Understanding Wrist Tendonitis and Treatment Options

Tendonitis is when the tendons, tissues that connect muscles and bones, become inflamed. Usually, the sheath covering the tendon is impacted, but the entire tendon can be inflamed in some cases. Common symptoms include swelling, pain, and discomfort. Wrist tendonitis refers to inflamed tendons in the wrist and hand and usually occurs from overuse or a sudden injury like a sprain. The most common form is de Quervain’s tendonitis which affects the tendons near the thumb.

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Does everyone need surgery?

In most cases, people can manage the symptoms associated with wrist tendonitis without needing surgical interventions. However, surgery may be recommended in the smaller segment of patients with significant tendon damage. The procedure is usually handled as an outpatient process and often only requires local anesthesia. The surgery is considered relatively low risk but usually isn’t recommended unless all other forms of pain management and recovery haven’t worked.

Non-invasive pain management methods

At-home solutions are sufficient for recovery for most people suffering from wrist tendonitis. The most common non-surgical solutions are non-invasive and often involve incorporating over-the-counter (OTC) medications to manage discomfort. Typical options include taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), resting the injured joint, wearing a splint to stabilize and immobilize the wrist, and using the RICE method, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Physical therapy for rehabilitation

In more severe cases of wrist tendonitis, some patients may be encouraged to engage in physical or occupational therapy. By working with a licensed therapist, patients can improve the wrist's range of motion, strengthen the joint's muscles, and correct movement behaviors that initially contributed to the condition. For example, learning to incorporate a wrist pad for repeated computer use can help reduce the risk of inflaming the tendons.

Corticosteroid shots

For some patients with wrist tendonitis, the discomfort and pain created by the condition might not warrant surgery but may not be well-managed through at-home therapeutics. For these people, a physician may recommend corticosteroid shots, also known as cortisone shots. The shots are administered at the site of the joint injury. Usually, relief occurs quickly and will last for several months. However, cortisone shots typically aren’t offered more than four times a year.

Prevention is the best solution

For most people that develop wrist tendonitis, surgery isn’t required. In most cases, at-home treatments such as rest, RICE, hot and cold therapy, and taking an OTC pain reliever will be sufficient. To prevent further joint damage, some patients may benefit from attending physical therapy sessions to boost mobility and range of motion while learning best movement practices. Patients concerned that wrist joint pain may be more serious should speak with a physician.