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Common Causes of Wrist Pain

person with wrist pain holding wrist

We use our wrists for countless daily activities, from typing on a keyboard to lifting objects. So, when wrist pain strikes, it can be a real inconvenience. In this blog post, we'll explore some common causes of wrist pain and provide insights into what might be causing your discomfort. So, let's roll up our sleeves and dive into the world of wrist pain.

x-ray showing wrist anatomy and bones joints

Wrist Anatomy

To understand the common causes of wrist pain, it's important to have a basic understanding of the anatomy of this intricate joint. The wrist joint is formed by the connection of the two forearm bones, the radius and ulna, with the carpal bones of the hand. This joint allows for a wide range of movements, including bending, straightening, and side-to-side motions.

Within the wrist joint, there are small, smooth surfaces covered with cartilage that allow the bones to glide smoothly against each other during movement. Ligaments, which are strong bands of connective tissue, help to stabilize the joint by holding the bones together.

The muscles and tendons surrounding the wrist play a crucial role in controlling its movements. These muscles originate in the forearm and extend down to the hand, allowing for precise and coordinated movements. The tendons attach the muscles to the bones, transmitting the force generated by the muscles to produce movement.

In addition to the bones, ligaments, muscles, and tendons, there are small fluid-filled sacs called bursae that help to reduce friction and cushion the joint. These structures work together to provide stability, support, and smooth motion to the wrist joint.

Common Causes of Wrist Pain

1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a prevalent condition that occurs when the median nerve, which runs through a narrow passageway in your wrist called the carpal tunnel, becomes compressed. It often causes numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and fingers. If you spend long hours typing or engaging in repetitive hand movements, carpal tunnel syndrome may be the culprit behind your wrist pain.

2. Wrist Sprains

Wrist sprains are a common cause of wrist pain and typically occur when the ligaments in the wrist are stretched or torn. This injury can happen during a fall or when the wrist is forcefully bent or twisted. If you recently had a mishap or experienced trauma to your wrist, a sprain may be the reason for your discomfort.

3. Tendinitis

Tendinitis refers to inflammation or irritation of the tendons, the thick cords that attach muscles to bones. In the wrist, tendinitis often affects the extensor or flexor tendons, leading to pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the wrist. If you experience pain when bending or straightening your wrist or notice swelling around the wrist joint, tendinitis might be the cause.

4. Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that causes joint inflammation and can affect various parts of the body, including the wrist. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two common types of arthritis that can cause wrist pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion. If you have a history of arthritis or notice persistent wrist pain, arthritis could be contributing to your discomfort.

5. Ganglion Cysts

Ganglion cysts are noncancerous lumps that often develop along the tendons or joints of the wrist or hand. They may cause wrist pain, swelling, and a noticeable lump. While the exact cause of ganglion cysts is unknown, they are typically harmless. However, if a cyst causes persistent pain or interferes with your wrist movement, seeking medical attention is recommended.

When to Seek Help

If your wrist pain persists, worsens, or significantly impacts your daily activities, it's crucial to seek professional help. A skilled healthcare provider, such as a physical therapist, can evaluate your wrist, determine the underlying cause of your pain, and develop a personalized treatment plan to help alleviate your symptoms.

Treatment Options

Treatment for wrist pain depends on the specific cause and severity of your condition. It may include rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE), splinting or bracing, physical therapy exercises to strengthen the wrist, and pain-relieving modalities. In some cases, medications or injections may be recommended, and in severe cases, surgery might be necessary.

Understanding the common causes of wrist pain is the first step toward finding relief and restoring optimal wrist function. If you're experiencing persistent or debilitating wrist pain, don't hesitate to reach out to our team at Nashville Physical Therapy & Performance. We're here to provide you with the expert care and guidance you need to overcome wrist pain and regain your wrist's full potential.


- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2019). Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Retrieved from

- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Sprained Wrist. Retrieved from

- American Society for Surgery of the Hand. (2020). Tendinitis of the Wrist and Hand. Retrieved from

- Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.). Arthritis and Diseases That Affect the Wrist. Retrieved from

- Mayo Clinic. (2020). Ganglion Cyst. Retrieved from

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