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Common wrist injuries and conditions

Overview of common wrist injuries and conditions

Though most people think of the wrist as one joint, it is actually made up of several different joints.

The joints form where the two forearm bones — the radius and the ulna — meet a group of bones called the carpus. The carpus consists of eight bones. These eight bones, plus a band of connective tissue, make up the carpal tunnel, which is a tube running through the wrist that contains tendons and a nerve. Damage to any of these structures can result in wrist problems.

If you’re experiencing any wrist symptoms, request an appointment with an orthopedic doctor at Dignity Health. We offer expert diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation.


The signs and symptoms of wrist conditions depend on the specific problem, but pain is very common. The pain can be dull and achy with some wrist problems, and sharp and severe with others.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Tenderness in one spot (also called “point tenderness”)
  • Wrist stiffness
  • Inability to move wrist through its full range of motion
  • Swelling and warmth over the wrist
  • Crackling or popping sounds when moving the wrist

For more severe injuries, such as a broken wrist, the wrist may appear deformed or bruised.


Causes of wrist conditions vary.

One of the most common types is overuse injury. Overuse injuries include tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and strains. These types of problems are often chronic (long term) and develop slowly. They can also come and go.

Arthritis is another chronic wrist problem. However, arthritis results from an autoimmune condition or wear and tear of the joint tissues, instead of trauma or overuse.

Broken wrists and sprains are usually the result of trauma. When people fall, they commonly catch themselves using their wrists. One of the most common scenarios in a wrist injury is falling on an outstretched hand. This causes the wrist to bend further than the bones and ligaments can withstand.


Common wrist conditions and injuries include:

  • Arthritis
  • Bone dislocation
  • Broken wrist
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome, compression of the median nerve in the wrist
  • Ganglion cyst, fluid-filled lumps along tendons or joints
  • Pseudogout, a type of arthritis
  • Sprains and strains
  • Tendonitis

Speak with your doctor at Dignity Health for treatment of any of these conditions.

Risk factors

Wrist injuries are typically accidental. Factors that increase risk include:

  • Working jobs that require typing, holding small instruments, or other repetitive motions
  • Engaging in activities that require repetitive movement of the wrist, such as musical instrument playing, drawing, and knitting
  • Playing sports, especially racquet sports like tennis; other sports like golf, soccer, football, hockey, boxing, wrestling, skiing, and weightlifting also frequently lead to wrist injuries
  • Experiencing a motor vehicle accident, fall, or other kind of accidental trauma


Wrist injuries are typically unexpected, but it is possible to reduce your risk.

Wearing appropriate protective devices during work and sports can lower your risk of injury or reinjury. If you play a sport, work a job, or enjoy an activity that requires repetitive motion of your wrist, be mindful of any pain that arises. Stop as soon as possible if it gets worse.

Physical and occupational therapy are often helpful in preventing wrist problems. At Dignity Health, our therapists can help you strengthen and protect your wrists so they are strong for sports, work, and other daily activities.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.