Wrist pain can be caused by injuries, sudden impact, overuse, repetitive stress, and disease. Some of the most common causes of wrist pain include fractures, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, ganglion cysts. Musicians, hairstylists, tennis players, and gymnasts are at an especially high risk of wrist pain due to the repetitive wrist movements required in these jobs. Some patients might experience wrist pain as a dull ache, and others could have sharper pain or a pins-and-needles sensation. Pregnant women, diabetes patients, those with gout, and obese individuals are especially likely to have pain in their wrists. Wrist pain can be evaluated by a primary care doctor, and patients may be referred to an orthopedist for specialist advice. To evaluate wrist pain, the doctor will begin by palpating the patient's wrist to check for tenderness and swelling, and they will also look for signs of any deformities in the wrist. The patient may be asked to move their wrist in various directions, and grip strength and sensation will be assessed. Depending on the results of the physical exam, the patient may need to have x-rays, an ultrasound, or a CT or MRI scan.
The methods described below are frequently recommended in the treatment and prevention of wrist pain.
Wear Wrist Guards During Risky Physical Activities
Many wrist fractures and sprains happen during sports, including contact sports and activities that stress the wrist. For this reason, orthopedists routinely advise patients to wear wrist guards during risky physical activities. Wrist guards are highly recommended for football, rollerblading, and snowboarding. Gymnasts may also need to wear them for certain exercises or movements. The devices have a plastic piece with an inward curve. The plastic is placed on the inside of the wrist in the center, and it is covered by padding. If the wearer falls, the wrist guard prevents their hand from hitting the ground, and the plastic split reduces the amount of friction associated with the fall. It effectively prevents any weight from being placed on the hand or wrist. Wrist guards can be purchased over-the-counter, and they are sold in many sporting goods stores. When shopping for a wrist guard, patients will need to consider the size of their wrist and the sport they are playing. It may be helpful to consult with a physical therapist or an orthopedist to decide which wrist guard would be most appropriate for the patient's needs. Although wrist guards are highly effective in preventing wrist injuries, they could increase an individual's risk of forearm or shoulder injuries in some cases. Thus, patients should ensure they consult with a doctor about how to wear them properly and when they are truly necessary.
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Consume Sufficient Calcium
Wrist fractures caused by falls onto an outstretched hand are the leading cause of wrist injuries. Having strong bones can help reduce the risk of a fracture, and doctors advise all adults to consume sufficient calcium to build and maintain bone density. This is especially important for adults over fifty years old. Currently, the recommended daily intake for adults is one thousand milligrams, and women over fifty years old need 1,200 milligrams per day. Food is an ideal source of calcium, and amazing sources include dairy products, tofu, almonds, mung beans, soybeans, kale, and amaranth. Many non-dairy milk products are fortified with calcium too. Patients should ask their doctor for a blood test to check their calcium levels. Individuals with low levels may be advised to take a supplement in addition to eating a calcium-rich diet.
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Take Breaks Regularly
Patients experiencing any type of wrist pain should take breaks regularly. Building in periods for resting the wrists throughout the day is especially important for individuals who work in jobs that place daily or excessive strain on the wrists. Typists, musicians, and others who work with their hands for many hours each day all need to schedule at least one ten-minute break per hour. During the break, patients can relax their hands and wrists by placing them on their laps or by letting them fall to their sides. Placing the wrists on a wrist rest or gel pad may also relieve tension and strain. Individuals who notice regular breaks are not relieving their pain should see a doctor for an evaluation.
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Engage In Physical Therapy
Patients who have already sustained a wrist injury may need to engage in physical therapy as part of their recovery. Physical therapists can evaluate wrist pain and teach patients exercises that will lengthen shortened muscles and tendons that could be contributing to wrist pain, and they will also help patients learn exercises that can build strength in the affected area. Elastic bands may be used for some physical therapy exercises, and the physical therapist might also recommend the use of a wrist splint during the overnight hours. A splint helps keep the wrist properly aligned and minimizes unnecessary motion. Depending on the severity of a patient's wrist pain, they may need to attend physical therapy sessions for several months, and certain exercises will need to be completed regularly at home as well. Patients should always let their physical therapist know if any stretch or exercise causes pain or worsening symptoms.
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Tendon Or Ligament Repair Surgery
Tendon or ligament repair surgery could be considered in cases where a patient's wrist pain has not resolved with conservative treatment. Surgery is also necessary for some fractures and tendon or ligament tears. These operations are often carried out by specialist hand surgeons. Before the operation, the surgeon will explain the steps of the procedure to the patient, and they will also inform the patient of any potential risks. Some types of wrist surgery can be performed with local anesthesia, and the majority of procedures can be done on an outpatient basis. After the operation, the patient may need to keep their wrist in a sling or splint for a specified period, and it is often necessary to get help with cooking and other daily tasks. Patients will have regular follow-up appointments with their surgeon, and they may also need to take part in physical therapy sessions to optimize their recovery.