Wrist Pain: Causes & Strategies

Wrist pain can be highly variable. Some people may describe pain in the wrist that occurs with a certain movement, like gripping. It has also been described as:

  • Achy
  • Throbbing
  • Sharp
  • Burning
  • Unpredictable

The description of the pain and your immediate and long term history can help you and your provider determine the cause of the pain. Common causes of wrist pain include:

  • Overuse: Having to use your hand/wrist, repeatedly, without enough “down time” for your wrist to recover. 
  • Inflammation  “out of the blue”: No clear understanding of what caused it, or why it has developed. This may be linked with your medical history. 
  • Fall on an outstretched hand.
  • An athletic activity which places extreme/ force or load on the wrist: Including cross-fit, yoga, push-ups, etc.
  • Lifting mechanics / having to carry something heavier or longer than expected.
  • A history of arthritis or injury: If you have injured or broken your wrist before, the old injury can “flare up” or become arthrtic later in life. 


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One early step is to reflect on any activity changes, projects, incidents, or patterns that may have occurred prior to experiencing your wrist pain. This is important, particularly if it does not improve. 

An off-the-shelf wrist brace to help rest your wrist is an inexpensive starting point.

You may also wish to consult with your Internist or Primary Care Physician to see if you are a candidate to take Over-the-Counter (OTC) anti-inflammatories for a period of time. If you have a history of hypertension, kidney disease, gastric conditions, you may wish to call your Primary Care Physician prior to taking OTC medicine. When taken with consistency, for a period of 1-2 weeks, OTC inflammatories may help.

Noting whether a certain movement is more painful, and where it hurts is also important.

If your wrist is swollen, icing may be another good starting point. A less intense version of icing includes moving your hand and wrist in a sink or bowl of cold/ice water. 

Often, moist heat or warmth can also relieve pain and increase blood flow to the area. This can be acheived through application of a moist heat pack, or even during a warm bath/shower. 


There are times when it is hard to know how to treat your own wrist. In those cases, we have specialists who have devoted their entire careers to helping you manage your wrist pain.

OrthoSouth’s Hand Center includes fellowship trained hand and wrist surgeons, hand therapists, and a team of other staff members who stand ready to diagnose, treat, manage, and rehabilitate all manner of wrist issues – from the minor injuries to major conditions requiring surgery. 

Seeing a hand surgeon does NOT mean you are lining up for surgery. They can use their expertise to give you tools, guidance, and resources to help you manage your wrist pain without invasive measures.

A Hand Therapy Consultation may also help sort out the best ways to manage your wrist pain. 

To learn more about our Hand Center, or to make an appointment with one of our hand surgeons, click here


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Laureen Coffelt, OTR/L, CHT is a certified hand therapist and Clinic Manager working at the OrthoSouth PT clinics in Memphis-Briarcrest and Southaven, MS.