Wrist pain is one of the most commonly reported issues of the hands. Wrist pain is observed to have a prevalence rate of around 10% within the general population. Usually, it’s observed that wrist pain is particularly prevalent among groups partaking regularly in physically demanding activities like construction and sports. Considering the importance of the hands in performing many everyday activities in life, wrist pain can bring a big economical and emotional burden to patients and their families. However, the majority of the wrist pain issues can be treated inexpensively with simple OTC medications and onsite or online physical therapy for wrist and hand pain.
Understanding The Wrist
The wrist is regarded as the part of the hands that lies between the lower end of the forearm and the palms. Also known as the carpus, it is a complex joint that connects the five metacarpal bones of the hand and the radius and ulna bones of the forearm. In total, the wrist’s structure consists of eight or nine small bones called carpal bones, which are arranged crudely in two rows. The wrist has several component joints, which include:
- the distal radioulnar joint, which acts as a pivot for the bones in the forearm;
- the radiocarpal joint, which lies between the radius and the first row of carpal bones, and is involved in wrist flexion and extension;
- the midcarpal joint, which lies between two of the rows of carpal bones; and
- the intercarpal joint, which lies between adjacent carpal bones within the rows.
The multiple bones and their complex articulations provide the wrist with flexibility and a wide range of motion across various angles.
The radioulnar joint is separated from the rest of the wrist by a disk of fibrous cartilage that lies between the radius and the ulna, which lies within a capsule of cartilage, synovial membrane, and ligaments. The radiocarpal ligaments carry the hand in tandem with the forearm in rotational movements, and the intercarpal ligaments add strength to the small wrist bones. The blood vessels and nerves lying in the wrist pass through a narrow opening called the carpal tunnel.
What Causes Wrist Pain?
A lot of reports of wrist pain are attributed to sudden injuries caused by sprains or fractures. But wrist pain can also result from some long-term problems, such as repetitive stress, arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Several issues can arise within the complex structure of the wrist. As one of the most frequently used joints within the human body, the wrist is subject to different demanding conditions and stress factors. Problems with any of the multiple components of the wrist can harm the normal functioning of the joint and also cause pain. Therefore, an accurate diagnosis is necessary for determining the right treatment for wrist pain.
Common Wrist Pain Conditions
Some of the most common pain issues treated with onsite and online physical therapy for wrist and hand pain are explained below:
1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Also called median nerve compression, the condition is caused by the pinching of a nerve in the wrist near the palm. It usually causes an aching pain sharp stinging pain that tends to get worse at night. In some cases, it can cause weakness around the thumb or difficulty in gripping. The majority of the cases can be treated by painkillers and physical therapy, but in some cases, immobilization and surgery may be deemed necessary.
2. De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a painful condition that causes mobility issues in the wrist. It is usually common among people involved in professions that require repetitive motion, like assembly factory workers. Most cases can be addressed by medication and physical therapy, but sometimes a lifestyle change may also be recommended to prevent a recurrence.
3. Ganglion Cysts
Ganglion cysts are noncancerous lumps that can develop along with the tendons or joints of the wrists or hands. A lot of conditions can be benign, but a few cases can be painful if they press on a nearby nerve. Usually, it can be treated by draining the cyst with a syringe, but sometimes surgery may also be required. In some cases, the cysts may recur. Physical therapy may be recommended if the pain persists beyond the surgery.
Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can weaken the joints of the wrist and cause inflammation and pain. Depending upon the condition and the level of pain, treatment can involve active and passive physical therapy to even surgery.
Fractures are usually the result of sudden impacts, that cause the bones to be cracked or even crushed. It can cause sudden, sharp pain, with swelling around the regions of the fractured bones. It’s one of the most common conditions treated with online physical therapy for wrist and hand pain. Depending upon the severity of the fractures, the treatment can vary from rest and immobilization to surgery.
Tenosynovitis is caused by the inflammation of the synovium (fluid-filled sheath) surrounding a tendon due to infection. The inflammation typically causes joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, with some severe conditions making the thumb become stuck in a bent state. It can be both infectious and non-infectious, so it crucial to have the condition diagnosed by the physician as soon as possible. Less serious conditions can be treated by medications, but the worst conditions can even require surgical amputation of the affected region.
Tendinitis is caused by the inflammation of the tendons, usually due to repetitive movements. It’s usually treated with common medications and physical therapy. A few cases may however require surgery to repair and strengthen the affected tendons.
Risk Factors of Wrist Pain
The following are some common risk factors for foot pain.
- Athletes: Athletes are usually more prone to experiencing wrist pain, than the general population primarily because of the tendency to overuse the wrists or get impact injuries. Athletes playing sports like tennis, gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, etc. frequently report wrist injuries.
- Repetitive work: Involvement in any kind of activity that requires repeated use of the hands and wrist can put someone at a greater risk of a wrist injury. People engaged in occupations like construction, farming, hair-styling, knitting, tailoring, etc., that require them to repeatedly use their wrists are at high risk of wrist pain.
- Certain diseases or conditions: People with certain conditions like diabetes, arthritis, gout, etc tend are prone to experience wrist pain. Pregnant women also report wrist pain, primarily because of hormonal changes.
- Aging: People above 60 tend to report more wrist pain issues compared to people from other groups. Even among elder people, women tend to report around 30% more cases than men.
- Other factors: Mental stress, genetic factors, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, etc are also commonly considered to be risk factors for wrist and hand pain.
Physical Therapy for Wrist Pain
The specific treatment of wrist pain is entirely dependent on the cause of the problem. However, physical therapy, along with common painkillers, is often referred to as the most common treatment for many wrist injury conditions. Based on the diagnosis and recommendation of the physician, the physical therapist will develop a custom plan that can help in pain management and rehabilitation. Normally, a physical therapist works together with the physician to determine the effective active and passive physical therapy strategies that will help patients in achieving a reduction in their pain and resuming normal life activities. Physical therapy is also commonly used for post-surgery rehabilitation, with passive physical therapy methods used in early recovery stages for pain relief, and active therapy and exercises applied in the later stages to achieve recovery, endurance, and full motion. Some physical therapists may also recommend online physical therapy for wrist and hand pain to aid faster recovery.