Did you know how your hands and wrists are structured? Thirty-plus muscles control the movement of your hand and wrist and 27 small bones (8 of those bones are in your wrist) that make up each hand and wrist. Muscles are attached to bones by tiny but tough pieces of connective tissue called tendons that pass in your wrist, through a bony passage known as the carpal tunnel.
Have you suffered hand and wrist injury?
Hand and wrist injuries are widespread and can take many forms, such as open fractures, a laceration, crushed fingers, or loss of fingers or the whole hand. Most cases of pain or injury will not be a sign of long-term or a severe problem and will settle in a few days or weeks- most probably with some simple self-care at home. However, if you have severe pain, numbness, deformity, or are unable to move your wrist, call a specialist for an immediate appointment–urgent care could save you from a major problem.
What Causes Wrist Pain?
Pain, whether simple fatigue, may occur for many reasons. The most common causes include:
Carpal tunnel syndrome
A Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, tingling, and numbness in the hand and arm, and this happens when one of the major nerves to the hand is compressed or squeezed as it travels through the wrist. It is a condition that develops when a ligament puts pressure on a nerve, and here you need urgent care! Visit your nearest hand and wrist specialist as soon as possible.
People who have diabetes or arthritis or who have obese are at an increased risk of developing CTS. Moreover, the condition is also linked with repetitive work like typing, lifting, or using a device that vibrates the hand.
It is a long-term and disabling autoimmune disease that can occur in any joint. RA occurs where tissues are broken down into pieces by the body’s immune system and can cause severe wrist pain, swelling, and inflammation if the joints in the area are affected.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage (smooth elastic tissue) that covers the bones wears away. It causes inflammation of the joints, including the wrist. Wrist Osteoarthritis tends to occur most often in middle age or older people, and those with a family history of this condition.
De Quervain’s disease
De Quervain’s is a painful condition in which tendons of your wrist become inflamed and swell. It is often associated with repetitive thumb movement, however; the exact cause is not known. Symptoms include swelling, and weakness along the forearm, thumb, and wrist, or a grating feeling inside the wrist.
As per the research conducted by an American Society for Surgery of the Hand (oldest and most prestigious medical society), a wrist sprain is usually caused by bending or twisting the wrist backward forcefully when the hand hits the ground.
A ganglion cyst hurts a lot. It is a small sac of fluid that builds over a joint or tendon. Inside the cyst is a sticky, thick, transparent, colorless, jellylike material that causes wrist pain, sometimes quite hard, depending on the size of the cysts.
Symptoms of Wrist Pain
Swelling, Heat/warmth, Discoloration, Deformity, Pain, and Limited ability to move the joint are some of the common symptoms of wrist pain. Whereas, some people may develop;
- Stiffness in the wrist and fingers.
- A clicking sound while moving the wrist– can become more severe after periods of rest.
- Trouble gripping objects– holding or grasping may be painful or uncomfortable.
Depending on the cause, symptoms of the wrist pain may be mild to start and become worse as time goes on.
When to Seek Medical Care?
At first, pain may not occur too frequently but during certain activities only. Later, as the condition worsens, pain or numbness can also progress to the point where you cannot feel cold or heat and may unable to hold things, you should call your hand and wrist specialist for an immediate appointment, or go to an urgent care clinic/hospital emergency department.
If there is severe swelling or a visible deformity, there may be a broken bone, or there also can be a dislocation of bones, although they are not broken.
The doctor may:
- Check your wrist for swelling, tenderness, or deformity
- Check for a decrease in range of motion by asking you to move your wrist in different directions.
- Assess your forearm and grip strength
In some cases, your hand and wrist specialist may suggest imaging tests, nerve tests, or arthroscopy.
- X-rays.It is the most commonly used test for hand and wrist pain. This test can reveal signs of osteoarthritis or bone fractures.
- For a more detailed view of the bones, your doctor may go for CT scans to spot fractures that didn’t show up on X-rays.
- This simple noninvasive test can help visualize cysts, tendons, and ligaments.
- This test uses radio waves to produce detailed images of your soft tissues and bones. For a wrist MRI, the patient may be asked to insert their arm into a smaller device and not in a whole-body MRI machine.
If carpal tunnel syndrome is suspected, your doctor might order an electromyogram (EMG) to test the extent of tiny electrical discharges produced in muscles. The nerve test is performed by inserting a needle-thin electrode into the tissue to record its electrical activity when the muscle is contracted and at rest.
Arthroscopy/ arthroscopic surgery
Arthroscopy (aka keyhole surgery) is a procedure in which a pencil-sized instrument ‘arthroscope’ is inserted into the joint of your wrist through a small incision in your skin. The instrument contains a tiny camera, which projects the test images onto a television monitor. This treatment is known as the gold standard for evaluating wrist pain. And, in some cases, the doctor may repair your long-term wrist problems through the arthroscope.
If you’re experiencing long-term hand or wrist pain, do not delay treatment. Although you may initially visit your family physician, who may refer you to a Chiropractors or even an orthopedic surgeon. Take it seriously!