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:

Cervical Radiculopathy

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

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.

Sprained Wrist

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:

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:

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.

Image by Towfiqu Barbhuiya is licensed with Unsplash License

Dr. John Knight
Dr. John Knight

Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.