How Can I Tell if My Pain Is From Wrist Arthritis?

man with wrist arthritis holds his hand

According to recent research, wrist arthritis is a common cause of wrist pain, affecting approximately one in seven Americans.

This blog article covers different types of arthritis that can affect your wrist, its symptoms, and the treatments available—both surgical and nonsurgical—to provide relief from this painful condition.

Types of Wrist Arthritis and Its Causes

While the wrist is not a weight-bearing joint like the knees or hips, your body relies heavily on its wrists to do daily activities, from opening doors to driving a car.

As we age, the cartilage can begin to wear away, and the bones can rub against each other, causing arthritis.

Although there are several different types of arthritis, the three most common types that afflict wrist joints include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Post-Traumatic Arthritis
  • Inflammatory Arthritis Conditions, Such as Rheumatoid Arthritis

Other less common causes of arthritis of the wrist include infection (septic arthritis), crystal-induced arthritis (gout, pseudogout), and other inflammatory arthropathies, such as lupus and psoriatic arthritis.

Wrist Arthritis Symptoms

Not everyone with arthritis of the wrist will experience symptoms, and the severity of symptoms varies from patient to patient. Wrist pain is the most common symptom and the first sign of arthritis.

Pain can worsen when you rotate your palm, like when trying to open a jar, sometimes it manifests more during pinching or gripping activities. For some patients, symptoms come and go depending on what they’re doing or their activity level.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Inability to Move Your Hand, Wrist, or Fingers
  • Stiffness (Especially in the Morning)
  • Swelling
  • Weakness When Using Your Wrist
  • Wrist Pain
  • Warmth and Redness Are Occasionally Present

How Wrist Arthritis Is Diagnosed

If you’re dealing with ongoing wrist pain, it’s essential to see a wrist specialist for a proper diagnosis. They will talk with you about your health and medical history and ask about your symptoms.

They will then examine your hand and wrist to check for the following:

  • Areas of Pain 
  • Changes in Appearance
  • Joint Instability
  • Reduced Range of Motion
  • Swelling
  • Tender Spots

The specialist will evaluate your finger and thumb mobility and nerve function to determine if you have other wrist conditions, like carpal tunnel syndrome. They may also take X-rays or order blood tests to determine the type, severity, and location of your arthritis.

Treatment Options for Wrist Arthritis

While there is no cure for arthritis, there are treatments that can help reduce the frequency of your symptoms and relieve arthritis pain in your wrist joint.

Nonsurgical Treatments

Your wrist specialist will likely recommend starting with nonsurgical treatment options and remedies to help minimize your symptoms.

The most common nonsurgical treatments include:

  • Activity Modification
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (e.g., Aspirin, Naproxen, Ibuprofen)
  • Splinting
  • Steroid Injection

On occasion, occupational therapy may be beneficial.

Suppose your symptoms don’t improve with nonsurgical treatments. In that case, your wrist specialist may perform additional testing and possibly refer you to a rheumatologist to prescribe disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) designed to stop your immune system from attacking your joints.

Surgical Treatments

If wrist arthritis impacts your quality of life and nonsurgical treatments aren’t helping relieve your symptoms, your specialist may recommend surgery.

Wrist surgery aims to minimize or eliminate bone-on-bone contact and alleviate your pain while preserving or improving your wrist function.

Your wrist surgeon will talk with you about which procedure will work best for your condition. Some common techniques to treat wrist arthritis include:

Also referred to as total wrist arthroplasty, wrist replacements are relatively uncommon and offered by wrist surgeons at only a few medical practices. The complex procedure involves replacing a patient’s damaged arthritic wrist with a new artificial joint—built from plastic and metal components—to restore function and provide relief.

Are you considering wrist fusion surgery? See an IHTSC specialist, and find out if you’re a good candidate for wrist replacement.

Managing Your Arthritis

Once wrist arthritis develops, you can take steps to manage your symptoms, such as wearing a splint to ease the pressure on your wrist. If certain activities make your pain worse, you can also limit these activities to reduce the frequency and severity of your discomfort.

Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs can slow or stop the progression of several types of arthritis that affect wrists and hands, including psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Some gout patients take medication that reduces uric acid in the blood as a way to prevent inflammation and joint pain.

The most critical first step to managing your wrist arthritis is talking with a wrist specialist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Trust the Wrist Experts at IHTSC

Wrist arthritis pain shouldn’t keep you from enjoying life. The experienced surgeons at Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center will work with you to create a customized care plan that works for you.

Request an appointment online or call us at (317) 751-5904.

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Disclaimer: The materials on this website have been prepared for informational purposes only and do not constitute advice. You should not act or rely upon any medical information on this website without a physician’s advice. The information contained within this website is not intended to serve as a substitution for a thorough examination from a qualified healthcare provider. The display of this information is not intended to create a health care provider-patient relationship between the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center and you.