The expression “It’s all in the wrists” has more truth than we may think. Your hands and wrists don’t take a break. Whether you’re typing at work, scrolling through social media or even picking up a sheet to make the bed, your wrists and hands are constantly in motion.
So, when something is causing pain and other symptoms to disrupt your normal wrist and hand movement, the consequences are almost immediately evident. Suddenly, you have a hard time doing the simple things you used to, like washing dishes, walking the dog, picking up your kids or painting (or golfing or playing NFL football or whatever it is that you do casually on the weekends).
Fortunately, hand and wrist pain can often be treated with noninvasive therapies like joint mobilization, therapeutic exercises and other modalities performed by a physical therapist. We’ll walk you through some of the symptoms, causes, and treatments commonly associated with hand and wrist pain, and we’ll also leave you with some warning signs to know when it’s time to move past at-home treatments and schedule an appointment with a physical therapist.
Symptoms of Hand and Wrist Pain
Because of the constant movement of the hands and wrists, it’s sometimes difficult to tell when something is a small twinge and when something is actually wrong. Typically, when there is an underlying condition that is causing your pain, you may experience one or more of these symptoms:
- Pain in the wrist, hand and/or down the fingers
- Pins-and-needles feeling
- Dull, throbbing pain
- Numbness or tingling in the hand, wrist, and/or fingers
- Limited mobility
- Sharp, stabbing pain during certain movements
- Inability to pick up anything with weight to it
These symptoms can be indications of something going on within the joints and/or muscles and ligaments of the hand and wrist. If you are experiencing these symptoms for more than a couple of days, you should look into possible causes and the treatments available to you.
Causes of Hand and Wrist Pain
Hand and wrist pain can be caused by a number of different things, but the most common causes for pain and symptoms in the hand or wrist include:
- Osteoarthritis — This occurs when the cartilage that protects the joints deteriorates over time, leading to inflammation as the bones rub against each other during movement. This is most commonly caused by old age, repetitive movements and natural deterioration of the body.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome — Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the large nerve in the wrist, called the median nerve, becoming compressed and sending pain and a pins-and-needles feeling down the wrist and sometimes into the fingers.
- Injuries — Injuries to the hand or wrist, such as impact injuries or torn ligaments/tendons, can result in pain, swelling and limited mobility.
There are many other causes of hand and wrist pain outside of these most common ones. When you see a physical therapist, you may be asked to undergo an MRI for a better diagnosis about what is actually causing your pain and symptoms. Once the source of your pain is identified, you can find the best treatment for your condition.
Treatments for Hand and Wrist Pain
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may be able to find relief with some at-home treatment options. Often, at-home treatments for hand and wrist pain are best used for very mild symptoms that only last a few days and don’t truly prevent you from living your normal lifestyle. Think symptoms that are more annoyances than true disruptions.
Common at-home treatments for hand and wrist pain include:
- RICE — rest, ice, compression and elevation for a mild injury that has caused some pain and swelling
- Splint or wrap for your hand/wrist to help support the muscles around the hurt joint
- Over-the-counter medications, such as NSAIDs, may help reduce pain and inflammation in those who are able to take them
At-home treatments are great for very mild symptoms, and they often help you find relief within a few days or a week. However, if you’ve tried at-home treatments, and you still have hand or wrist pain after two weeks — or if your pain gets worse — you should seek professional medical treatment.
Physical therapy is a great option for hand and wrist pain relief, and you don’t need a doctor’s referral to schedule with a PT clinic. Once you make an appointment and receive a diagnosis, your physical therapist will work with you to find a custom treatment plan, which may include one or more of these common treatments for hand or wrist pain:
- Therapeutic exercises and stretches — This helps to increase the strength in the muscles surrounding the injured joint, and also helps to add mobility to the injured area.
- Hold/cold compresses — This simple technique reduces swelling and is often used in conjunction with other physical therapy modalities.
- Custom splinting — Lattimore Physical Therapy can help you get fitted into a custom splint to reduce the movement of your wrist and provide support while you heal.
- IASTM therapy — This type of therapy helps revive movement and healthy soft tissue growth within muscles and tendons.
If you’re ready to seek treatment for your chronic hand and wrist pain, our team at Lattimore Physical Therapy is here to help. Find a location near you to schedule an appointment or contact our office today. We’re here to help you find relief, so you can get back to the lifestyle you love.