What causes wrist pain and sometimes swelling? If not, which department and doctor should I go to? How does it go? What is good for wrist pain? You can find the answers to all these questions and much more below.

What does wrist pain mean?

Wrist pain and swelling are often caused by sprains or fractures from sudden injury. However, in some cases, wrist pain and sometimes swelling can also be caused by long-term problems such as repetitive stress, arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Because so many factors can lead to wrist pain, it can be difficult to diagnose the exact cause, but an accurate diagnosis followed by proper treatment is necessary for recovery.

What causes wrist pain?

Damage to any part of your wrist can cause pain and affect your ability to use your wrist and hand.


  • Immediate effects: Wrist injuries usually occur when you fall or lie on your hand. This can cause sprains, strains, and even fractures. Some fractures from this condition may not be visible on the X-ray immediately after injury.
  • Repetitive stress: Any activity that involves repetitive wrist movements, from hitting a tennis ball or playing a cello to cross-country riding, can swell tissues along the joints or cause stress fractures, especially if done without a break. For example, De Quervain’s disease is a repetitive stress injury that causes pain at the base of the big toe.


  • Calcification: This type of arthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones breaks down over time. Osteoarthritis of the wrist is rare and usually only occurs in people who have injured this wrist in the past.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues , rheumatoid arthritis often targets the wrist. If one wrist is affected by this condition, the other is usually affected as well.
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Other diseases and conditions

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: Carpal tunnel syndrome develops when there is increased pressure on the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel, a passageway on the palm side of your wrist.
  • Ganglion cysts: These soft tissue cysts are most common on the part of your wrist opposite the palm of your hand. Ganglion cysts can be painful, and the pain may worsen or improve with activity.
  • Kienbock’s disease: This disorder typically affects young adults and involves the gradual collapse of one of the small bones in the wrist. Kienbock’s disease occurs when blood flow to this bone is compromised.

Who is at risk?

Wrist pain and swelling can affect anyone; Even if you are very inactive, you can be affected. However, your risk may be increased by:

  • Sports participation: Wrist injuries are common in many sports that involve both impact and repetitive stress on the wrist. These include football, bowling, golf, gymnastics, snowboarding and tennis.
  • Repetitive work: Almost any activity involving your hands and wrists – even braiding and cutting hair – can cause wrist pain if done frequently.
  • Certain diseases or conditions: Conditions such as pregnancy, diabetes , obesity can increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Possible symptoms accompanying wrist pain

Wrist pain can vary depending on the cause. For example, osteoarthritis pain is often described as similar to a dull toothache, while carpal tunnel syndrome often causes a tingling or tingling sensation, especially at night. The precise location of your wrist pain also provides clues as to what is behind your symptoms.

When should you see a doctor?

Not all wrist pain requires medical care. Minor sprains and strains often respond to ice, rest, and over-the-counter pain medication. But if the pain and swelling lasts longer than a few days or gets worse, you should consult your doctor. Delayed diagnosis and treatment can lead to healing problems, reduced range of motion, and long-term disability.

Which department should I go to for wrist pain?

Your family doctor is the first doctor you should be examined for wrist pain and swelling. If your family doctor deems it necessary, he or she will refer you to an orthopedic doctor. If you have persistent and severe pain, it is useful to go to the emergency room.

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How is the cause of wrist pain diagnosed?

During the physical exam, your doctor may:

  • Checking your wrist for tenderness, swelling, or deformity
  • Asking you to move your wrist to check for a decrease in your range of motion
  • Evaluate your grip strength and arm strength

In some cases, your doctor may recommend imaging tests, arthroscopy, or nerve tests.

Imaging tests

  • X-rays (X-ray): X-ray is the most commonly used test for wrist pain. Using small amounts of radiation, X-rays can reveal signs of bone fractures or osteoarthritis.
  • Computed tomography: A CT scan can provide a more detailed view of the bones in your wrist and detect fractures that are not visible on X-rays.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging: Magnetic resonance imaging uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of your bones and soft tissues.
  • Ultrasound: This simple, noninvasive test can help visualize tendons, ligaments, and cysts.


If the imaging test is inconclusive, your doctor may perform arthroscopy, a procedure in which a pen-sized device called arthroscopy is inserted into your wrist through a small incision in your skin. The device contains a light and a small camera that projects images onto a monitor. Arthroscopy is considered the gold standard for evaluating long-term wrist pain. In some cases, your doctor can repair wrist problems through the arthroscope.

Nerve tests

If carpal tunnel syndrome is suspected, your doctor may order an electromyogram (EMG). This test measures tiny electrical discharges produced in your muscles. A needle electrode is inserted into the muscle and its electrical activity is recorded while the muscle is stationary and contracting. Nerve conduction studies are also done as part of an EMG to assess whether electrical impulses are slowing down in the carpal tunnel area.

What is good for wrist pain?

If the pain persists, you can help relieve the pain at home. Applying heat or ice to the aching area can help reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and improve movement. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or pain relievers can also help if needed. You should also remember to pause or change your activities to rest your sore hands or wrists.

How is wrist pain relieved?

Wrist pain treatment varies greatly depending on the type, location, and severity of the injury, as well as your age and general health.

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Pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help reduce wrist pain. Stronger pain relievers are also available by prescription.

Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.


A physical therapist can order specific treatments and exercises for wrist injuries and tendon problems. If you need surgery, your physical therapist can also assist with rehabilitation after surgery. You may also benefit from an ergonomic assessment that addresses workplace factors that may contribute to wrist pain.

If you have a broken bone in your wrist, the pieces need to align so that the bones can heal properly. A cast or splint can help hold bone fragments together as they heal.

If you have sprained or stretched your ankle, you may need to wear a splint to protect the injured tendon or ligament as it heals. Splints are especially helpful with overuse injuries caused by repetitive motions.


Surgery may be required in some cases, such as:

  • Bone fractures: In some cases, surgery may be needed to allow healing and stabilize bone fractures. A surgeon may need to fuse bone fragments with metal hardware.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: If your symptoms are severe, it may be necessary to cut open the ligament that forms the roof of the tunnel to relieve pressure on the nerve.
  • Tendon or ligament repair: Sometimes surgery is necessary to repair torn tendons or ligaments.

How to prevent wrist pain and swelling?

It is impossible to prevent unforeseen events that often cause wrist injuries. But the following basic tips can provide some protection:

  • Strengthen your bones: Getting enough calcium — 1,000 milligrams a day for most adults and at least 1,200 milligrams a day for women over 50 — can help prevent fractures.
  • Prevent falls: Falling on one hand is the main cause of most wrist injuries. Wear sensible shoes to avoid falls. Eliminate dangers in the house. Light up your living space and install grab bars in your bathroom and handrails on your stairs if needed.
  • Use protective gear for athletic activities: Wear wrist guards for high-risk activities such as football, snowboarding, and skating.
  • Pay attention to ergonomics: If you spend long periods at the keyboard, take regular breaks. Keep your wrist in a relaxed and neutral position while typing. An ergonomic keyboard can help.

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