Wrist Tendonitis

wrist tendonitis

Signs of wrist tendonitis

Doctors commonly use the term wrist tendonitis to describe tendon inflammation focused at the wrist. But many people do not know what the symptoms and signs of wrist tendonitis are. It’s important to recognize these signs so you know how to treat it.

Tendonitis can occur at various locations in the body – anywhere there are tendons. The name of the condition refers to its location, such as wrist tendonitis, elbow tendonitis, shoulder tendonitis, etc.

The tendons of the wrist – as all tendons – are thick cords that connect muscles to bones. The tendons naturally stretch and contract with each joint’s motion. And since tendons are almost constantly in motion, you can injure them suddenly or gradually.

A sudden stretch can pull tendons quickly and with a lot of force. Often this happens in the wrist with weightlifters or the Achilles tendon with runners. But you can make many gentle movements over a long period of time that can also cause tendon strain and inquiry. This is “repetitive strain injury”. The signs and symptoms of wrist tendonitis are identical whether it results from sudden stress or  repetitive strain.

When tendonitis results from repetitive motions, it usually develops over a long period of time. In fact, it may take many months of repetitive finger or hand movement to cause wrist tendonitis. Moreover, if the initial strain doesn’t heal, wrist tendons may re-strain continuously. Eventually, continuous strain produces tiny scars and adhesions on the tendon. This is chronic wrist tendonitis and it produces long-lasting inflammation and pain.

Causes of wrist tendonitis

Wrist tendonitis usually results from an activity you can easily identify. Generally, it happens following repeated or forceful hand or finger motions. For instance, keyboard over-use and jackhammer use are well-known causes. If left untreated, chronic wrist tendonitis becomes very painful when you move the joint. But at rest, it feels normal. That’s one of the main distinguishing signs of wrist tendonitis (compared to carpal tunnel syndrome).

In addition to pain, there may be a sensation of “grinding” or “burning” in the tendon area when the fingers move. Generally, such sensations are occur on the top of the hand with extensor tendonitis. And they are generally occur on the lower forearm with flexor tendonitis. And since there’s tendon inflammation, the area can be tender to the touch.

The signs of wrist tendonitis worsen with movements that utilize that tendon. For example, someone with wrist tendonitis caused by repetitive keyboard use may also feel the same pain when setting the table for dinner or writing something with a pen and paper.

Treating mild cases

Nowadays, more people than ever are developing wrist tendonitis due to their workplace – especially sitting at a computer workstation. But you can avoid getting tendonitis by taking some simple precautions.

In general, chronic tendonitis is harder to treat than a new episode of tendonitis. You can treat most cases of mild tendonitis fairly easily. Treatment usually  includes:

  1. rest
  2. ice packs
  3. non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs

In order to avoid wrist tendonitis altogether, it’s important to properly adjust your computer keyboard and chair height. When you’re typing, forearms and hands must be at the same height. Wrists are never bent forward or backward. When typing, wrists should float above the keyboard, not lying on it. You can use a “wrist rest” to adjust the angle of the wrists and further reduce the possibility of developing tendonitis.

Also, take frequent breaks to stretch the joints that are most at risk. The stretching both loosens tendons and breaks up microscopic adhesions that form inside the tendon and its sheath. For wrist tendonitis, this means when sitting at a keyboard, interlace your fingers and stretch them. Then dangle them at your sides and shake them out to increase blood blow.

Treating severe cases

For severe tendonitis, do everything you would do for mild cases as described above. But also wear a wrist brace while you sleep. Do not wear it while working with your hands. If you do, your hands will perform their regular tasks while also fighting the brace. That stresses tendons even more. The exception to wearing a wrist brace during the day is when you expect to do extra-heavy work. In that case, a brace can prevent your hand from over-bending.

If pain is severe, over-the-counter NSAID pain medications are still a good solution. But the FDA says you should never use them on a chronic basis due to the possibility of heart attack, stroke, liver and kidney damage.

For severe cases, physical therapy is the best remedy for eliminating all signs of tendonitis (especially in the wrist). Physical therapy helps strengthen muscles. This helps strengthen and support the wrist joint and tendons. Also, use physical therapy massage in order to loosen tendinous tissues. That’s important because fundamentally, microscopic adhesions cause tendonitis . The massage breaks up those adhesions which then disappear.

Performing physical therapy on your own limb (with minimal instruction) can be successful in some cases. But there are limits to using only one hand to do so. For severe or chronic tendonitis, seeing a trained physical therapist is far more effective.


The main sign you have wrist tendonitis is when there’s pain in your hand or forearm when performing a hand of finger task. Don’t ignore that warning sign! If left untreated, chronic tendonitis can worsen. That makes it much harder to eliminate completely.

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