Major Medical Conditions that Cause Wrist Pain.

What Are The Causes Of Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain?

Wrist Joint Pain

9 Major Medical Conditions That Can Cause Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain are

  1. Injuries-
    • Fall- uneven surface, ice or slope
    • Automobile or work accident
  2. Inflammation of the soft tissue and bones supporting the wrist joint-
  3. Infection of wrist joint.
  4. Pseudogout
  5. Gout
  6. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  7. Ganglion Cysts
  8. Guyon's Canal Syndrome
  9. Kienbock's Disease.

What Are The Risk Factors Of Wrist Joint Dislocation?

Risk factors for Wrist Joint Dislocation are as follows

  • Old Age
  • Muscular Disorder- Muscle Weakness.
  • Frequent Fall- Epilepsy, dizziness, vertigo.
  • Pre-Existing Advanced Arthritis- Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  • Slip and Fall- On slippery surface.
  • Direct Impact
  • Contact Sports- like Wrestling, Football or Ice Hockey
  • Trauma.

Risk Factors Of Wrist Joint Dislocation

What Are The Different Types Of Trauma Causing Wrist Joint Injury?

Different types of injury are classified as follows:

  • Blunt Injury
  • Penetrating Injury
  • Sudden Impact Injury
  • Repetitive stress Injury.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due to Blunt Injury to the Wrist

Blunt injury results from sudden impact or repetitive stress injury. Blunt injury is often seen following fall, auto accident and work accident. Blunt injury often causes tendon or muscle sprain and soft tissue partial or complete tear. Rarely fracture or dislocation may occur following blunt trauma.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Penetrating Injury

Penetrating injuries is often seen following sharp object penetrating through skin into deeper tissue. Depth of penetrating injury depends on force of impact and sharpness of object. Penetrating injury may result in tear of soft tissue or fracture of bones. Penetrating injury is often seen following major accident or fall. Auto or car accident may induce severe forceful impact causing penetration of sharp object through soft tissue and bones.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Sudden Impact Injury

Sudden impact is often observed when patient is unaware of collision or impact during fall or accident. Sudden impact may produce blunt or penetrating wound.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Repetitive Stress Injury

Wrist joint activities that involve repetitive wrist motion often cause wrist joint soft tissue injury. Repetitive stress injury results following repetitive use of same tendon or muscles as seen in patients who may be combing several times a day. Continuous typing or using keyboard can cause stress injury of wrist joint.

Following are the repetitive stress injuries:

  • Sprain- Partial or complete tears of ligament and tendon.
  • De Quervain's Disease- Repetitive stress injury that causes pain at the base of the thumb.

Different Tissue Injuries Causing Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain

  • Soft Tissue Sprain- Contusion or bruises of soft tissue like tendon, ligaments and muscles caused by blunt trauma.
  • Soft Tissue Tear- Mostly caused by penetrating wound of the tendon, ligament and muscles.
  • Fracture- Blunt or penetrating injury of the bone may result in fracture of one or more than one bone associated with wrist joint.
  • Dislocation- Blunt or penetrating injury may cause dislocation or separation of the link between the bones forming the wrist joint.
  • Bleeding- Radial and ulnar artery lies along the wrist joint. Injuries to wrist joint can cause tear or laceration of main artery or branches resulting in mild to severe bleeding.
  • Nerve Damage- Three major nerves of wrist and hand are part of the wrist joint. Median nerve lies within carpal tunnel, ulnar nerve lies within Guyon's Canal and radial nerve lies along lateral side of radius. Wrist joint injury can damage any one or more than one of these nerves.

Tissue Injuries Causing Wrist Pain

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Wrist Joint Sprain

Bones of wrist joint in all three compartments are aligned as a link by ligaments and supported by tendons. Ligaments and tendons prevent wrist joint displacement or dislocation. Wrist joint sprain mostly results after blunt injuries. Sprained injury results in contusion or bruises of soft tissue like tendon, ligament or muscles. Sprain injury may be associated with swelling of the wrist joint and severe pain. Severe sprain often results in partial or complete tear of ligament or tendon.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Tear or Rupture of the Tendon

Rupture or tear of tendons is a serious injury resulting in severe restriction of the wrist joint and hand movements. Tear is either partial or severe. If tendon is torn then contraction of muscles to which tendon is attached causes extremely severe pain.

Why Is Tendon or Ligament Sprain or Tear a Common Wrist Joint Injury?

Twisting of hand by force can overstretch the ligament and tendon resulting in tear. Tendon and ligaments is non-elastic tight band of fibrous tissue attached to hard surface of bone and muscle fibers. During fall or twist, tendon or ligament is stretched to maximum length. In addition to being stretched, tendon is pulled by vigorously contracting muscles. Muscle contraction is a protective reflex during any painful events. Stretched tendon often results in tear when pulled by contracting muscles while opposite end is anchored to bone.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Wrist Dislocation

Wrist dislocation is separation of bones linked together as a joint. Most common wrist joint dislocation is between scaphoid and radius bone. Dislocation also occurs between carpal bones. Most common carpal wrist joint dislocation is between scaphoid and lunate bone. Distal wrist joint dislocation may occur between traphezium and head of metacarpal bone. Wrist dislocation is caused by forceful flexion, extension or side-to-side deviation of hand and wrist.

What Are The Different Types Wrist Joint Fractures Causing Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain?

Classification of Fracture- Fracture is classified according to direction of the break or separation of the bones.


  • Transverse
  • Oblique
  • Spiral


  • Hairline Fracture- Bone pieces or segments are not dislodged.
  • Partial Separating Fracture- Partial separation or shift is detected.
  • Complete Separation Fracture- Divided in several groups as follows-
    • Comminuted- Broken into several pieces.
    • Impacted Fracture- Bone fragments are impacted intoadjacent fragments of fracture bone.
    • Avulsion Fracture- Fragments of the bone are displaced at adjacent position.

What Are The Causes of Wrist Fracture?

  • Injury- Fall, direct impact cause by auto or work accident.
  • Degenerative Joint Disease- Osteoarthritis.
  • Sports Injury- Fall, stress on impact over outstretched upper extremity.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Bursitis

Bursa is the synovial sac filed with lubricant fluid and lies between tendon, muscles and bones. There are several bursas around the wrist joint. Bursa protects tendon, ligaments and muscles from friction with bones resulting in soft tissue damage. Bursitis is the inflammation of the membrane of the bursa.

Causes of Wrist Bursitis Are As Follows:

  • Excessive strenuous use of the wrist joint.
  • Excessive non-strenuous activity of wrist joint.
  • Associated with Rotator Cuff Tendinitis.
  • Complications of Arthritis.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Tendinitis

Tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendon supporting the wrist joint.

Causes of Wrist Tendinitis are as follows:

  • Injury or Trauma
  • Inflammatory Disease- Rheumatoid or Osteoarthritis.
  • Dislocation or Fracture.

What Is Wrist Joint Arthritis?

Wrist Joint Arthritis is the inflammation of the joint synovial membrane, cartilage and bone.

Following are the common joint inflammatory diseases:

  • Osteoarthritis- Osteoarthritis of the wrist joint is uncommon, usually occurring only in people who have injured wrist in the past.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis- It is a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis is common in the wrist.
  • Psoriatic Arthritis- Joint disease associated with skin psoriasis.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune form of arthritis in which the antibodies and the immune cells attacks joint tissue causing inflammation, pain, and swelling. Any joint may be affected by rheumatoid arthritis, including the wrist joint. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation and thickening of synovial membrane and ligaments causing severe pain.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due to Degenerative Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative arthritis. Untreated or long lasting osteoarthritis causes thinning of bone and ligament results in degenerative arthritis. Osteoarthritis causes degeneration of the bones and joints. Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear of the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones. Pain is mostly localized over wrist joint between radius and carpal bone. Joint movement is extremely painful.

Is Osteoarthritis A Self-Limiting Disease?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is not a self-limiting disease. Joint osteoarthritis if not treated may result in joint dislocation and tendon atrophy as well as tear. Initial pain is secondary to inflammation of synovial membrane and ligaments. Later pain is caused by dislocation or subluxation of the joint.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis causes swelling and pain of the wrist joint and associated with the skin condition psoriasis. Many joints including the wrist joint may be affected by psoriasis. Joint inflammation is periodic, pain is seen during the period joint inflammation and pain often is absent if inflammation is diminished.

Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Psoriatic Arthritis

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis in which uric acid or monosodium urate crystals periodically deposit in joints, causing severe pain and swelling. Uric acid crystals induce inflammation of synovial membrane and ligament. The wrist joint may sometimes be affected by gout. Gout is most often seen over big toe.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Pseudogout

Pseudogout means false gout. Pseudogout is caused by calcium pyrophosphate deposition over the cartilage or ligaments of the joint. The term Pseudogout is used to indicate the similarities of the disease since both the diseases are caused by deposition of inorganic compound and also the term differentiates the disease is caused by deposition of different inorganic compound.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Septic Arthritis

Septic arthritis is infection of the wrist joint. Most common infection of the wrist joint is caused by bacterial infection. Septic arthritis develops quickly, causing severe pain, joint swelling and fever. Joint movement and weight is extremely painful. Infectious arthritis is an emergency and hospitalization may be necessary for intravenous antibiotic treatment.

Causes of Septic Arthritis of the Wrist Joint are as follows:

  • Blunt Trauma
  • Penetrating Injury
  • Impaired Immune System- AIDS
  • Diabetes.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition of the wrist caused by severe pinch or pressure over medial nerve. Pain is spread through the hand along the median nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome often presents as only pain. In few cases if tunnel is severely compromised then pain is associated with tingling, numbness and weakness.

What Can Cause A Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Wrist Joint Dislocation
  • Wrist Joint Fracture
  • Obesity
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Amyloidosis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Leukemia

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Median Nerve Neuropathy?

Carpal tunnel syndrome causes median nerve neuropathy.

Median nerve supplies sensory nerve fibers to thumb, index, middle and part of ring finger. Motor fibers are supplied to flexor tendons. Median nerve neuropathy is often seen in patients suffering with carpal tunnel syndrome. Median nerve neuropathy causes severe pain, tingling and numbness along the course of median nerve. Severe pinch of median nerve may result in weakness in the hand and wrist. Median nerve neuropathy if not treated may result in disability because of permanent numbness and weakness.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Due To Ganglion Cyst

Ganglion cysts are soft tissue cystic swelling like bursa. Ganglion cyst is filled with jelly like fluid very common in hand and wrist. Ganglion cyst is often associated with joints and tendon. Ganglion cyst is painful condition and often restricts joint activities.

Wrist Joint Pain Due To Ganglion Cyst

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To Kienbock's Disease

Kienbock's disease is the type of wrist fracture caused by lack of blood supply to lunate carpal bone. The disease is also known as avascular necrosis of carpal bone.

The characteristics of the disease is as follows:

  • Affects young adults.
  • Secondary to lack of blood supply to carpal bone.
  • Most common carpal bone affected is lunate bone, which articulates with radius.
  • Lesion results in bone necrosis.
  • Often patient gives a history of injury.

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To DeQuervain's Disease

DeQuervain's disease is presented with severe pain over the radius bone at the base of the thumb. Pain is localized over radial styloid bone and two tendons. The symptom is triggered by irritation and pressure over tendon of abductor pollicis longus, and the extensor pollicis brevis in a very close space. DeQuervain's Disease results in swelling and inflammation of the tendon and surrounding ligaments. Inflammation, tissue edema and vasodilatation create massive pressure resulting in severe pain on the radial or thumb side of the wrist.

Wrist Joint Pain Caused Due To DeQuervain's Disease

Wrist Pain or Wrist Joint Pain Caused by Guyon's Canal Syndrome or Handle Bar Palsy

Guyon's Canal Syndrome is also known Handlebar palsy. The canal lies between flexor retinaculum and to the pisiform and volar bone. Guyon canal is formed by a split in flexor retinaculum enclosing ulnar nerve and artery. Narrowing of canal can cause ulnar nerve pinch within the canal resulting in symptoms like tingling, numbness or weakness. The syndrome is common among cyclist and is thus known as handlebar palsy.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: November 27, 2014

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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