Wrist tendonitis is a degenerative condition that develops from overusing one or more of the tendons that surround the wrist joint. Although any tendon surrounding the wrist can cause pain, tendonitis usually occurs where tendons cross each other near the wrist bone.
Wrist tendons are fibrous tissues made of collagen that connect the muscles in the forearm to bones in the hand. When functioning properly, tendons glide easily through smooth sheaths that are lubricated with synovial fluid. Repetitive strain or friction can cause inflammation of the tendon within the sheath, resulting in pain, stiffness and reduced range of motion.
Most cases of wrist tendonitis are caused by a repeated motion that causes irritation and pain.
Sports: Athletes like tennis or badminton players are at increased risk because the repeated motion places stress on the wrist. Improper technique when playing a sport can also cause tendonitis symptoms.
Work or hobbies: Jobs that require reaching overhead, repetitive motion, awkward positions, or forceful exertion can cause chronic pain in the wrist tendons. Tendonitis is common among people who work on an assembly line or in a factory.
Age: Older adults are more susceptible to develop wrist tendonitis because tendons lose strength and elasticity with age.
Injury: Tendon damage can occur suddenly through an injury or fall.
Chronic conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis or autoimmune disease can also contribute to pain in the wrists.
Whether wrist tendonitis develops as a result of overuse, injury or inflammation, it can cause similar symptoms.
Some indicators of wrist tendonitis include:
- Pain in the wrist
- Stiffness in the wrist joint
- Reduced range of motion
- Sharp, shooting pain
- Decreased grip strength
- Tenderness and numbness
- Warmth or redness
- Creaking sensation in the tendon
Whether wrist tendonitis is caused by degeneration of the tendon or inflammation, physicians use similar treatments.
- Splinting – Immobilizing the wrist allows the tendons and sheath to rest
- Physical therapy – Exercises for wrist tendonitis can improve range of motion
- Ice – Cold therapy reduces inflammation and stimulates blood flow
- Anti-inflammatory drugs – Ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication relieve pain and swelling
- Cortisone injection – If other treatment methods are not effective, corticosteroids offer powerful relief; repeated injections are not recommended, as they may weaken the wrist tendon
- Shockwave therapy – The wrist is exposed to high-energy sound waves that relieve pain
- Autologous blood injections – Blood from the patient is injected into the area around the injured tendon to stimulate soft tissue regeneration
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) – Platelets are separated from the blood and injected into the wrist to reduce inflammation
- Dry needling – A fine needle creates holes in the wrist tendon to promote healing
- Ultrasonic treatment – This precursor to wrist surgery involves creating a small incision and using ultrasonic waves to remove scar tissue
- Surgery – For a severe tendon injury or chronic inflammation, wrist tendonitis surgery may be necessary to remove inflamed tissue, alleviate tightness or release the constricted tendon
Recovery time for wrist tendonitis depends on the severity of the condition. Generally, new cases of wrist tendonitis require shorter, less invasive treatments and heal faster than advanced cases. Severe injuries or neglected cases of wrist tendonitis are often associated with longer treatment times.
Mild wrist pain usually responds to splinting, rest, cold therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs within a few weeks. Advanced tendonitis often requires several treatments, so healing may take six months or longer. Beginning a physiotherapy program immediately after surgery will speed up the recovery process.
Preparing for an Appointment at Surgery Center of Allentown
If you are experiencing persistent pain in your wrists, contact the Surgery Center of Allentown to make an appointment with one of our board-certified orthopaedists. On the day of your visit, be prepared to tell your doctor:
- The location of your wrist pain
- When the pain began and how long it has lasted
- Pertinent background information like an injury or event that may have initiated your symptoms
- Previous treatments you have tried (ice, splint or anti-inflammatory medication)
Please bring a list of your current medications (including dosage) and any specific questions for your doctor. During your appointment, your orthopaedist will collect some medical information, assess your wrist and discuss treatment recommendations. You may want to ask some of the following questions:
- What treatment options are available for my condition?
- Can we begin with the least invasive treatment and progress to more involved procedures later?
- Do I need surgery? If so, what are the benefits and drawbacks of scheduling surgery now versus waiting until a future date?
- What happens during the procedure?
- What are the side effects of this treatment?
- Are there any associated risks or complications?
- How long will it take for me to heal?
- Will I need physical therapy? If so, how long will I have to be in therapy?