5 Causes of Wrist Pain Besides Carpal Tunnel
Your wrist is a small part of your body that contains eight bones, ligaments, tendons, and tissue that is vulnerable to injury. If you experience pain, numbness, or tingling in your hand and wrist, you may think that you have carpal tunnel syndrome, but other conditions can cause wrist pain and lead to similar symptoms. Diagnosing the exact cause is essential for proper treatment and healing.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when pressure on the median nerve at your wrist causes symptoms that include burning, numbness, tingling, and pain in your fingers, hand, and wrist. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway of ligament and bone in your wrist. The median nerve travels through the carpal tunnel and provides feeling and movement in your hand and fingers. Repetitive use of your wrist can result in thickened tendons, inflammation, or swelling in that area and cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints that leads to pain and stiffness and can worsen with age. When cartilage deteriorates, bones can rub against each other and cause pain, swelling, and inflammation. This condition can affect your hands, fingers, wrists, and many other joints in your body. It’s common in older adults but extends to all ages.
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are tingling and numbness instead of joint inflammation, as in arthritis. Both conditions can be present together as the swelling in your wrist caused by arthritis increases the pressure on your median nerve. Here are four types of arthritis that can cause wrist pain:
- Osteoarthritis: This form of arthritis develops when cartilage wears down and causes pain, swelling, and stiffness.
- Gout: In this disorder, uric acid crystals that form in and around your joints rub against the soft lining and cause pain, swelling, and inflammation.
- Psoriatic arthritis: If you have psoriasis, a skin disorder that causes scaly skin patches, you can get psoriatic arthritis, which may cause wrist pain, tenderness, and swelling and can reduce motion.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis often starts in the small joints in your hands and wrists and can result in pain, stiffness, and swelling in these areas.
Cervical radiculopathy, also known as a pinched nerve, happens when a nerve in your cervical spine becomes inflamed and damaged. Your cervical spine is the neck region of your spinal column, and cervical nerves branch out to supply muscles that enable the functioning of your shoulders, arms, wrists, and fingers. Compression of the nerve in your neck can cause neurological symptoms that include numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in your hand and wrist caused by the movement of your neck.
Although the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are the same, they are located in the hand and wrist; these symptoms aren’t caused by the movement of your head and neck like a pinched nerve. Cervical radiculopathy often occurs on one side of your body. It’s common for younger people to develop a pinched nerve from a herniated disc in their neck and for older people to develop bone spurs from arthritis that compress the cervical nerves.
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that causes numbness, pain, and weakness in your hands and wrists from nerve degeneration. Peripheral nerves branch out from the brain and spinal cord. Diabetes, traumatic injuries, infections, and metabolic problems can cause peripheral nerve damage.
This condition can affect all ages but is more common in older people, and symptoms include extreme sensitivity, muscle weakness, lack of coordination, and sharp, throbbing, burning pains. It’s difficult to differentiate between carpal tunnel and peripheral neuropathy; however, experiencing similar symptoms in your lower legs and feet is a sign that it may be neuropathy.
A wrist sprain is a ligament injury. Ligaments are connective tissues that control joint movement. The ligaments around the wrist joints help stabilize your hand position and allow a controlled range of motion. A sprain happens when you stretch your wrist ligaments past their limit, resulting in a small tear or a break in a ligament. You can sustain this injury from a sporting activity, twisting your wrist, any extreme pressure applied to the wrist, or using your hands to catch yourself from falling. Wrist sprain symptoms include:
- Pain with movement.
- Swelling around the joints.
- Burning or tingling sensations.
- Bruising or discoloration.
- Weakness and loss of motion.
The inflammation from your sprained wrist can narrow the carpal tunnel and irritate the median nerve, which may cause symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome while you heal.
Swelling from tendonitis is due to overuse or injury to the tendons that connect muscles to bones. This condition can affect several parts of your body, causing inflammation in the affected area. Repetitive wrist motions such as crocheting, typing, hammering, tennis, or golf can cause wrist tendonitis, and symptoms include dull pain, morning stiffness, warmth, and mild swelling. Both carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist tendonitis can cause pain in the wrist and hand, but tendonitis does not cause numbness and tingling.
How To Prevent Wrist Pain
Certain activities put your wrists in danger of getting hurt. Here are some tips to protect them:
- Consume calcium-rich foods to help prevent fractures.
- Prevent falling forward onto an outstretched hand by wearing sensible shoes, lighting up your living areas, and installing handrails on your stairways.
- Use protective sporting gear such as wrist splints during sporting activities.
- Take regular breaks and keep your wrist in a relaxed position when working on any repetitive task.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Most often, wrist pain is from a common cause or injury, and you can treat it with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication. A splint may allow your wrist to rest, ease pain, and promote healing. If your symptoms are severe and persist, it’s wise to seek the care of a hand and wrist specialist who can provide you with a diagnosis and treatment plan. Treatments for wrist pain include exercises, changing lifestyle activities, splints, medications, steroid injections, or surgery. Diagnosing wrist pain may involve a physical exam, blood tests, and imaging.
Contact The Hand and Wrist Institute Today
Many people believe that their wrist pain will go away with rest. When you suffer from chronic or recurring wrist pain, it can cause further damage and might hinder your treatment and recovery. If you’re in the Dallas area, contact us so that our team of doctors can help you heal. To learn more about wrist pain, visit our blog and read about diagnosis and treatment options.