Wrist Pain
Wrist Pain

***Image courtesy of yodiyim at FreeDigitalPhotos.net***

The Prevalence of Wrist Pain in Today's Society

The explosion of technology such as computers, tablets, and smart phones has increased the rate of wrist pain and/or numbness and tingling in the fingers.  Today's society is filled with people stooped in front of their computers hammering away at their keyboard.  Click here to read about "Text Neck". Like the elbow, repetitive activities like typing can cause tightness in the forearm leading to symptoms in the wrist and hand.  Also, like the elbow, symptoms in the wrist may actually be coming from the neck.  Since technology is likely to not go away anytime soon, it is important to fully understand the symptoms in our wrist and hands.  The following is a list of common diagnoses that affect the wrist and hand:

  • Tendinopathy
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • De Quervain's Tenosynovitis
  • Nerve Entrapment
  • Cervical Radiculopathy
  • Degenerative Joint Disease/Arthritis

 


What Are The Symptoms Of Wrist Tendinitis?

Tendinitis of the wrist involves irritation and damage to the muscular tendons that cross the wrist.  These same muscles may also have tendons that extend towards the elbow which is why the elbow and wrist tend to involve one another.  Click here to learn more about Elbow Pain and Tendinopathy.  Symptoms of tendinitis often depend on the severity of the problem.  Most of the time, there is a sharp pain at the posterior aspect of the wrist.  However, wrist tendinitis can also manifest as a constant stiff and aching discomfort.  Tendinopathy of the wrist often results from repetitive movements.  These movements can be mild in activity such as typing.  On the contrary, they can be more aggressive in nature like the constant twisting and turning that is required of a mechanic.  As noted earlier, the severity of the complaint will dictate how pain is perceived.  If the wrist is swollen and you are unable to lift a pencil, a tear is likely.


Muscles and Tendons of the Posterior Forearm
Wrist Extensor Muscles/Tendons
Flexor Muscles of the Anterior Forearm
Wrist Flexor Muscles/Tendons

What Does It Feel Like To Have Carpal Tunnel?

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway for the median nerve.  As indicated in the picture, it traverses through the carpal bones of the wrist as well as various tendons.  Carpal Tunnel Syndrome involves a compression of the nerve within the tunnel.  Like tendinitis, carpal tunnel often manifests from repetitive actions.  Most commonly, those that spend long hours at a computer have a higher likelihood of occurrence.  Another contributor is the way we sleep.  Sleeping with a curled up and bent wrist causes a narrowing of the carpal tunnel and eventually will result in symptoms.  When the median nerve is compressed, you may feel burning and tingling into the fingers (most commonly the first three digits - thumb, point, middle).

Carpal Tunnel

It is important to note that carpal tunnel is often misdiagnosed.  Just because your hand goes numb does not mean you have carpal tunnel.  There are three main nerves in the upper extremity (median, ulnar, and radial) and they each can be entrapped at various sites all the way up to the neck.  It is imperative that a thorough evaluation is done in order to pin point the site of dysfunction.  This will minimize time spent with unnecessary treatment and even worse, unnecessary surgery.


 

How Do I Relieve Wrist Pain?

The first order of business when dealing with discomfort in the wrist is to modify the offending activity.  By lessening the daily irritation to the area we can assure a quicker resolution.  When it comes to treatment, we use several methods to get the results we want.

Treatment of wrist pain involves soft tissue manipulation to the wrist and forearm most notably the extensor muscles of the forearm.  When tingling is present, identifying the exact nerve and exact site of nerve entrapment is critical to impacting symptoms.  This involves tracing the median nerve, ulnar nerve, and radial nerve all the way up the arm until the area of discomfort is localized.  Evaluation and treatment to the cervical spine is necessary because that is where these nerves begin.  Functional rehab is used to improve posture to limit the tightness within our arms.  Lifestyle and work space modifications are necessary to allow lasting relief.  If you work at a computer or have a job that requires repetitive use of the hands, you owe it to yourself to get evaluated.  The absence of current symptoms does not mean that you aren't a candidate for future issues.  Set up a consultation today to get a HANDLE on your wrist pain!