Understanding Wrist or Hand Pain

If you are experiencing pain in your wrist or hand but are unsure why, learning about how these body parts work and the common causes of pain in these areas, such as arthritis, can help you begin the process of managing such pain.


A Brief Lesson in Anatomy

Your wrist contains two rows of four bones, called the carpal bones. They connect to metacarpals, the bones that make up the body of your hand. Fingers have phalanges, with two located in the thumb and three in every other finger. There are small muscles in your hand, but the main muscles used to extend the wrist and hand are located in the forearm. Tendons connect these muscles to the bones in the wrist and hand. Two nerves, the median nerve and the ulnar nerve, supply your hand in different areas.

Because arthritis is so common, it is a good idea to understand the important joints located in your wrist and hand, which include:

  • The wrist joint, where the radius and ulna join the carpus
  • The carpometacarpal joint, which connects the carpal and metacarpals
  • The metacarpophalangeal joint, responsible for joining the hand bones with the finger bones
  • The interphalangeal joint, which connects the finger segments to each other

Causes of Wrist and Hand Pain

A number of different problems can cause pain in the wrist or hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome, infection or internal injuries such as a broken or dislocated bone are all potential culprits. Arthritis, or joint inflammation or disease, is very common among adults, especially as they age. However, there are over one hundred forms of such a disease. The most common are osteoarthritis, which is the breaking down of your joints’ protective cartilage, rheumatoid arthritis, which occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks the joints’ linings, and fibromyalgia, a disease affecting the tissues supporting bones and joints.

Managing Wrist and Hand Pain

The first step in managing wrist and hand pain is to receive a proper diagnosis. Knowing what is causing the pain significantly helps in treating the pain. If the diagnosis is arthritis, a doctor may prescribe a specific medication for the particular type affecting your wrist and hand. Sometimes, a joint fusion is the best treatment. In this type of procedure, the doctor will lock together the ends of the bones in order to have them heal as one bone. Physical therapy in which patients exercise and strengthen the muscles surrounding the pained joints is also often an effective method of treatment. While there is no cure for joint inflammation, many treatments can significantly reduce symptoms. Talk to your doctor to begin managing your wrist and hand pain.