Author: Mateen Arrain
The wrists are vital parts of our bodies that allow us to perform everyday activities like typing and lifting weights. However, they are also susceptible to injury due to their vulnerability and complexity. In this article, we will discuss seven common wrist injuries: wrist sprains, carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, wrist fractures, tendinitis, ganglion cysts, and wrist arthritis. We will cover the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for each injury to help you better understand and manage these conditions.
1. Wrist Sprains
A wrist sprain occurs when the ligaments of the wrist are stretched or torn due to a sudden movement or force. It is usually caused by an awkward fall on an outstretched hand, which strains the ligament and can cause it to tear. Wrist sprains can vary in severity from a mild strain to a complete tear, but they all come with the risk of long-term health problems if not adequately treated. Barring any severe injuries, a mild sprain can take less than a month to get better.  Fortunately, you can take steps to avoid spraining your wrist and reduce the chances of injury.
Age, gender, and sports or manual labour are the main risk factors for wrist ligament sprains. Over 14% of U.S. college athletes sprain their wrists. 
Older adults are more prone to sprains due to weakened bones and ligaments, while men are more likely than women to suffer from this type of injury due to their increased participation in sports activities. It’s also important to note that certain medical conditions, such as arthritis, may increase your sprain risk.
The best way to avoid a wrist sprain is prevention through the careful practice of certain techniques that strengthen your wrists and make them less prone to injuries. Wearing wrist guards during contact sports can also help protect them from damage.
2. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common medical condition affecting millions of people’s wrists and hands every year. It’s caused by pressure on the median nerve which travels through the carpel tunnel from above the wrist into the hand, resulting in numbness or tingling or pain in the fingers and hands.
Common risk factors of carpal tunnel syndrome include diabetes, thyroid disorders, arthritis, obesity, and pregnancy. Overuse of the wrist joint, such as repetitive motions like typing or using a mouse on a computer may also worsen the symptoms.
Additionally, some people may have an anatomical predisposition to developing carpal tunnel syndrome due to the natural shape of their wrists and hands.
Treatment options include steroid injections, and a small operation to relieve the pressure on the carpal tunnel.
3. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disorder affecting the joints and surrounding tissues throughout your body. It can be debilitating and significantly reduce the quality of life.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue in the joints. This causes inflammation, pain, stiffness, swelling, redness, fatigue, and loss of function in affected areas. If left untreated, RA can lead to severe joint damage and disability.
Risk factors of RA may include age, gender, family history, smoking, obesity, and certain infections.
There are several strategies for preventing and treating rheumatoid arthritis. Diet and exercise are important components for maintaining overall health, as diet can help reduce inflammation in the body while exercise helps improve joint mobility.
Treatment includes corticosteroids and drugs called disease-modifying agents which are prescribed by rheumatologists.
4. Wrist Fracture
Wrist fractures (broken wrists) are caused by sudden force or twisting motion to the wrist. This can happen because of falls, during sports, activities or car accidents. Older people also have a higher risk as their bones become more fragile as they age. Osteoporosis (brittle bone disease) is another risk factor for breaking your wrist following a fall.
If the wrist becomes swollen, painful and tender then an X-ray should be considered to help diagnose a fracture. Treatment includes manipulation, splints and plaster casts. Occasionally surgery is required. Usually, a wrist fracture takes approximately 6-12 weeks to heal.
In older people and in postmenopausal women, a bone density scan should be considered following a wrist fracture in order to rule out osteoporosis.
5. Tendon Inflammation of the Wrist (Tendinitis)
Overuse or repetitive strain injury causes wrist tendinitis (inflammation of wrist tendons). The thumb extensor tendon is the wrist’s most commonly damaged tendon. Thumb extensor injury leads to difficulty in extending the thumb and weaknesses in grasping objects. Tendinitis can cause pain, swelling and tenderness of the wrist.
Exercising wrist flexor and extensor muscles will help to prevent wrist tendonitis. It is also beneficial to adopt good posture while working at a desk and taking frequent breaks throughout workday activities.
6. Ganglion Cysts on the Wrist
Wrist cysts are jelly-like masses on the underside of the wrist. These noncancerous cysts can cause severe wrist pain. Contact sports and repeated action can cause wrist cysts, therefore wearing protective gear for your wrists is great for prevention. Other strategies include taking frequent pauses during wrist-stretching activities, eating a balanced diet, stretching and strength training your wrists and arms, applying ice several times a day to prevent swelling, and adopting good body mechanics while exercising or working. These precautions can reduce wrist ganglion cyst risk.
Osteoarthritis is a common, degenerative joint condition affecting millions of ageing adults.  It is characterized by joint pain and stiffness, caused when the cartilage protecting them starts to erode over time. Risk factors for developing osteoarthritis include obesity and previous joint injuries. To strengthen your protection against developing osteoarthritis, experts suggest others start living a healthy lifestyle to build up bone density and maintain optimal mobility of the joints.
This can be done through strength training, stretching, and low-impact activities like yoga or tai chi. Additionally, increasing your intake of anti-inflammatory foods like fatty fish, olive oil, and fresh fruits and vegetables could provide assistance in reducing the risks of developing osteoarthritis later on in life.
1. Wrist injuries overview: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK563103/
2. Epidemiology of Hand and Wrist Injuries in Collegiate-Level Athletes in the United States: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34895779/
3. The Epidemiology and Impact of Pain in Osteoarthritis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3753584/