Wrist tendonitis is inflammation of the tendons in the wrist. Tendons connect muscle to bone and are involved in joint movement. Repetitive movement of the wrist or fingers can cause inflammation of the tendons.

Definition

Wrist tendonitis is a common condition that involves inflammation and irritation to the tendons at the wrist joint. Wrist tendonitis can affect one or more tendons and commonly occurs at the point where tendons cross each other or pass over a bony structure.

Depending on the type of tendon involved or affected, wrist tendonitis can be classified as:

  • Extension wrist tendonitis – results from bending the wrist backwards repetitively. Common injuries of this type include Extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) tendonitis and intersection syndrome.
  • Flexion wrist tendonitis – results from bending the wrist forwards repetitively. Common injuries of this type include Flexor carpi radialis (FCR) tendonitis.

Causes

The most common cause of wrist tendonitis is repetitive movement and overuse. This can be due to the following actions or activities:

  • Frequent typing and using a computer mouse
  • Playing video games or texting 
  • Excessive writing with a pen
  • Performing repetitive tasks, such as hammering, gardening, knitting, chopping wood, painting and digging holes.
  • Playing sports that require the use of the wrists such as tennis or other racquet sports, rowing, golf or rock climbing.

Wrist tendonitis can also be caused by trauma, gout or pseudogout, diabetes or an auto-immune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Pain – usually worse with use or activity
  • Swelling in the region of the tendonitis
  • A creaking noise or crepitus
  • Warmth or redness may be present
  • Reduced movement and strength

Treatment

Early management of tendonitis includes managing the inflammation and allowing the tendon/s time to heal. This may include:

  • Immobilisation: Application of a splint or cast to prevent further inflammation and allow for rest.
  • Ice: Applying ice a few times a day to decrease the inflammation and reduce pain and swelling.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs can help to reduce inflammation and pain. Over the counter and prescription NSAIDs can be used to achieve this.
  • Hand therapy: This may include stretching and strengthening exercises, ultrasound treatment, fabrication of a customised splint or support.
  • Cortisone injection: Cortisone injections can be used to reduce inflammation and to help numb the pain.
  • Surgery: This may involve removing inflamed tissues or releasing pressure from the tendon sheaths. This is usually considered after a period of conservative management.

How Can I Prevent Wrist Tendonitis?

The most important way to prevent the occurrence of wrist tendonitis is to modify activities that aggravate it. This may include:

  • Taking regular breaks
  • Modify your desk setup and consider ergonomic equipment
  • Reduce the load on tendons when by adjusting posture, stretching or strengthening
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Stretching before and after exercise
  • Using a protective splint as recommended by your hand therapist

Melbourne Hand Therapy Can Help You

There are several treatments that may help reduce the intensity of your symptoms and relieve the pain and loss of function. Nonsurgical treatment options may include splinting, exercise, or education on activity modification. Your hand therapist can assist you with these interventions.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, book an appointment.

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