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Bothered by Chronic Wrist Pain? Our Team Can Help

Bothered by Chronic Wrist Pain? Our Team Can Help

Mar 02, 2024

Bothered by Chronic Wrist Pain? Our Team Can Help

Persistent wrist pain can put a damper on your daily life and make it harder to get things done. Luckily, most cases of chronic wrist pain improve significantly with proper care. The first step? Getting an accurate diagnosis. 

If you’re like most people, you probably use your hands — and by extension, your wrists — to carry out a myriad of major and minor tasks all day long. When your hands stay busy, however, the high-use wrist joints that control them become more susceptible to various chronic pain conditions. 

If chronic wrist pain is making it difficult to work, handle routine tasks, or get a good night’s sleep, our expert team of board-certified orthopedists at Orthopedic Center of Palm Beach County in Atlantis, Boynton Beach, and Wellington, Florida, can help.

Here, we explore common causes of persistent wrist pain and explain how the right treatment approach can provide long-lasting relief. 

Wrist pain: Acute vs. chronic 

Wrist pain that comes on suddenly is almost always the result of an acute injury. Frequently sustained during the traumatic impact of an accidental fall, this type of wrist pain is usually a sign of a ligament sprain, muscle sprain, or bone fracture. 

With acute wrist injuries, prompt diagnosis and treatment help support normal healing, gradually easing your pain through recovery. With proper care, your wrist should be fully functional and pain-free in relatively short order. 

Chronic wrist pain, on the other hand, tends to come on gradually and worsen over time — often with no single obvious underlying cause. Whether it aches around the clock or the discomfort comes and goes intermittently, wrist pain that persists for three months or longer is considered chronic. 

Why do my wrists always hurt?

Living with chronic wrist pain can put a major damper on your daily life, sapping your energy and making it harder to get things done. The first step toward attaining lasting relief? Having an expert evaluation that leads to an accurate diagnosis of the underlying problem. 

Given that there are many potential causes of chronic wrist pain, we start by going over the severity and nature of your symptoms, including whether they’re worsened or improved by activity or rest. We also discuss any wrist-intensive work or repetitive wrist movements you may engage in, and perform a physical exam and diagnostic imaging tests. 

Often, chronic wrist pain is due to one of the following: 

Carpal tunnel syndrome

A common cause of chronic wrist pain, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when your median nerve is compressed within its narrow passageway inside your wrist — an area known as the carpal tunnel. It typically affects your dominant side, getting worse with wrist-intensive activity and better with rest.

Carpal tunnel causes intermittent tingling, itchy numbness, and burning pain in your wrist, hand, and fingers. It tends to worsen without care; as it progresses, it can leave you with a weaker grip that makes it hard to open a jar or grasp small objects. 

Cervical radiculopathy 

Sometimes, chronic wrist pain is a result of a pinched nerve in your cervical spine, or neck. Also known as cervical radiculopathy, the compression, damage, and inflammation of a nerve root in your neck can lead to numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain in your wrist and hand that’s most intense when you move your neck.

Cervical radiculopathy usually occurs on just one side of your body — often due to a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or an arthritis-related bone spur. 

Various forms of arthritis 

Arthritis — or joint inflammation — is another frequent cause of chronic wrist pain. The most common form of the disease, osteoarthritis (OA), causes the gradual wear-and-tear breakdown of cartilage within your joint. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disorder, occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your joints. 

Whether your wrist is affected by OA, RA, or some other rheumatic disease like lupus or gout, you can expect to experience some combination of wrist pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. 

Repetitive stress injuries 

When your occupation or preferred sport requires you to make the same repetitive movement with your wrist, the joint becomes more susceptible to sustaining an overuse injury. With symptoms that come on gradually and worsen over time, repetitive use wrist injuries can easily become a source of chronic pain. 

Tendonitis and bursitis are two painful conditions that can develop when your wrist is under repetitive stress and strain. This recurrent stress inflicts repeated mini traumas on the tendons within your wrist joint or the cushioning bursae that surround it, gradually giving rise to sustained joint inflammation, pain, and limitation. 

Relief for persistent wrist pain 

Luckily, most cases of chronic wrist pain improve with proper management. The right treatment approach depends on the underlying problem, and sometimes, more than one condition is at play. For example, it’s not unusual to see signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and overuse strain in the same painful wrist. 

Often, a combination of at-home care, medical treatment, and pain management strategies deliver the best results. Your treatment plan may involve:

  • Rest and activity modification
  • Icing (cold therapy) to ease inflammation
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Immobilization (splinting or bracing)
  • Physical therapy stretches and exercises
  • Ergonomic adjustments at work
  • Minimally invasive orthopedic surgery 

Tired of living with chronic wrist pain? We can help. Give us a call today to schedule a visit at your nearest Orthopedic Center of Palm Beach County office, or click online to book an appointment at your convenience.