Wrist Tendon Injury

What is a wrist tendon injury?

Tendons, are strong bands of connective tissue that attach muscle to bone. When a tendon is acutely injured it is called a strain. Tendonitis is when a tendon is inflamed. When there are micro-tears in a tendon from repeated injury it is called tendinosis. Tendinopathy is the term for both inflammation and micro-tears.

Your wrist moves in many directions, including down, up, in, and out. The muscles and tendons that perform these movements may become overused and inflamed. The muscles and tendons that cross your wrist and attach to your thumb may also become inflamed.

How does it occur?

Tendinopathy is a problem caused by repetitive use. Possible overuse activities include throwing, catching, bowling, hitting a tennis ball, typing, or sewing.

What are the symptoms?

You have pain in the wrist and forearm with repetitive activity. The tendon that is inflamed is tender to the touch. You may have swelling around the inflamed tendon.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will review your symptoms and examine your wrist.

How is it treated?

To treat this condition:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a cloth on the area every 3 to 4 hours, for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • You could also do ice massage. To do this, first freeze water in a Styrofoam cup, then peel the top of the cup away to expose the ice. Hold the bottom of the cup and rub the ice over the area for 5 to 10 minutes. Do this several times a day while you have pain.
  • Raise the wrist on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
  • Wear a splint that immobilizes the wrist or thumb or tape the wrist or thumb as directed by your provider.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.
  • Follow your provider’s instructions for doing exercises to help you recover.

In many cases, the injury occurs because of poor technique in a sporting activity. You may need to review your technique and try to change it.

While you are recovering from your injury you will need to change your sport or activity to one that does not make your condition worse. For example, you may need to run instead of play racquet sports. The most important treatment for tendonitis is to change your activity.

How long will the effects last?

The effects of wrist tendinopathy vary. A tendon that is only mildly inflamed and has just started to hurt may improve within a few weeks, while a tendon that is significantly inflamed and has been painful for a long time may take up to a few months to improve. You need to stop doing the activities that cause pain until your bursa has healed. If you continue doing activities that cause pain, your symptoms will return and it will take longer to recover.

When can I return to my normal activities?

Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activities depends on how soon your wrist recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury has occurred. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better. The goal is to return to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.

You may return to your normal activities after your wrist injury when the injured wrist has full range of motion without pain. Your injured wrist, hand, and forearm need to have the same strength as the uninjured side.

How can I prevent wrist tendon injuries?

Use proper technique in activities such as throwing, hitting a tennis ball, and typing. You should not continue these activities when the warning signs of tendon problems begin.

Written by Pierre Rouzier, MD, for RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
© 2012 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.