WRIST PAIN – QUESTION: A 17 year old male is complaining of pain in the right wrist after falling heavily on it during a rugby match. It has since started swelling and is painful to move and touch. What should he do?
What Is Wrist Pain?
The wrist is a complex region, and much like shoulder pain, it can be difficult to diagnose due to this reason. However, correct diagnosis is essential for proper treatment. Wrist pain is any kind of pain or discomfort in the wrist or surrounding areas. In general, touching or movement will cause an increase in pain.
Symptoms of wrist pain will vary depending on the issue. They can range from a dull ache to pins and needles, swelling, disfigurement and tenderness.
Causes of Wrist Pain
The causes of wrist pain are numerous, resulting from direct injury or diseases and conditions:
Sudden impact: There are a number of injuries that can result from sudden impact, usually from falling directly on an outstretched hand. This can result in strains, sprains, fractures or dislocations. Hand pain from sudden impact is a common occurrence in sports and other strenuous activity and can often require immediate treatment.
Repetitive stress: Repetitive use of the wrist can result in a number of different conditions. This can be from something as minimal as typing on a computer, to hitting a tennis ball or using equipment such as a hammer at work. These can inflame joints and tissue. Tennis Elbow is an example of a repetitive stress condition, causing pain in the wrist, arm and shoulder.
Osteoarthritis: A type of arthritis that occurs when the soft cushiony cartilage on the end of your bones wears away. Although this is quite an uncommon condition in the wrist, it can happen. Those who have suffer as wrist injury in the past are often more susceptible to osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis: Far more common condition in the wrist. Occurs when wrist tissue is attacked by the body’s immune system.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel causing symptoms such as numbness, pins and needles, tingling, swelling, pain and weakness. It can be a result of other injuries or conditions, like a fracture or rheumatoid arthritis, that compress the median nerve.
Ganglion cysts: Small soft tissue cysts that occur in the wrist opposite the palms.
Keinbock’s disease: Occurs when blood flow to the wrist is compromised causing damage to the bones in the wrist. Often occurs in young adults.
DeQuervain’s syndrome: DeQuervain’s Syndrome is the irritation of the two tendons that insert at the base of the thumb as they pass through the extensor sheath. Can be caused by repetitive use of the thumb or wrist.
When Should You See Your Hand Therapist?
Some minor sprains and strains can be quite easily self-managed with ice and rest. If symptoms persist see your therapist.
Hand therapy is often necessary for conditions such as DeQuervain’s syndrome, Carpal Tunnel syndrome and Rheumatoid arthritis. If you are suffering from acute pain in the wrist, it is best to be safe and see a hand specialist.
Therapists can allocate specific exercises for wrist injuries and conditions, and these will vary depending on the issue. Risk assessment in the workplace may be recommended for injuries caused by repetitive stress, and orthotic devices or hand splints may be necessary to help injuries heal.
Surgical treatment may also be necessary for some extreme cases (badly broken bones, carpal tunnel syndrome, ligament damage) and hand therapy may be required in the rehabilitation process.