Wrist tendonitis is the inflammation of one or more of the tendons in the wrist joint. There are several of these tendons, which attach various muscles from the forearm to the bones of the wrist and hand. Over-use, repetitive action or injury causes minute tears to appear in the tendon fiber which causes the inflammation. Wrist tendonitis may also be called tenosynovitis.
What is the cause of wrist tendonitis?
The wrist takes a lot of strain in a wide variety of activities and actions, both forceful and stationary. Repetitive movement is the most common cause of wrist tendonitis. Forceful actions that involve hitting and throwing also cause wrist tendonitis, as can any activity that requires the hands to be held in the same position for long periods.
These are the main risk factors:
- People who use computers for hours at a time, especially if there is substantial use of the mouse.
- Factory and production-line workers who repeat the same action during their job.
- People who use a sewing machine for long periods at a time.
- People involved in sports that involve hitting (tennis), throwing and catching (baseball), handling weights (bowling, weight lifters)
- Older people, because their tendons have lost elasticity and are more brittle.
The main symptom of wrist tendonitis is pain; this starts as a mild pain when there is strain to the wrist. The pain is felt where the lower arm narrows into the wrist. The pain will increase in intensity and duration if the wrist is not rested; you will feel it at any time, even if you are no longer doing the activity that caused it. Movement in any direction will be painful.
There may also be swelling and stiffness around the wrist which may feel hot to touch. There will be movement limitations.
What do I do to treat wrist tendonitis?
These at-home treatments for wrist tendonitis are effective in the majority of cases and you only need to see your doctor if they fail to relieve the pain and swelling.
- Stop whatever you were doing when you first felt the pain and avoid this activity until the pain subsides.
- Rest the affected wrist to allow the tendon to repair itself. All painful movements should be avoided.
- Support and immobilize the wrist by wearing a brace. This gives the tendons the best chance of repairing.
- For the first two or three days, apply ice to the wrist every hour or two for 20 minutes. Ice reduces swelling and helps to relieve the pain.
- If the pain is severe, wearing a sling to prevent the hand hanging down might help.
- NSAIDs or anti-inflammatory meds will reduce the inflammation and help to ease the pain. Over-the-counter drugs don’t require a prescription and are usually sufficient.
- When the pain has subsided, start doing gentle movements of your wrist and hand, still avoiding anything that is painful. Gradually increase the range and strength of the movements to regain full use of the wrist again.
There are stronger treatment methods that a doctor can order if these conservative methods fail to relieve the pain.
Prevention is always easier than treatment and you can take steps for the prevention of wrist tendonitis.
- If you are at risk of wrist tendonitis because of your job, take regular breaks from the actions that might cause tendonitis or have caused it before. Stop and stretch your hands and fingers, flex your wrists and stretch your arms above your head for a few minutes.
- Make your work station as friendly as you can with wrist supports and ergonomic design.
- If recurring tendonitis is a problem, wear a wrist support or brace while you are at work.
- If you are involved in recreational activities that could cause tendonitis, do the same as above. You need to break up long periods of repetitive movement to prevent the condition.
- If it is your sport that puts you at risk of wrist tendonitis, make sure you warm up well before any exercise, focusing on stretching and flexing your wrists. Include wrist strengthening exercises in your training n routines.
Incorporate daily wrist and hand flexibility exercises into your lifestyle to keep the tendons supple and the muscles strong.