What are the causes of wrist pain?

Wrist pain can be caused by problems in the soft tissues, the bones around the wrist and the joints of the wrist. The soft tissue problems tend to be more superficial i.e. near the surface, on either the back (dorsal) or front (volar) side of the wrist. Bone pain is usually felt deep in the wrist. Joint pain is likewise typically felt deep in the wrist but inflammation from the joint may lead to more superficial pain.

The symptoms may be intermittent or continuous. Symptoms that wake a patient at night are of particular significance and should be looked into.

Soft tissue problems: These are common and are caused by tendon problems typically tenosynovitis (see information sheets) and nerve problems particularly carpal tunnel syndrome (see information sheets). Infection is always a possible cause of pain in soft tissues but is not particularly common around the wrist.

Bone problems: These are uncommon. They can be caused by collapse of a bone most commonly due to a lack of blood supply known as avascular necrosis. This is most common in the lunate bone, a condition called Keinbock’s disease (see information sheet). They can also be caused by cysts in the in the bone which have come from the joint (see information sheets).

Joint problems: These are very common. They are mainly caused by ligament injuries around the joint (see information sheets) and joint synovitis or arthritis (see information sheets). The pain of the ligament injuries may be associated with some synovitis. In time ligament injuries may progress to joint arthritis.