What is it?

Wrist pain is a common complaint, and determining the cause can be challenging.  It is important to find the source of the pain so that treatment can be specific and successful.  The wrist is a complex joint made up of eight small bones, with many small joints that work together to allow for a variety of movements.  Thick bands of ligaments stabilize the wrist joint and these can also be injured. Symptoms typically range from a dull ache to sharp or stabbing pain in the wrist.

What causes it?

Trauma from a fall is the most common cause of wrist pain.  When you fall on the hand you can sprain or even fracture the wrist.  Sports, such as tennis or golf, can stress the wrist from repetitive movements and lead to tendonitis (see DeQuervain’s Tendonitis).  One of the most common “soft tissue” problems is an injury to the TFCC (triangular fibrocartilage complex), a cartilage that supports and stabilizes the wrist.  This is seen with injuries that force the wrist into hyperextension or twisting movements, especially in sports.  Like any joint, arthritis is also seen in the wrist and is sometimes the result of injury.

How is it diagnosed?

Not every wrist problem needs surgery.  In fact, most minor wrist complaints respond to simple measures such as rest, icing, compression, and elevation. Persistent wrist pain should be evaluated.  This begins with a thorough discussion about the nature and potential causes of the pain, followed by an examination.  The examination will usually help to localize the injury to specific areas of the wrist. X-rays of the wrist are important to assess for a fracture or joint injury.  An MRI or other advanced studies may be ordered to help determine an injury to the carpal bones or ligaments, such as the TFCC.  If the pain does not improve, wrist arthroscopy may be useful.  Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure where a small camera, thinner than a pencil, is inserted into the wrist through a very small incision.  This procedure can serve to diagnose as well as to treat certain wrist conditions.

What are the treatments?

Most wrist problems are treated without surgery.  Treatments include splinting, injections, and occupational therapy.  Surgery for wrist problems can be minimally invasive or arthroscopic for some injuries, like a cartilage tear (TFCC), or more extensive for severe wrist fractures.  The determination of which treatment is recommended depends on many factors such as: the type of injury or condition, activity level of the patient, and success rates with available techniques.  We are experienced in a broad range of treatment options and will strive to relieve your problem in the most gentle way possible.