Wrist pain


Wrist pain is any pain or discomfort in the wrist.

Alternative Names

Pain - wrist


Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common cause of wrist pain. You may feel aching, burning, numbness, or tingling in your palm, wrist, thumb, or fingers. The thumb muscle can become weak, making it difficult to grasp things. Pain may extend up to your elbow.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when an important nerve (called the median nerve) gets compressed at the wrist because of swelling. Such swelling can occur if you:

Wrist pain with bruising and swelling is often a sign of an injury. The signs of a possible broken bone include deformed joints and inability to move the wrist, hand, or a finger. Other common injuries include sprain, strain, tendinitis, and bursitis.

Arthritis is another common cause of wrist pain, swelling, and stiffness. There are many types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs with age and overuse. Rheumatoid arthritis generally affects both wrists. Psoriatic arthritis accompanies psoriasis.

Infectious arthritis is a medical emergency. The signs of an infection include redness and warmth of the wrist, fever above 100°F, and recent illness.

Other common causes of wrist pain include:

Home Care

For carpal tunnel syndrome, you may need to make adjustments to your work habits and environment:

For a recent injury:

For non-infectious arthritis:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Get emergency care if:

Call your doctor right away if:

Call your doctor for an appointment if:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will perform a physical examination, and ask questions about your symptoms and history such as:

X-rays may be taken. If your health care provider thinks that you have an infection, gout, or pseudogout, fluid may be removed from the joint to examine under a microscope.

Anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed. Injection with a steroid medication may be performed. Surgery or medications may be needed to treat some conditions.


To prevent carpal tunnel syndrome:

To prevent gout attacks:


Swigart CR. Hand and wrist pain. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Harris ED Jr, et al, eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 44.

Wright PE II. Carpal tunnel, ulnar tunnel, and stenosing tenosynovitis. In: Canale ST, Beatty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 73.

Ingari JV. Wrist and hand: The adult wrist. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 20, section A.

Review Date: 6/4/2011
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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