Could you have
Wrist Tendonitis?

Wrist tendonitis can be a common source of wrist joint pain. How do you know if you have tendonitis? What are the causes and what are your treatment options?

wrist tendonitis

Wrist Anatomy

The wrist and hand are complex structures. Movement of the wrist and hands are provided by tendons that originate from muscles located near the elbow and extend down the forearm.

Wrist extensor tendons originate from the lateral or outside aspect of the elbow and extend into the back of the hand and fingers. They help to extend the wrist and fingers.

Another group of muscles begin on the medial or inside of the elbow and travel down the front of the forearm and into the palm of the hand. These flexor tendons help to flex the wrist and fingers.

What is Tendonitis?

Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon. Inflammation of a tendon generally occurs secondary to overuse and in some cases trauma. Why does inflammation of the tendon occur? Any time tendons are put under excessive stress, micro tears in the tendon occur. If the body is unable to heal these micro tears before the next bout of stress, inflammation of the tendon builds up causing pain. Tendons have a tendency of creating more inflammation when the muscles are weak or fatigued.

Typical Symptoms

Symptoms of wrist tendonitis typically involve pain with use of the tendon. Lifting, gripping, and movement of the wrist can reproduce the pain. Pain may be either at the site of the wrist joint or travel up into the forearm. Visible swelling and thickness surrounding the tendon can also be present. This swelling can also lead to reduced wrist range of motion.

If you are experiencing symptoms of numbness or tingling or if the pain is present at rest, tendonitis may not be the cause. Issues involving nerves can impact muscle function. Localized nerve involvement or nerve issues originating from the neck can mimic tendonitis symptoms.

Typical Conservative Treatment Protocol

As with all painful joint conditions, treatment goals include reducing inflammation, restoring normal range of motion, and finally, restoring strength and function.

Reducing inflammation can be achieved through a number of means. Resting from aggravating activities will be necessary in order to allow for healing to occur. For significant cases of tendonitis, the use of a wrist brace to immobilize the region can allow healing to occur.

wrist splint

The use of ice therapy is an easy means of helping to reduce inflammation. Icing the wrist for 10 minutes a few times a day is an easy and safe means of reducing inflammation. Because of the superficial nature of wrist tendons, ice massage is also an effective form of icing. Fill Styrofoam cups with water and freeze them. Peel off the top of the cup to expose the ice. Massage the ice over the painful tendon for 5 minutes and repeat frequently.

Anti-inflammatory medications are very effective for inflammatory conditions such as tendonitis. Anti-inflammatory creams such as Voltaren gel and capzasin cream are also good treatment choices for treating inflammation of superficial structures such as the tendons of the wrist (consult your doctor regarding medications). Generally cortisone injections into the tendon are not recommended as they can weaken tendons.

Physical Therapy

Formal physical therapy can be greatly helpful in reducing tendon inflammation and restoring function. Modalities such as ultrasound, iontophoresis, and fluido therapy can aid in reducing pain and inflammation. Manual therapy techniques such as joint mobilizations and cross friction massage can help restore normal joint motion and reduce tendon swelling.

As with all forms of tendonitis, restoring muscle and tendon strength is necessary before returning to full function. As tendonitis of the wrist can impact function of the hand, wrist, and elbow, a complete strengthening program will be necessary to restore function and minimize recurrence of symptoms. Consult a physical therapist to help develop an overall strengthening program.


• The tendons of the wrist are complex and extend from the elbow through the wrist and into the hand.

• Wrist tendonitis can be the result of a tendon overuse or trauma.

• Symptoms include pain with use of the tendon, localized redness and swelling, and wrist joint stiffness.

• Typical treatment includes anti-inflammatory medication, ice therapy, resting from painful activities, bracing, and physical therapy.

Wrist tendonitis does not have to mean months of pain and limited mobility. Follow the recommendations and you will be on your way to recovering from your wrist tendonitis condition.

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