How To Tell if Your Wrist Pain is Serious

With days spent typing away at computers, scrolling through phones, and generally staying very busy, wrist pain seems to be more and more common. A painful wrist can make life very difficult.

If you have consistently achy, pained wrists you may have developed a chronic wrist condition. With many orthopaedic conditions, injury does not always result from an acute occurrence. Often, orthopaedic conditions are caused by repeated motion and wear and tear over time. If you’re experiencing wrist pain or discomfort, read on to see if your wrist pain is a cause to see a doctor about.

Common Wrist Conditions and Their Symptoms

Carpal Tunnel: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (or CTS) is caused by pinching of the median nerve which passes through the carpal tunnel at the base of the wrist and into the hand. CTS affects nearly 3 million Americans annually. Symptoms of CTS occur in the wrist, hand, and fingers and may include:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Pain
  • One way to test if you may have CTS is to perform Phalen’s Maneuver. This test, also known as the wrist-flexion test, is performed by pressing the backs of the hands and fingers together with the wrist flexed and fingers pointed down. Hold the position for a few minutes, if your fingers tingle or get numb it may be a sign of CTS.

    De Quervain’s Tendinitis: De Quervain’s Tendonitis, colloquially known as wrist tendonitis occurs when the tendons around the base of the thumb become constricted or irritated. Tendonitis refers to pain causing swelling that occurs in the tendon and tendon sheath. Symptoms include:

  • Pain on the thumb side of the wrist
  • Fluid filled cysts
  • Joint stiffness
  • Redness of the skin
  • To test if you may have tendonitis, perform the Finkelstein test. Make a fist with your fingers closed over your thumb, then bend the wrist towards your little finger. If you experience pain on the thumb side of the wrist this may be a sign of tendonitis.

    Of course, the only way to be certain if you have a serious wrist problem is to see an orthopaedic specialist.

    At Home Treatments

    If you’ve been experiencing wrist pain, start with some simple at home treatments. Over the counter NSAIDs can be utilized to manage pain and ice can be used to decrease inflammation and swelling. You can also utilize at home wrist exercises and support wear to reduce the risk of developing conditions like CTS and tendonitis. However, if pain, and stiffness in the wrist continue after at home treatment or worsen, it’s time to see a specialist.


    After diagnosing the cause of your wrist pain, your orthopaedic specialist will begin treatment using either surgical or non-surgical methods to achieve reduced pain, better mobility, and an overall higher quality of life. Treatment options may include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Joint fusion
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Joint repair
  • Tendon repair
  • Tendon replacement
  • Total joint replacement
  • Next Steps at MidAmerica Orthopaedics

    If you’re experiencing wrist pain that won’t go away, come visit us at our Hand to Shoulder Clinic. The dedicated physicians at MidAmerica Orthopaedics will help craft a treatment plan that’s specifically made for you.

    Anton J. Fakhouri, MD
    Anton J. Fakhouri, MD

    Anton J. Fakhouri, MD is a Hand and Upper Extremity Orthopaedic Specialist with special interest in tendon repair and carpal tunnel release.

    Gary A. Kronen, MD. is a Hand and Upper Extremity Surgeon with specialized experience in reconstructive surgery.

    Gary A. Kronen, MD
    Gary A. Kronen, MD

    To learn more about MidAmerica Orthopaedics and the different treatment options available to you, request an appointment online or call (708) 237-7200. MidAmerica Orthopaedics serves various areas such as Chicago, Tinley Park, Palos Hills, Mokena, Evergreen Park, New Lenox, Oak Lawn, Orland Park, and more.

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