Your wrist is a complex structure consisting of 8 small bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles which enable you to perform a range of motions. When the tendons or synovium (the sheath surrounding the wrist) are injured or inflamed, it may lead to wrist tendonitis.
Common causes of wrist tendonitis
Overuse of the wrist is one of the most common causes. Sportspersons, construction workers, machine handlers, and others in similar professions are at high risk because they use their hands and wrists extensively. Tendonitis can also set in if your activity level increases dramatically or if you sprain your wrist. Arthritis and infection are also some of the rare causes of wrist tendonitis.
What are the symptoms of tendonitis?
The most common complaint is pain and inflammation of the wrist. Although symptoms tend to develop slowly over the years, there are a few tell-tale signs which can tip you off.
Look out for the following:
- Prolonged pain in the wrist
- Tenderness and numbness
- Swelling in the wrist area
- Stiffness and reduced range of motion
- Sharp shooting pain in severe cases
- Decreased strength and grip
Overuse of the wrist leads to inflammation and therefore many symptoms appear over the course of activities being performed. Don't ignore the signs and continue the activity because it may worsen and lead to severe wrist tendonitis which can even require surgical intervention.
Treatment for wrist tendonitis
Physiotherapy is usually sufficient to take care of mild cases, but if the condition is severe other treatment modalities may be necessary.
- Using a splint or cast: Usually the first step of treatment, since it allows the overused tendons and sheath to rest and thus decrease inflammation.
- Ice therapy: Applying ice at the site of inflammation to cool the inflammation while stimulating blood flow.
- Cortisone injections: Cortisone is injected into the inflamed area. It's a powerful treatment option, but too many injections can make the tendons weak over time.
- Medication: Your doctor may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to control pain and inflammation.
- Surgery: When all the other methods fail, doctors may advise surgery. The inflammatory tissue maybe removed for better tendon movement and realignment.
Apart from the above, there are also some uncommon treatment options:
- Shockwave therapy: High-energy sound waves are used to relieve the pain. A special machine is used to send the sound waves to the site of inflammation.
- Autologous blood injections: The patient's own blood is extracted and injected into the area near the damaged tendons. A local anesthetic helps with the pain during the procedure. It is believed that blood supply can heal damaged tendons.
As with any other injury, the healing time depends on the severity of the damage.
For complete recovery, patients must immobilize the wrist and allow it some time to rest and heal. Appropriate pain management and physiotherapy can take care of most minor cases within a few weeks. In chronic and severe cases, recovery can take up to or more than six months. Commencing physiotherapy as early as possible is vital for faster recovery.
If you injure your wrist and neglect to treat it, it will take longer to heal even after treatment commences. Attend to the symptoms immediately and give yourself enough time to rest to ensure rapid healing.