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The Painful Wrist Joint: Diagnosis and Treatment of Wrist Arthritis


Wrist arthritis is a common condition that affects the small joints in the wrist. In most cases, It is a type of osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of the bones wears down over time. This can cause the bones to rub against each other, leading to pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion in the wrist.

There are several types of wrist arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of wrist arthritis and usually affects people over the age of 50. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the joints and can affect people of any age. Post-traumatic arthritis occurs after an injury to the wrist, such as a fracture or ligament tear.


Symptoms of wrist arthritis can include pain and stiffness in the wrist, especially after periods of inactivity or during certain activities. The wrist may also feel weak, and there may be swelling and tenderness in the joint. Over time, the range of motion in the wrist may decrease, and the wrist may become deformed.

There are several treatment options that can help to manage the pain and improve function. These may include medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids in addition to joint injections, to reduce pain and swelling. Physical therapy can also be helpful in improving range of motion and strength in the wrist. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the damaged joint.


In addition to medical treatment, there are also several self-care strategies that can help to manage the symptoms of wrist arthritis. These may include:

  • Resting the wrist: Avoiding activities that put excessive strain on the wrist can help to reduce pain and swelling.

  • Ice and heat therapy: Applying ice to the wrist can help to reduce swelling and pain, while heat can help to increase blood flow and promote healing.

  • Exercising the wrist: Gentle range of motion and strengthening exercises can help to improve flexibility and strength in the wrist.

  • Using assistive devices: Splints, braces, and other assistive devices can help to support the wrist and reduce strain on the joint.

  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Excess weight can put additional strain on the joints, so maintaining a healthy weight can help to reduce the symptoms of wrist arthritis.

Living with wrist arthritis can be challenging, but with the right treatment and support, it is possible to manage the condition and maintain a decent quality of life. It is important to work closely with a healthcare provider to find the best treatment plan and to stay active and engaged in activities that are enjoyable and fulfilling.

If you are experiencing wrist pain, stiffness, or discomfort, book an appointment at ACTIVATE to get a diagnosis and start your treatment.


About the Author: Dr. Mustafa Alnaib MBChB, MRCS, MSc, FEBOT is an orthopaedic surgeon, musculoskeletal doctor and Clinic Director at ACTIVATE Musculoskeletal Clinic in Kent.

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