Although the wrist and shoulder joints don’t have a direct connection, it’s important to recognize that none of the parts of the musculoskeletal system act in isolation. The Florida Hand Center recommends you consider four words: connection, repetition, referral, and compensation. We offer free hand screening that can help determine how your wrist pain may affect other areas.
Wrist and Shoulder Pain – Connection
Every joint in your body is connected to other parts of the skeleton by muscles, ligaments, and tendons. For example, the shoulder is connected to the elbow. Muscles from the elbow flex and extend the wrist. Watch a baseball pitcher – the pitcher uses nearly every joint in the body to throw that ball over the plate. When you change the way you use your wrist, it will affect your shoulder. The covering of the muscles, or fascia, can become tight enough to affect the function in joints that are farther away – thus wrist pain can cause forearm and even shoulder pain.
Wrist and Shoulder Pain – Repetition
Repetitive motion injury occurs when you perform the same activity over and over again. Typing, throwing a ball, running, lifting – any of these activities can cause pain in a particular area. That’s even truer if you don’t have good posture or are not careful about your body mechanics. The repetitive movements stress tendons, muscle, ligaments and joint, causing pain and inflammation.
Wrist and Shoulder Pain – Referral
Referred pain is the medical description for what happens when an injury in one part of your body expresses itself as pain in another area. The sensory nerves are what receive pain signals in the body, while the brain is what interprets those signals. The sensory network supplies and receives signals that indicate pain, pressure, heat and cold from multiple structures such as the skin, muscles, and bones. The brain is the place where the interpretation of those signals takes place. That’s why pain originating in the wrist may be felt as far away as the shoulder.
Wrist and Shoulder Pain – Compensation
If a part of your body hurts, you are likely to avoid activities that cause the pain or make it worse. This is what’s known as compensating. Your ankle is sore, so you walk with a limp. Carpal tunnel syndrome is bothering you, so you adjust the position of your hands on the keyboard by lifting your shoulders. Although many of these adjustments are small they can – over time – affect the function of other areas and cause pain. Even minor pain may result in considerable compensation elsewhere in the body.
Wrist pain can prevent you from completing many activities. If your wrist hurts it can be difficult to dress, comb your hair, type, wash dishes or drive. When the pain in your wrist also creates problems in your shoulder, it’s a double whammy. A free hand screening can help determine that source of the problem. Please contact us at the Florida Hand Center for an assessment and recommendations for treatment.