Although wrist pain can occur for a variety of reasons, the most common causes include the following:

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpel tunnel syndrome is a condition that develops when the transverse carpal ligament thickens and puts pressure on a nerve. The nerve is squeezed, which can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the hand.

People who are obese or those that have diabetes or arthritis are at an increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. The condition is also linked with repetitive work that involves lifting, typing, or using equipment that vibrates the hand.


Osteoarthritis causes inflammation of the joints and occurs when the cartilage that covers the bones wears away. The condition can affect a wide range of joints, including the wrist.

Osteoarthritis of the wrist tends to occur most often in people who are middle age or older, and those with a family history of the condition.

Triangular fibrocartilage complex injury

The triangular fibrocartilage is located on the pinky side of the wrist. It acts as a cushion and support for the small bones. The cartilage can wear away over time or tear due to an injury.

Wrist tendonitis

Wrist tendonitis can occur when the tendons of the wrist develop small tears or become irritated and inflamed. The condition usually occurs due to repetitive movement involving the wrist.

Ganglion cyst

This cause of wrist pain is due to fluid-filled soft tissue cysts that can develop on the wrist opposite the palm. Smaller cysts often tend to hurt more than large cysts.

Wrist sprain

According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, a wrist sprain is usually caused by falling and bending the wrist backward when the hand hits the ground. This movement makes the ligament overstretched.

Tests and diagnosis of wrist pain

After a physical exam and symptom review, a doctor may also rely on medical imaging scans to make an accurate diagnosis. Scans including an X-ray, CT scan, and MRI are sometimes used to work out the cause of wrist pain.

Treatment and prevention of wrist pain

Treatment for wrist pain may depend on the cause of the pain and its severity. Carpal tunnel syndrome may be treated differently than wrist pain caused by a ganglion cyst, for example. In most cases, the least invasive treatment is given first before treatments such as surgery are recommended.

Wrist splints can help with wrist pain. They can prevent painful movements and reduce pressure on certain nerves.

Wrist pain is sometimes successfully treated at home. Home treatment often includes resting the wrist as much as possible to allow it time to heal. Pain-relief medication and ice may also be recommended to reduce inflammation and pain.

In some cases, wearing a wrist splint can also help. Splinting may prevent certain wrist movements that cause irritation. A splint may also reduce squeezing of the nerve.

Depending on the type of pain, wrist exercises may also reduce pain. Certain exercises may be prescribed to stretch and lengthen muscles and tendons. When it comes to which exercises to do, patients should get recommendations from a doctor or physical therapist.

In cases where home treatment and exercises do not reduce pain, additional treatment may be needed. Cortisone injections, which decrease inflammation and reduce pain, are one option that may be effective.

Surgery for wrist pain is usually the last resort and only used if less invasive treatments have not worked. The type of surgery performed depends on the cause of the pain. Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome involves cutting a ligament in the wrist to release pressure on the nerve.