April 24, 2023

The wrist consists of many small bones which then articulate with each other to create numerous joints. And with bones and joints come muscles, tendons, ligaments and more structures! So yes… it can get complicated. But let’s run through a few examples of common sources of wrist pain. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and as always, you should see a healthcare professional for an individualised assessment. 

TFCC injury 

TFCC stands for triangular fibrocartilage complex. It holds the two ends of the forearm bones together and serves to stabilise, support, and cushion the wrist. There are two common causes for a TFCC tear: 

  • Direct injury: typically occurs by falling on your hand resulting in excessive compressive load on the TFCC. Repetitive motions which compress the TFCC can also result in a tear. 
  • Degeneration: as we age, the TFCC wears down and becomes thinner which makes it more susceptible to being injured. 

Symptoms may include 

  • Pain on the pinkie finger side of your wrist 
  • Clicking/popping sounds and/or pain with wrist movement to pinkie finger side 
  • Reduced grip strength 

 Distal radius fracture 

The radius is a bone that runs along the thumb-side of the forearm and connects to the thumb. A distal radius fracture is a break in the part of the radius close to the thumb. It typically occurs when falling on an outstretched hand. This is one of the most common types of upper body fractures and can be further classified into different types of distal radius fractures! It can often be diagnosed with an x-ray. 

Common symptoms 

  • Immediate pain 
  • Swelling 
  • Reduced wrist mobility and strength 

Scapho-lunate ligament injury 

The scapho-lunate ligament connects the small scaphoid and lunate bones in the wrist together. This ligament is also commonly injured when falling on an outstretched hand. However, it can also occur from repeated strains or age-related changes. Injury to this structure can result in scapho-lunate instability. This type of injury may also be accompanied by a scaphoid fracture. 

Common symptoms 

  • Swelling and bruising 
  • Popping or grinding sounds 
  • Reduced strength and range of motion in the wrist 
  • Pain with bending the wrist backward 

Carpal tunnel syndrome 

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition where one of the nerves supplying the hand (the median nerve) becomes compressed as it passes through the wrist. This condition tends to develop gradually without specific trauma and symptoms may be inconsistent early on. Often there is not a singular cause for this but rather a combination of factors. These include: 

  • Older age 
  • Female sex 
  • Genetics 
  • Repetitive hand use 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Other health conditions 

Common symptoms 

  • Numbness, tingling, burning and pain 
  • Referred pain or tingling coming up to the forearm/shoulder 
  • Impaired coordination and reduced strength in the hand 
  • Dropping things 

How can physiotherapy help? 

Management for all these conditions and each individual will vary. However, physiotherapy can certainly help you to restore wrist and hand function. The key principles are to firstly reduce pain and swelling, restore range of motion, and then improve strength and functional capacity. In some cases, you may also need further input from a doctor. 

If you’re experiencing wrist pain, book in to see one of our Physiotherapists for further help!

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