Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to experience pain in the wrist. Physical therapists deal with two main types of wrist injuries: traumatic injuries and repetitive motion injuries.
Traumatic injuries, such as fractures, are usually the result of a single traumatic event. A fracture is a break in a bone. The number and size of the small bones and joints in the hand and wrist make them more susceptible to breaks. Fractures of the radius or ulna in the forearm are the most common wrist fractures for people of all ages. The radius is the bone on the thumb side of your forearm, and the ulna is the bone of the forearm located on the side of your little finger.
Another common traumatic wrist injury is a sprain. With a sprained wrist, the ligaments of the wrist are stretched beyond their normal limits. A ligament is tough, fibrous tissue that connects bones and helps control the motion of a joint. The ligaments around the wrist joint work to stabilize the position of the hand and allow for controlled movements.
Wrist sprains are graded according to the severity of the injury:
Unlike traumatic injuries, repetitive motion injuries develop over time and are often the result of computer work, assembly line tasks, or other activities that require the repetitive use of the arms and hands.
One of the most common repetitive motion wrist injuries is called carpal tunnel syndrome, or CTS. CTS is caused by the swelling of the tendons within the carpal tunnel, the narrow channel running through your wrist. The carpal tunnel also contains the median nerve, which transmits impulses directly from the brain, through the spinal cord to the hand. When the tendons swell and put pressure on the median nerve, the result may be numbness, tingling, weakness, or a burning sensation in some of the fingers and areas of the hand.
Wrist tendinitis is another common wrist problem. Tendinitis can cause pain and swelling around the wrist due to inflammation. Tendinitis is often the result of overuse or repetitive motion, although it can also be caused by trauma to the wrist.