Discomfort like this is caused by a condition known as wrist tendonitis. Since it involves pain, it’s never a good condition to have. However, it’s a little bit comforting to know that this is actually a very common condition. You don’t have to be a professional athlete or a blue collar worker in order to be at risk for this condition. Just about anyone can fall victim to this condition so it’s a good idea to know everything there is to know about it.
This guide has everything that you need to know about this form of pain and the condition behind it. Read it whether you’re suffering from it or not. This information will prove to be very useful now or later on.
What is Wrist Tendonitis?
As mentioned, this is a very common condition. It’s also known as wrist tendinitis, although the latest researches suggest that tendinopathy is the more appropriate term.
In order to know what this condition is, you have to know what comprises your forearm. There are two bones – the ulna and the radius. These are the long bones that are connected to several smaller bones that are collectively known as carpal bones. These carpal bones make up the wrist.
A lot of the muscles in the wrist and hand areas came from the two long bones (ulna and radius) and cross with the wrist to connect with the bones in the hands, fingers and wrist. They are connected via the tendons in the wrist.
The aforementioned muscles are classified into two groups – finger and wrist flexors and finger and wrist extensors. The former gives you the ability to bend your fingers and wrist like if you’re making a fist with your hand, while the latter allows you to straighten the fingers and wrist and bend them backwards.
Both groups are responsible for the general activities done with the wrist and the fingers. This is why if you’re feeling any discomfort in that area, you can see how it’s going to affect your day to day activities.
What Causes this Condition?
It’s an “overuse” condition which means that it’s often caused by overusing your wrist. When you contract your wrist muscles, pressure is placed on the tendons. While the tendons can handle regular use, they won’t be able to handle too much pressure. Too much pressure is brought upon by too many repetitions of a certain action and/or a high amount of force. With this, the tendons may be damaged, resulting in long term discomfort.
Here are some of the activities that can cause this condition when done repetitively and/or with a high amount of force:
- Sports (golf, tennis, gymnastics, etc.)
- Manual labor (carpentry, wood chopping, gardening, bricklaying, painting, etc.)
- Hobbies (knitting and sewing)
- School and office work (using the computer and writing)
In addition to too much repetition, this can also be caused by a sudden change in the intensity of how you conduct these activities. For example, it normally wouldn’t be an issue if you do DIY carpentry work, but if you suddenly do carpentry works for the whole day for days at a time, that can result to an injury.
You can also suffer from conditions like this due to an accident. This usually happens after a fall and you used your hands for support. The sudden force placed on the wrist due to the fall can damage the tendons, resulting in tendonitis. It can also be caused by a sudden huge amount of force placed on the hands and/or wrists like by suddenly lifting something heavy.
It can happen over a course of a long period of repetitive use and abuse of the wrist. This happens if you have a demanding labor-intensive job. It can also happen suddenly without any warning. You could have perfectly healthy wrists and suddenly, you could be writhing in pain. This is caused by injuries brought upon by accidents.
Listed below are additional factors that can lead to the progress of tendonitis:
- Tightness in your muscles
- Weakened muscles
- Stiffness of your joints
- The use of low quality sporting equipment
- Not warming up before playing sports and/or working
- Poor posture
Who’s at Risk?
Needless to say, you’re at risk if your job entails a lot of using and abusing of your hands. It follows that the more you use your hands, the more you use your wrists. This means that by abusing your hands, you’re also abusing your wrists.
Something as simple as using a screwdriver can put you at risk. If your job entails using a screwdriver for most part of the day, then that use and abuse can lead to tendonitis.
Students and employees are also at risk. This is especially true for those who do a lot of writing and typing.
Athletes can also be at risk, especially those who play racquet sports like tennis and badminton. Gymnastics can also cause an injury to the area, especially if you’re going to do a lot of swinging back and flipping.
If you have a history of injuries to your wrists, shoulders, neck, elbows or upper back, you’re also at greater risk of developing wrist tendon pain. This is because your wrist will tend to overcompensate for the pain that you’re feeling in the aforementioned areas of your body.
No one is exempted from the risk. Although the people listed above are at a greater risk, anyone can become a victim of tendonitis. Again, it can be caused by an accident and anyone can fall victim to an accident that can lead to this condition.
What are the Symptoms?
If you’re feeling wrist tendon pain, there’s a very good chance that you’re suffering from tendonitis. You have to know that it doesn’t have to be really painful to be categorized as such. The pain can be gradual. At first, it can be just a discomfort or stiffness. The pain will then increase gradually if nothing’s done to stop the condition.
Just to be sure, here are the other symptoms of the condition:
- In its early stages, when it’s just stiffness and a little bit of discomfort, you may feel it at night or first thing in the morning when you wake up. The feeling may be gone as you go on with your day as the area gets warm and it gets some movement.
- As the days progress, you may feel pain while doing normal activities like opening jars, doors and carrying groceries.
- The affected area may be swollen.
- Firmly touch the area, and you might feel wrist tendon pain.
- The area may also feel numb like the feeling you get when your hand falls asleep.
- You may have a hard time conducting fine movements using your hands like writing or pinching. You may also feel a loss of your grip strength. Due to these things, you may find yourself dropping things more than the usual.
- In some cases, you may also feel pain in the neck or upper back. The pain, if present, will be on the same side where you’re experiencing the primary issue.
How to Get a Diagnosis
If you’re feeling the symptoms above, there’s a good chance that you’re suffering from tendonitis. But just to be sure, you need to get a proper diagnosis from a specialist. A physiotherapist will conduct an objective and subjective examination and this is usually more than enough for him or her to diagnose you with the condition.
For more severe cases, the physiotherapist will order for more tests. These tests often include an x-ray and MRI. What these tests will determine is the severity of your condition. Also, it will aid the specialist in making a diagnosis just in case the examination is not enough.
What Happens after the Diagnosis?
Your main concern is the wrist tendon pain. It’s affecting your day to day life and of course, you want the pain gone. The good news is most of the time; the tendonitis can be treated even without surgery. Physiotherapy will be conducted and success is very possible and is even expected provided that you will comply with the therapy.
The first order of business is for you to stop doing whatever is causing the condition. This means that if you’re a carpenter, you need to take a leave from work so you can rest until the symptoms are gone. The condition will just get worse if you won’t comply and will continue using the hammer or your other hand tools.
You should also minimize activities that can place pressure on your wrists. Playing sports like tennis and badminton is out of the question. You should also avoid lifting and carrying things – especially heavy ones.
Why is rest important? Our bodies are very adaptive. If there’s damage, the body will conduct its own healing process. If you’re not going to rest, it will be very hard for the body to conduct its own healing process because tissue damage will continue.
Rest is part of the R.I.C.E. method that you can benefit from. This method also involves the use of ice by icing the area where there’s pain. You should also use a compression bandage and lastly, to keep the affected wrist elevated.
The wrist may also be protected. This can be done by using a wrist brace. The area may also be taped. These things are done to limit the mobility of the area.
This method works best within 72 hours of when the injury happened that caused the condition. After that, you can do it every time you’re feeling pain. Speaking of pain, you can also take anti-inflammatory medications as prescribed by the doctor.
The physiotherapist will also conduct manual treatment, including the following:
- Trigger point release strategies
- Mobilization of the joints
- Dry needling
These manual treatments aim to quicken the healing period. It can also help you improve your range of mobility and can help correct the factors that contribute to the progress of this condition.
You will also be asked to do some activities at home. You will be taught exercises that can help improve the strength and flexibility. These exercises are part of the rehab process. Together with the manual treatments done by the physiotherapist, these can help with your treatment.
Here are some exercises that you can do at home:
- Stretching of the wrist flexor
- Stretching of the finger and wrist extensor
- Squeezing a tennis ball
Once the pain is gone, that’s when you can go back to your normal day to day tasks. However, you’re not supposed to go all-out at once. You should go back to your normal day to day tasks gradually. You should observe if you’re not feeling any pain anymore when doing these activities. If you’re still feeling aching or soreness, stop immediately and tell your doctor.
Is Full Recovery Expected?
You’ll be happy to know that if you’re just suffering from a minor case, you’re expected to recover after a few weeks. Of course, this is provided that you comply with your therapy. By following the tips above (R.I.C.E. method, manual treatments, exercises, etc.), you should be free from symptoms in just a few weeks.
However, the recovery can take longer for more severe cases. This also applies if you’ve had the condition for a long time. This is why it’s important that you get diagnosed as early as possible. The longer you’ve had ailments of this nature, the longer the recovery process will be. This is because you’ll just incur additional tissue damage without treatment. If this is the case, recovery can take up to half a year.
What to Do Now
If you’re experiencing discomfort, you have to stop whatever it is that’s causing the pain. Contact a physiotherapist and book an appointment so you can get a proper diagnosis. Do this immediately so you can start the treatment process immediately. This ensures a shorter recovery time. You have to be patient and you have to be compliant in order for you to fully recover.