What is Wrist Tendinitis & How Can It Be Treated
Tendonitis — also spelled tendinitis — occurs when a tendon becomes inflamed or irritated. Tendons are thick, collagen-rich tissues that connect your muscles and bones and are critical to joint movement and mobility. One of the most common places to get tendonitis is your wrist. While wrist tendonitis can be temporary, it can also become chronic. The faster you diagnose and treat wrist tendonitis, the more likely you’ll limit its reoccurrence.
What Is Wrist Tendonitis?
As mentioned above, tendonitis is inflammation of your tendons, so wrist tendonitis is inflammation in the tendons that connect the muscles in your forearm to the bones in your hand. These tendons help you control and move your wrist, hands, and fingers. Wrist tendonitis can limit mobility, hamper daily activities, and cause pain.
Who’s at Risk for Wrist Tendonitis?
If you frequently perform actions that stress your wrists, you’re at risk of developing tendonitis. For example, new mothers or professional childcare providers are especially prone to tendonitis, as are people who spend their days typing on computers. Other factors that increase your risk for wrist tendonitis include the following:
- Being older than 40.
- Having a history of tendon injuries.
- Working in a job that requires repetitive wrist movements.
- Having health conditions such as diabetes.
- Playing sports that strain your wrists, such as basketball.
While wrist tendonitis is rare, it’s more common for women than men. According to Cleveland Clinic, this condition occurs in approximately 1.3% of women and 0.5% of men.
Symptoms of Wrist Tendonitis
Pain is the most common symptom of wrist tendonitis. This pain may be dull, especially while resting, but it may increase with wrist movement. Additional symptoms of wrist tendonitis may include, but aren’t limited to, the following:
- Trouble executing specific movements, such as turning or lifting with your wrist.
- Stiffness, a grinding sensation, or a cracking noise when moving your wrist.
- Swelling and inflammation that decreases your wrist mobility.
- An overall weakness in your wrist.
Causes of Wrist Tendonitis
Most types of tendonitis, including wrist tendonitis, are usually from repeated stress on your tendons. Overuse can irritate the layer of lubricated tissue — called a tendon sheath — that surrounds your tendon. This irritation leads to inflammation. Once inflamed, it’s much more difficult for your tendons to glide through the sheath. For wrist tendonitis, this repetitive strain injury and subsequent inflammation make wrist and finger movements more difficult and painful.
Frequent actions that lead to overuse and tendonitis in your wrist include the following:
- Typing or using a computer mouse.
- Playing video games.
- Using a cell phone or mobile device.
- Writing with a pen and paper.
- Performing repetitive physical tasks requiring the use of your hands and wrists.
- Playing sports that require heavy use of your wrists.
Diagnosing Wrist Tendonitis
Typically, your medical provider will diagnose wrist tendonitis via a physical examination. This examination may include them pressing on specific parts of your forearm, wrist, or hand to check for swelling or tenderness so they can determine the exact location of any inflammation. Additionally, they may ask you to execute specific actions, such as making a fist or rotating your wrist.
If a physical examination is inconclusive, your health care provider may order imaging scans such as an X-ray, MRI, or ultrasound. These can help your physician rule out conditions that have similar symptoms as wrist tendonitis, such as the following:
- Arthritis: This causes swelling and inflammation in your joints.
- Carpel tunnel: This compresses a nerve in your wrist and causes numbness and tingling.
- Trigger finger: This occurs when inflamed tendons cause your finger to stick in a bent position.
- A wrist fracture: A break in one or more of your wrist bones.
Nonsurgical Treatments for Wrist Tendonitis
While wrist tendonitis can be painful and hamper your daily activities, there are multiple nonsurgical treatment options you can explore. The type of treatment your medical provider offers will depend mainly on the cause and severity of your wrist tendonitis. Potential nonsurgical treatments for wrist tendonitis include:
- Rest: Avoiding activities or actions that caused or contributed to the tendonitis.
- Ice: Icing your wrist for 20 minutes every two hours while elevating it can help reduce swelling and inflammation.
- Splinting: Using a splint as a supportive device to stabilize your wrist and minimize movement. This can prevent further injury or an exacerbation of the existing injury.
- Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs, can reduce pain and inflammation. Your health care provider may also prescribe a steroid injection in your wrist or finger joints.
- Physical or occupational therapy: These treatments use stretches and other targeted exercises that can help build strength and mobility.
Surgical Treatments for Wrist Tendonitis
If nonsurgical treatment options fail or your wrist tendon has severe structural damage, you may need surgery. This typically entails a surgeon making a small incision in your wrist and finding the damaged tendon.
After locating the problem area, the surgeon will clean the damaged tissue from the tendon sheath and make a series of tiny cuts to release your tendon, giving it more room to move. Usually, this procedure only requires local anesthesia and is an outpatient treatment, meaning you likely won’t need to spend the night in the hospital.
Preventing Wrist Tendonitis
You can take several actions to decrease your chances of getting wrist tendonitis. Here are some handy tips for prevention:
- Don’t overwork your wrist or hands.
- Avoid repetitive activities that contribute to wrist tendonitis.
- Stop smoking.
- Stretch your wrists before any physical activity.
- Take regular breaks during activities that strain your wrists, such as typing.
- Use a wrist splint or brace when doing repetitive tasks that strain your wrists.
Get Your Wrist Tendonitis Treated at the Hand and Wrist Institute
Is wrist tendonitis bothering your everyday life? Our team of experts at the Hand and Wrist Institute can help you diagnose and treat wrist tendonitis or any other wrist issue you’re experiencing. If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, contact our professional and dedicated team at the Hand and Wrist Institute today to ask any questions and schedule an appointment. Getting your wrists healthy is essential for an active and uncompromised life.