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WRIST TENDINITIS: SYMPTOMS, DIAGNOSIS, AND TREATMENT

Dr. Mersad Alimoradi 08 Dec 2021
WRIST TENDINITIS: SYMPTOMS, DIAGNOSIS, AND TREATMENT

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Why is my wrist feeling weak lately? What’s causing my wrist pain? Why is my wrist looking red and swollen?

If you’ve noticed a few signs and symptoms like these, then you might have wrist tendinitis.

Wrist tendinitis is a painful inflammatory condition often caused by overuse injuries. Wrist tendinopathy is quite common, affecting about 1 in every 100,000 people in the United States alone.

Mild wrist tendinitis usually resolves on its own or with non-surgical treatment. But when left untreated, it can quickly turn severe and increase your risk of developing complications that need surgical intervention.

Read on to learn more about Wrist Tendinitis, its symptoms, and its various treatment options.

What Is Wrist Tendinitis?

Before we dive into wrist tendinitis, let’s go over our tendons to understand better how they work and how tendinitis develops.

Tendons are fibrous cords that connect muscles to bones. They're connective tissue bands that work together with your muscles and bones to facilitate movement and bear impact.

Wrist tendinitis is the inflammation of wrist tendons that occurs from injury or repetitive strain. It can affect one or all of the tendons in your wrist joint, leading to chronic pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion.

Wrist tendinitis is often confused with carpal tunnel syndrome. Although both share a few symptoms, carpal tunnel syndrome results from nerve damage or compression in your wrist.

Rheumatoid arthritis is another painful condition that you might confuse with wrist tendinitis. Although both are inflammatory diseases, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in your joints instead of an overuse injury like wrist tendinitis.

What Are The Signs Of Wrist Tendinitis?

As with most musculoskeletal diseases, one of the most common signs of wrist tendinitis is chronic pain. The pain from wrist tendinopathy initially starts as a dull ache. The longer it’s left untreated, the more severe it becomes, eventually resulting in chronic wrist pain.

Here are a few signs and symptoms of wrist tendinitis

  • The affected wrist becomes weaker
  • Pain when you apply pressure on your wrist tendons
  • Pain or discomfort when you use the affected wrist
  • Stiffness and reduced range of motion
  • Swelling
  • Cramping and muscle spasms
  • Crepitus, a tearing feeling in your tendons
  • Grinding sensation

When To See Your Doctor

If you’ve noticed any of the signs of wrist tendonitis, seek medical care as soon as possible.

If your wrist pain has exceeded 3 months, then you’re experiencing chronic wrist pain, and it’s time to consult your healthcare provider for the right treatment plan for wrist tendonitis to avoid complications.

How Does Wrist Tendonitis Happen?

Wrist tendinitis is a tendon injury resulting in painful inflammation. It’s commonly an overuse injury caused by frequent daily activities like writing, typing, or manual work. Direct injury to your wrist or underlying conditions can also result in wrist tendinopathy.

The repetitive strain on your wrist joint can irritate one or more of your wrist tendons, leading to inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s immune response to eliminate irritants, so your immune system signals your blood vessels to promote swelling in the affected wrist.

If your wrist is constantly under stress, the inflammation can worsen and thicken your soft tissues. This leads to pain and restricted wrist tendon movement.

Risk Factors of Wrist Tendinitis

Wrist tendinitis is a common wrist condition. But, what increases your chances of wrist tendinitis?

  1. Aging: People ages 40 and up are more susceptible to wrist tendinitis because the body becomes less able to bear weight. Tissue formation also slows down with age and becomes stiffer with time.
  2. Gender: Women are more prone to wrist tendinopathy than men because they have a lower collagen synthesis rate. Collagen is a significant component of your tendons.
  3. Medications: Medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs slow down your body’s ability to rebuild and repair tendons. Overuse or long-term use can also weaken your tendons and result in inflammation.
  4. Acute Injury: Acute wrist injury sustained in accidents or slips and falls can lead to wrist tendinitis. Frequently playing sports that highly impact your wrists, like tennis or volleyball, also puts you at a higher risk of a wrist injury.
  5. Genetic And Metabolic Disorders: Some genetic and metabolic disorders elicit tendinitis symptoms. If you have arthritis, diabetes, gout, or high cholesterol, painful wrist tendons may be one of your symptoms and can worsen as your condition progresses.
  6. Repetitive Activities: Regularly engaging in repetitive motions like texting, knitting, sweeping, hammering, among many others, can strain the tendons in the wrist and cause inflammation. Repetitive actions in hobbies, the workplace, or exercise are among the top risks of wrist tendinitis.

Complications of Wrist Tendinitis

Leaving your wrist tendonitis untreated can lead to painful complications.

Wrist tendinitis can progress into wrist tendinosis when you ignore the pain or don’t apply the proper treatment. Tendinosis is the chronic degeneration of the collagen in your tendons.

Another complication of wrist tendinitis is a tendon rupture when you ignore your symptoms and continue performing repetitive strenuous activities. Tendon rupture is a partial or complete tendon tear after tendon injury.

Both wrist tendinosis and tendon rupture are painful conditions that may require surgical treatment for tendon healing.

How Is Wrist Tendinitis Diagnosed?

Once you’ve noticed signs and symptoms of wrist tendinitis, consulting your healthcare practitioner is the best course to determine the proper treatment.

Your healthcare practitioner may take the following diagnostic to diagnose your wrist tendinopathy accurately:

Medical History

Your doctor reviews your medical history for underlying conditions that might be contributing to your wrist pain. They also evaluate the frequency and severity of your symptoms, particularly muscle fatigue, cramps or spasms, and strength reduction in the affected wrist.

Physical Examination

During the physical exam, your medical practitioner will examine your painful wrist to determine how tender or sore it is and inspect for any bruising and swelling.

Your healthcare provider will examine your hand and wrist flexibility through a series of motor exercises, such as Finkelstein’s test, wrist flexion tests, and wrist extension tests.

Imaging Tests

Medical imaging tests like ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are standard diagnostic tests to determine the source of your pain and gauge the severity of your wrist tendonitis. Imaging tests provide a clear view for your healthcare provider to examine any abnormalities in your bones, soft tissues, cartilage, and tendons.

Treatment Options For Wrist Tendinitis

Treatment for wrist tendinitis will depend on the severity of your condition. Most times, wrist tendinopathy resolves alone with some rest or non-surgical treatment. Most patients prefer non-invasive treatments for wrist tendonitis because of the minimal risk and shorter recovery time.

Let’s take a look a the different non-surgical ways to treat wrist tendinitis:

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are anti-inflammatory medications for reducing pain and inflammation. They’re usually the first treatment option for soothing the pain from wrist tendinitis. Most NSAIDs are easily accessible over-the-counter.

If your symptoms persist, consult your doctor for more effective prescription medications.

Physical Therapy (PT)

Physical therapy is one of the top non-operative treatments for wrist tendonitis. Your physical therapist creates a personalized treatment plan consisting of exercises, stretches, and therapeutic activities.

Physical therapy for wrist tendonitis aims to manage tendinitis symptoms, relieve chronic wrist pain, and strengthen your wrist joint without surgery.

Acupuncture

Your healthcare provider may suggest acupuncture therapy as a non-surgical treatment option for wrist tendonitis.

When your medical practitioner inserts acupuncture needles into specific acupuncture points, it stimulates blood circulation to the affected area. The increased blood supply reduces inflammation and boosts tissue repair for tendon healing.

Corticosteroid Injections

Steroid injections are anti-inflammatory medicines that your doctor can deliver directly into your painful wrist joint. Steroid injections for wrist tendinitis are a common alternative to surgery because of it’s minimally-invasive approach and efficacy in reducing pain and inflammation.

However, it's best to avoid overusing steroid injections, as it can weaken your tendons over time.

Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy for wrist tendinitis is the latest alternative treatment to promote tendon healing and reduce inflammation. It uses acoustic or sound waves to stimulate tissue repair and regeneration and the production of new blood vessels.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections

PRP injections for wrist tendonitis use a concentration of your platelets to boost your natural healing process. Platelet-rich plasma is injected directly into your wrist joint to speed up your healing, relieve pain, and reduce inflammation.

Surgery

If left untreated for too long or you see no improvement with conservative treatment, you may need to resort to surgical treatment for wrist tendonitis. Your surgeon removes or surgically repairs any damaged wrist tendons. Surgery for tendonitis is typically reserved for severe cases or complications, such as tendinosis. 

Outcome Of Wrist Tendinitis

Depending on the severity of your condition, you can quickly recover from wrist tendinitis with the proper treatment.

If you have a mild case of wrist tendinitis, your recovery time can take as short as 2 to 3 days. For more severe wrist tendinitis, you might need about 4 to 6 weeks for a full recovery, especially after surgical treatment.

As long as you get an early diagnosis and treatment for your wrist tendonitis, you can reduce the inflammation and pain and restore your normal wrist function in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does physical therapy work for wrist tendinitis?

Yes. Physical therapy is a commonly recommended treatment plan, well-known for its efficacy in improving symptoms of wrist tendonitis without surgery.

Does wrist tendinitis go away on its own?

In some cases, wrist tendinitis goes away on its own, which is why most people tend to ignore the pain. It’s usually best to provide immediate medical attention to prevent severe wrist tendinitis or complications from arising.

Does heat help tendinitis?

Yes. Applying a heating pad or hot towel can relax the muscles in the affected area and reduce the pain of wrist tendinitis. Heat also increases blood flow to the painful area, speeding up tendon healing.

What makes wrist tendinitis symptoms worse?

Wrist tendinitis symptoms can worsen when you don’t allow your injured wrist and tendons to rest and heal. So, even if you’re undergoing treatment for your wrist tendinopathy, it's still best to refrain from repetitive activities that strain your tendons.

Is wrist tendinitis worse in the morning?

The pain from wrist tendinitis is often worse in the morning, and you might also experience stiffness when you get out of bed.

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About the Author:
Dr. Mersad is a medical doctor, author, and editor based in Germany. He's managed to publish several research papers early in his career. He is passionate about spreading medical knowledge. Thus, he spends a big portion of his time writing educational articles for everyone to learn.

References

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