After opening endless door knobs throughout your life, one day you turn a doorknob and suddenly a sharp pain jolts around your wrist. Where did this pain come from? Wrist pain is commonly thought of as a result of repetitive overuse – you can blame your phone or computer – however, 25% of all sports-related injuries also involve the wrist and hand. Whether the result of repetitive overuse or a sudden trauma, wrist pain can severely limit everyday tasks and physical activities.
Symptoms commonly associated with conditions of the wrist include pain along the joint and bones of the wrist, stiffness in movement of the wrist in any direction, weakness or lack of strength while lifting/gripping/making a fist/twisting, aching sensations in the hand or forearm, a tingling/burning sensation in the hand or fingers or swelling around the wrist. If you find yourself experiencing wrist pain, it’s important to first locate the source and reason for the pain.
What is Causing my Wrist Pain?
Some of the most common reasons for wrist pain include repetitive overuse, trauma from an acute injury or nerve irritation as a result of strain or repetition. If the pain in your wrist is not a result of a sudden injury, it’s possible that your pain may be a consequence of repetitive movements that have built up over time. Think of a carpenter who uses a hammer all day long or a chef chopping vegetables. Professions that require repetitive motions are most susceptible to developing tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. With the invention of smartphones we are also seeing more and more individuals developing wrist and hand issues because of their constant phone use. In the younger population, excessive video game playing can also lead to similar symptoms.
Common conditions of the wrist include:
• Wrist fractures: A break in one of the bones near the wrist. Colles or Smith Fracture being the most popular.
• Wrist tendinitis: Occurs when one or more of the tendons in the wrist becomes inflamed and irritated.
• Arthritis: Occurs when the cartilage or cushioning between the joints becomes worn down.
• Ligament Sprains: A partial injury to the wrist ligament. Dorsal or Palmer side.
• Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: The most common issue of the wrist and hand. Carpal Tunnel occurs where the median nerve and the tendons of the finger flexors travel. Nerves are quite sensitive to compressive forces so when the space in this area is limited, pain in this region arises.
When Should I Seek Treatment for my Wrist Pain?
The first act is to rest and reduce whatever act you believe is contributing to the pain. If the symptoms don’t resolve within a few days, it is best to seek medical attention from your local physical therapist or physician. If your wrist pain is immediate from a traumatic event, such as falling on an outstretched hand, it’s important to seek medical attention right away to ensure that you haven’t sustained a fracture which may require immobilization or stabilization via surgery. It’s extremely important for individuals experiencing any weakness, tingling or burning sensations near the wrist or hand to screen and rule out a possible cervical (neck) pathology. Seeking treatment as soon as possible is the most efficient way to ensure a full recovery and prevent the risk of recurring wrist pain.
How Can Physical Therapy Help to Resolve my Wrist Pain?
Your physical therapist will conduct a comprehensive assessment of your wrist, hand, arm, shoulder and neck to determine the source of your pain and to build a treatment plan that is specific to your condition. They’ll factor in your lifestyle and the types of activities in which you regularly perform while performing a barrage of tests to determine the source and reason for your wrist pain, such as:
• Strength tests to look for signs of weakness in certain muscles.
• Neural tension tests to see how well your nerves move throughout the arm and wrist.
• Neck screens to ensure your wrist pain is not coming from an issue in the spine.
They may utilize other treatment techniques, such as:
• Manual Therapy techniques to mobilize wrist bones, improve range of motion and reduce stiffness.
• Strengthening Exercises to identify and improve any pain limitations. Example: Wrist flexion (bending) and wrist extension (strengthening). Other exercises will target specific areas of weakness along the arm, including the shoulder and elbow, that may be contributing to pain in the wrist.
• Biomechanical Adjustments to recognize painful motions, re-train abnormal postures and reduce stress on the wrist by adjusting drop and position of hands while performing daily activities.
• Ergonomic Evaluation to help you optimize your work area to keep the wrist in a relaxed, neutral position.
Physical therapists can provide the necessary tools to prevent and/or treat wrist pain, allowing you to return to your favorite activities pain-free and stronger than ever! To learn more about wrist pain treatment and how physical therapy can help, book a PT assessment today.