The Road to Recovery: Rehabilitation and Treatment for Wrist Pain

Wrist pain is a prevalent issue caused by an injury or damage to the wrist joint and the surrounding tissues. The symptoms of wrist pain may differ depending on the root cause. 

However, typical indications include tenderness, stiffness, swelling, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the wrist and hand. Severe cases can make it difficult to perform daily activities or hold objects. 

That’s why medical intervention such as physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, or surgery is necessary for the long run. Read on about the causes, rehabilitation, and treatment for wrist pain discussed below.

Causes of Wrist Pain

  • Overuse injuries

One example of how overuse injuries can lead to wrist pain is seen in individuals who work in an office setting and spend long hours typing on a keyboard. The repetitive motion of typing can cause strain on the muscles and tendons in the wrist, leading to inflammation and pain. 

Over time, if the individual continues to perform this activity without rest, the condition can worsen and require medical attention for meniscus injury recovery.

  • Trauma

Trauma can cause wrist pain in several ways. One typical example is wrist sprains. When a person falls and lands on their hand, they may stretch or tear the ligaments in their wrist, leading to pain and swelling. Another example is wrist fractures. A sudden impact on the wrist can cause a break in one of the bones, leading to severe pain and limited mobility.

Besides these acute injuries, trauma can cause chronic wrist pain. Repetitive motions, such as typing or playing an instrument, can stress the wrist joint and lead to overuse injuries like tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. 

  • Arthritis

Arthritis can cause joint pain and inflammation, including the wrist. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and wrist injuries are all types of arthritis that can cause wrist pain. Osteoarthritis is a joint disease when the cartilage cushions the joints wear out, leading to pain and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes joint inflammation and pain. 

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common neurological disorder when the median nerve is compressed or squeezed at the wrist. This compression of the median nerve causes pain and numbness in the hands.

  • Tendinitis

Tendinitis is a condition caused by the tendon’s inflammation. A tendon is a fibrous tissue that attaches muscles to bones. 

When tendons become inflamed, they can cause pain, tenderness, and swelling. One common area where tendinitis can occur is in the wrist.

The wrist has several tendons that allow for movement and flexibility. For instance, tendinitis in the wrist is De Quervain’s tendinitis, where the tendons on the thumb side become inflamed.

Diagnosis of Wrist Pain

  • Physical Examination

During the physical examination, the physician will inspect the wrist for signs of swelling, deformity, or redness. The physician will also palpate the wrist to check for tenderness and warmth. Additionally, the physician will check the patient’s grip strength and range of motion to assess for any decrease in mobility.

  • Imaging Tests

X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans can help diagnose wrist pain. X-rays are the most commonly used imaging test for wrist pain, as they can reveal bone fractures or signs of osteoarthritis. 

CT scans can provide more detailed views of the bones in the wrist and may spot fractures that don’t show up on X-rays. MRI scans assess cartilage, carpal tunnel syndrome, bone lesions, and soft tissue neoplasms. Ultrasound is used to assess soft tissue structures like tendons and ligaments.

  • Laboratory Tests

Blood tests can help identify conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, which can cause wrist pain. In some cases, blood tests may also be used to check for infection or inflammation in the body, which can contribute to wrist pain and can be traits via meniscus injury recovery.

Rehabilitation and Treatment Options for Wrist Pain

Non-Surgical Treatments

  •  RICE Therapy

Resting the affected tendons and muscles reduces inflammation and gives the body some healing time. Ice can be applied for 15 minutes three times a day during the first three days after an injury to reduce pain by numbing the affected area. Compression helps keep swelling under control, and elevation helps reduce swelling by draining excess fluid away from the injury. 

  • Physical Therapy

Manual therapy techniques can include therapeutic massage, stretches, and joint manipulation to reduce pain and stiffness. Exercises can also improve strength and range of motion, such as supination and pronation, radial deviation, thumb extension and flexion, and tennis ball squeezing. 

Heat and ice packs can reduce inflammation and warm up muscles. Massage can also help to reduce pain and improve movement.

  • Medications

Several medications can help relieve wrist pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen, naproxen, lidocaine, capsaicin, and aspirin, can reduce swelling and inflammation, a common cause of wrist pain. Acetaminophen, or Tylenol, is a pain reliever effective for mild to moderate wrist pain in recovery.

  • Immobilization

Immobilization of the wrist and hand is an effective way to reduce pain and swelling caused by traumatic injuries or arthritic episodes. Restricting the wrist’s movement facilitates the healing process, reducing the pain. For example, a splint or cast can immobilize the wrist and keep it above heart level to reduce swelling and pain.

  • Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice used for centuries for wrist pain treatment. Acupuncture is believed to help reduce pain, inflammation, and stiffness in the wrist by increasing circulation and releasing endorphins, which are natural painkillers.

Surgical Treatments

  • Arthroscopic Surgery

Arthroscopic surgery involves inserting a long, thin tube with a camera at the tip, called an arthroscope, into the wrist joint through two or three tiny incisions. The surgeon can view the joint’s inside and identify the pain’s source. 

Once the source of the pain is identified, the surgeon can use small instruments to remove broken bone fragments, stabilize the bones with pins, wires, or screws, or obtain correct fragment alignment if the fracture involves the joint.

  • Joint Fusion Surgery

Joint fusion surgery is one of the Treatment Options and is a procedure used to treat wrist pain caused by arthritis or other conditions. It helps to stabilize the joint, reduce pain, and improve grip strength and wrist stability. The procedure can be done on joints such as the spine, ankles, and wrists. 

  • Joint Replacement Surgery

Joint replacement surgery of the wrist is a surgical procedure that can reduce pain caused by arthritis. The procedure involves removing the damaged parts of the wrist bones and replacing them with artificial components.

Conclusion

To sum up, wrist pain can be debilitating and significantly impact a person’s quality of life. However, with the proper rehabilitation and treatment, it is possible to alleviate the pain and improve wrist function. Various options are available to those suffering from wrist pain, from exercise and physical therapy to medication and surgery. 

By working with a healthcare professional to develop a personalized treatment plan, individuals can take control of their wrist pain and get back to the activities they love. It’s important to prioritize wrist health and seek help immediately to prevent further damage and ensure proper healing.

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