or indirect impact to your wrist.
Falling on an outstretched hand is a pretty common cause of wrist fractures. In fact, they’re so common, they have a nickname: FOOSH injuries (falling on an outstretched hand).
On the other hand, many nontraumatic injuries are caused by overuse or repetitive use of the joint. Tendonitis and nerve problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, are good examples. Changes in the wrist joint — such as the development of arthritis or ganglion cysts — are other potential causes of wrist pain that tend to get worse over time.
When it’s time to seek treatment
When it comes to treating wrist pain, it’s important to understand the underlying causes. This is because different causes can require different approaches to relieving the pain and repairing the damage. Knowing when to seek medical treatment for wrist pain is an important part of preventing more serious symptoms.
Your pain is severe
Severe or sudden pain could be a sign of a serious problem, such as a broken bone or torn ligament. Problems like these only get better with medical treatment. These problems can get a lot worse without proper care, so it’s important to schedule a visit as soon as possible.
Your joint function is limited
If your pain is accompanied by a reduced range of motion in your wrist, or if it’s interfering with your ability to perform routine tasks and everyday activities, it’s time to seek treatment. Like sudden pain, reduced joint mobility and function can indicate a serious underlying problem, such as a fracture or a degenerative condition, like arthritis.
There’s swelling or bruising
Swelling and bruising often occur alongside sprains and fractures. These symptoms typically require an X-ray to determine the cause of swelling.
You have numbness, tingling, or burning sensations
Numbiness, tingling, and burning can be a sign of carpal tunnel syndrome, which is a nerve entrapment problem that can lead to permanent nerve damage and loss of hand function without prompt care. Other nerve problems can also lead to similar symptoms, and so can fractures.
Your wrist is making noise
Clicking noises or grinding sensations require an office visit. Joint sounds can happen for different reasons, including arthritis, ligament or tendon injuries, and fractures, all of which are conditions that require medical treatment.
Your pain is getting worse
If your wrist pain is getting worse instead of better, then you definitely need to call the office right away. Worsening pain is a clear sign your wrist needs prompt medical care.
Your pain is lingering
If your pain lasts and doesn’t go away despite ice, heat, and rest, it’s time to seek medical treatment. Lingering pain could mean you have a more serious injury that just won’t go away with home remedies and TLC.
Find out what's causing your nagging wrist pain
Wrist pain can have lots of possible causes, and having your pain evaluated early is the best way to feel better and prevent more serious problems. To learn why your wrist hurts and how we can help, call 205-606-5232 or request an appointment online with Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, today.