Causes of Wrist Pain


The wrist is a complex joint that connects the hand to the forearm. The forearm contains two bones: the ulna and the radius. The bones of the wrist include the distal ends of the ulna and radius, 8 carpal bones, and the proximate portions of the 5 metacarpal bones (the bones of the fingers). For more information about wrist anatomy, visit

Because the wrist is a complex joint, a variety of medical conditions or injuries can lead to wrist pain, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Arthritis
    Various types of arthritis can cause wrist pain, including osteoarthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms of arthritis in the wrist include pain, stiffness, swelling and numbness in the hands, fingers or wrist.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
    Also referred to as median nerve compression, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs due to pressure on the median nerve. The carpal tunnel is a narrow canal in the wrist through which the median nerve and tendons travel to connect the arm to the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the space or “tunnel” in the wrist is narrowed, putting pressure on the median nerve. Symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the fingers, hand or wrist.
  • Colles fracture
    Colles fracture, also referred to as a distal radius fracture, is a fracture of the lower end of the radius (a bone in the forearm), close to where it connects to the wrist. It is commonly referred to as a broken wrist. Symptoms include pain (especially when flexing the wrist), tenderness, swelling, bruising, or deformity of the wrist.
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome
    Also known as ulnar neuropathy, cubital tunnel syndrome involves compression on the ulnar nerve. The nerve passes close to the surface of the skin near the “funny bone.” Symptoms include pain or numbness in the elbow, pain in the wrist, numbness of the hand, tingling or weakness in the ring and pinky fingers, decreased grip strength, or muscle wasting of the hand.
  • De Quervain's tenosynovitis
    De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a painful condition that affects the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. The exact cause is not known, but it is associated with overuse of the wrist. Symptoms include pain or tenderness when rotating the wrist, grasping something, or making a fist. Pain may radiate up the arm, swelling may develop in the affected area of the wrist, and difficulty holding objects may occur.
  • Ganglion cyst
    A ganglion cyst is a soft, round, fluid-filled cyst that most commonly develops on the tendons of the wrist, hand, ankle or foot. Ganglion cysts are filled with a jelly-like fluid and range in size from pea-sized to an inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter. Most ganglion cysts go away without treatment. If the cyst presses on a nerve, pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness may occur.
  • Gout
    Gout is a complex form of arthritis that can develop when the blood contains high levels of uric acid. If the body produces too much uric acid or the kidneys excrete too little uric acid, it can build up in the blood and form sharp urate crystals in or around specific joints. Symptoms of gout in the wrist include intense joint pain of the fingers and wrists, inflammation, redness, and limited range of motion.
  • Kienbock's disease
    Also referred to as avascular necrosis of the lunate, Kienbock’s disease is a condition in which the lunate bone in the wrist slowly deteriorates due to inadequate blood supply. Symptoms include wrist pain, bone tenderness, stiffness, swelling, limited range of motion, loss of grip strength, difficulty turning the palm upward, and a clicking sound when moving the wrist.
  • Repetitive stress/strain injury
    Repetitive stress or repetitive strain injuries occur from gradual damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments or nerves due to repetitive actions. These types of injuries commonly affect the hands, wrist, forearms, elbows, shoulders or neck. Typical symptoms include pain (mild to severe), tenderness, swelling, stiffness, tingling, numbness, throbbing, weakness, and sensitivity to temperature.
  • Triangular fibrocartilage complex tear
    The triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) is an area between the two bones that make up the forearm — the ulna and the radius. The TFCC is composed of ligaments, tendons and cartilage. It acts as a stabilizer for the ulnar side of the wrist. Symptoms of a TFCC tear include pain on the outside of the wrist and through the wrist, clicking or popping sounds when moving the wrist, swelling, tenderness, instability and weakness.
  • Ulnar artery thrombosis
    Ulnar artery thrombosis occurs when a blood clot develops in the ulnar artery. Symptoms include wrist pain at night or during repetitive activity, tenderness, cold intolerance, and the development of ulcerations on the ring finger and the tip of the little finger.
  • Ulnar impaction syndrome
    Also known as ulnocarpal abutment or ulnocarpal loading, ulnar impaction syndrome is a degenerative wrist condition caused by the ulnar head impacting on the carpal bones on the ulnar side of the wrist. This typically occurs when the ulna of the forearm is too long relative to the radius. Symptoms include ulnar-sided wrist pain, swelling, tenderness, decreased range of motion, and decreased forearm rotation.
  • Wrist bursitis
    Bursitis involves inflammation of the bursa(e). Bursae are small sacs of fluid located throughout the body; they serve as cushions between bones and soft tissues (muscles, tendons and skin). Symptoms of bursitis in the wrist include pain (especially when pressure is applied), inflammation, redness, stiffness, and aching pain.
  • Wrist fracture
    A wrist fracture involves a break (fracture) or crack in one of the bones in the wrist. This most commonly occurs when using an outstretched hand to break a fall. Symptoms include severe pain that often worsens when gripping, squeezing or moving the hand/wrist, swelling, tenderness, bruising, or an obvious deformity of the wrist.
  • Wrist sprain
    A wrist sprain is an injury to the ligaments in the wrist. Symptoms include swelling, tenderness, pain and discoloration.
  • Wrist tendinitis
    Wrist tendinitis involves inflammation of the tendon(s) of the wrist. Tendinitis of the wrist may affect one or more tendons. Symptoms include pain and stiffness in the morning or upon waking, tenderness when pressure is applied, swelling, inflammation, and decreased range of motion.
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