While playing your favorite sport or while working out at home or at the gym, it happened.
You may have fallen, moved your arm a certain way, or done nothing out of the ordinary that you recall, but the pain started in your wrist.
All that matters to you is trying to get the pain to stop.
Causes of Wrist Pain
There are many opportunities that you can a get for wrist injuries. Considering there are so many tendons, joints, ligaments and bones in the hands and wrists.
Wrist injuries are commonly suffered by those who are physically active. With proper management, however, these injuries can usually heal. Thus without causing long-term problems or disability.
Wrist injuries can be classified into two main categories: traumatic and overuse.
Traumatic injuries, classified as acute, typically are experienced by athletes in high-contact sports such as wrestling, football or hockey.
Examples of these injuries include sprains, broken bones, joint dislocations, muscle strains, ligament tears and tendon inflammation.
Overuse injuries, classified as chronic, are more common among those participating in sports or activities requiring them to make the same movements continuously, such as in baseball, tennis or golf.
These injuries include nerve injury, tendon dislocation and inflammation, and stress fractures from overuse.
Long-term disability is more likely from traumatic injuries rather than from overuse injuries.
However, if injuries are left untreated sports performance may decline dramatically regardless of the type of injury.
Surgery may then become necessary if the injury does not heal in the normal timeframe.
Self-Treatment of Wrist Pain
Rest the Injured Wrist
After noticing wrist pain, stop the activity that triggered the pain and rest your wrist for a while, possibly days if necessary, depending on what caused the pain.
To prevent swelling or inflammation, elevate your wrist above heart level and keep it elevated.
Apply Cold Therapy to the Tenderest Area
Sudden trauma caused by falling on an outstretched hand or lifting something too heavy can result in immediate pain, inflammation and potential bruising to the wrist.
Applying ice is effective in relieving this type of injury because it numbs the pain while it reduces and prevents swelling.
You can use crushed ice, a cold gel pack, ice cubes or small bags of frozen vegetables from the freezer as cold therapy.
Apply to the most inflamed, tender part of your wrist every hour for approximately 10-15 minutes each time, for five hours after injury for best results.
To prevent frostbite, wrap the cold therapy in a thin cloth or towel first before placing against the wrist.
Wear a Splint On the Injured Wrist
A wrist splint, also known as a support or brace, is a good option for a wrist pain sufferer seeking relief.
Wrist splints are available in different sizes and made of various materials, but each is designed to serve the same purpose.
Some are less restrictive and allow more movement, while others are stiffer but are more restrictive and provide more support.
Based on your lifestyle or profession, you may desire a wrist support that allows for more movement for starters.
You may choose to wear it only during the daytime hours while working or exercising so that your wrist is protected.
However, you may want to wear it at night to prevent blood vessels and nerves from becoming irritated. Wrist splints are available at stores that sell medical supplies as well as many pharmacies.
A common acronym for self-care of wrist pain is RICE, or Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Remembering this can make the previous suggestions easier to recall when treating an injured wrist.
Consider Whether This Is a Muscle Imbalance
A neuromuscular therapist has suggested that the actual cause of most wrist pain (resulting from the injury) is a muscle imbalance. Some of the muscles are too short and tight, while others are too long and tight (like an overstretched rubber band).
The muscle imbalance leads to trigger points that cause pain. Stretching exercises for five minutes daily can help alleviate the problem.
Cold Therapy to Heat Therapy
In place of cold therapy, use heat therapy in the form of a heating pad for at least 20 minutes once or twice a day.
Finally, soaking your hands in a tub of Epsom salts and warm water for 20 minutes a night for five nights can also bring relief.
Use Over-the-Counter Medications
Over-the-counter medications can provide some relief for both traumatic and overuse wrist injuries by reducing some pain and allowing better functioning and more flexibility.
Naproxen and ibuprofen are anti-inflammatory medications that treat both inflammation and pain and are therefore often effective in relieving wrist pain.
Safest Results for Over-the-counter Medications
This is recommended, however, only for a short time span (preferably no more than 14 days). Continuing past that timeframe can possibly lead to side effects such as intestinal and stomach issues and reduced function of the liver and kidneys.
Always remember to follow the instructions on the bottle for best and safest results.
Seeking Medical Treatment
Immediate medical attention is necessary if you are experiencing any of the following: severe pain; severe swelling; numbness; if the wrist is cold or gray; various types of noise while moving the wrist; or bleeding that persists longer than 15 minutes.
If an injury does not improve after two weeks, consult your doctor during normal practice hours.
Preparing For Your Examination
In preparing for your examination, you may want to make a list of questions to ask your doctor. Be ready during the examination to provide full descriptions of your symptoms.
Your doctor, in turn, may ask you detailed questions about your symptoms including inquiries about wrist movement, numbness or tingling, and the activity that triggered the pain.
The doctor may check for any deformity, tenderness or swelling of your wrist. By moving your wrist your doctor can check your range of motion to determine if there has been a decrease.
The doctor may also check the strength in your grip and forearm.
Your physician will want to determine if there are any fractures or dislocations of your wrist bones and may take X-rays as part of the diagnosis.
Common signs that you may have a dislocated or broken wrist include widespread bruising, swelling, dramatically reduced ability to move the wrist and severe pain, as well as the wrist’s appearance of being crooked.
Fractures are possible in any of the wrist bones and are commonly caused by punching solid objects as well as by falls.
CT scan and X-rays
In some cases, the doctor may recommend additional imaging tests or an arthroscopy during the examination. A CT scan can spot fractures missed by X-rays and provides even better views of wrist bones.
An MRI test uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of soft tissue and bones. An ultrasound is noninvasive but gives a picture of cysts, tendons, and ligaments.
An arthroscopy may be performed if the imaging test results are inconclusive.
This procedure involves the insertion of an arthroscope, an instrument the size of a pencil, into a small incision on the wrist.
The arthroscope contains a light and a tiny camera that projects images onto a monitor.
This is considered a top-notch method for diagnosing the cause of wrist pain and for some, wrist problems can be repaired using this method.
More Advanced Therapy
Your doctor may prescribe stronger medications than what is commonly found over the counter, particularly for more serious injuries.
They may be needed on a longer-term basis to manage any pain and/or inflammation in the wrist. Some of these anti-inflammatory prescription drugs include diclofenac, indomethacin, Fenoprofen, and Celebrex.
Quick and Effective Relief from Pain and swelling
Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications that are most often injected into your wrist if the pain still persists after several months.
They are also available in pill form. The results are sometimes felt almost immediately and the relief can be dramatic, lasting for weeks or months in some cases.
While they provide quick and effective relief from pain and swelling, corticosteroids can also weaken bones and tendons. For that reason, the treatments are usually given no more than three or four times a year.
Your doctor may send you to a physical therapist to treat chronic wrist pain.
The physical therapist will teach you exercises and stretches specifically tailored for your physical needs to prevent your joints from becoming too stiff by mobilizing them.
In the event of surgery, physical therapy is prescribed for rehabilitation. During therapy, electronic machines may be used by the physical therapist to aid in pain relief, including muscle stimulation and therapeutic ultrasound.
These sessions typically take place three times a week, for periods of approximately four to six weeks.
Surgery may be necessary in some cases such as bone fractures and tendon or ligament repair. Can stabilize fractures, allowing healing to take place by connecting the bone fragments using metal hardware. It is also performed to repair ruptured ligaments and tendons.
To help prevent a traumatic wrist injury, it is recommended to wear wrist guards and gloves as well as stretching properly before participating in strenuous activity.
Overuse injuries can be prevented by taking proper breaks to rest hands and wrists and using proper equipment as well as proper posture and technique.