Pain is the body’s way of telling that something is wrong with your body. Injury or medical condition in hands, wrists and elbows causes pain when performing simple tasks like picking up something, moving your wrist or straightening a finger. Hand, wrist and elbow pain can prevent you from daily activities, going to work, participating in sports or taking care of your family.
Wrist pain could be caused to sprains or fractures from sudden injuries or from long-term problems like repetitive stress, arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Elbow pain is caused from strained or inflamed soft tissues such as tendons and resolves within a few days. Elbow pain lasts for a short duration of time however; arthritis could cause long-term pain in the elbow.
It is important not to rest for a long time as lack of movement may increase joint stiffness and the muscles around the wrist and elbow might weaken. This increases the chance of developing further symptoms. Simple exercises regularly can help reduce the complications in future.
The long bone at the top of the arm (humerus) joins the two bones in the forearm (radius and ulna) is known as elbow joint. The hinge joint allows one to bend the arm. The upper part of the radius helps in rotating or twisting the forearm. Humerus consists of two bony parts – the lateral epicondyle on the outside and the medial epicondyle on the inside of the arm.
CAUSES OF ELBOW PAIN
The elbow pain is caused due to strained or inflamed soft tissues like tendons or ligaments. The elbow pain might also be caused by a medical condition. Numerous reasons can cause stiffness in the elbow like arthritis.
Arthritis causes inflammation in the joint which is painful. Fractures or sprain leads to breakage of the bones, stretching or tearing of the ligament or stiffening of the affected area.
Stiffness can be a result of the problem with the elbow joint or with the muscles, covering the joint, or ligaments. Sometimes, soft tissue can cause scar tissue leading to stiffness after an injury. It can also lead to the elbow getting locked in a fixed position.
This condition is usually short-lived and may be caused by loose bits of bone or cartilage in the joint. These loose fragments might need to be removed in surgery.
Some of the medical conditions of elbow are:
Medial epicondylitis or golfer’s elbow – This is a result of repetitive hand motion causing pain along the inside of the elbow. Wrist movements can also trigger the pain.
Lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow – This is caused due to injury to tendons due to repetitive motions of the forearm which causes inflammation of the tendons leading to pain in simple movements.
Olecranon bursitis – This is caused by inflammation of the bursa, which is a small sac of fluid located at the tip of the elbow protecting the joint due to an injury or minor trauma which is the result of systemic diseases like gout or rheumatoid arthritis, or a local infection.
Osteoarthritis – It is a condition affecting the cartilage (connective tissue) causing the tissue to wear down and become damaged.
SYMPTOMS OF ELBOW PAIN
The symptoms of elbow pain include:
- Dull ache even when at rest
- Pain when folding to make a fist (golfer’s elbow)
- Pain while opening the fingers (tennis elbow)
- Soreness and stiffness around the affected elbow bump
- Weak grip
- Difficulties and pain while grasping objects with the arm stretched out.
Wrist pain can be a result of a sudden impact or injury leading to sprains or fractures. The wrist pain could also result from long-term problems like repetitive stress, arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Diagnosis of wrist pain is difficult as many factors could cause wrist pain but accurate diagnosis is important for treatment and healing.
SYMPTOMS OF WRIST PAIN
Apart from pain the other symptoms depend on the cause of the pain. The pain is usually described as achy or dull or sharp. Some of the symptoms other than pain are:
- Stiffness –occurring in the wrist and fingers.
- Trouble gripping objects – grasping or holding becomes difficult and uncomfortable.
- Clicking sound when moving the wrist which becomes severe after periods of rest
- Swelling and redness of the wrist and infection due to virus/bacteria or other infection
- Numbness, weakness or tingling in the wrist, hand, or fingers
- Muscle mass loss in the wrist, hand, or fingers
- Pain persists even after self-care treatments for 2 weeks
- Collapsed lung (pneumothorax)
CAUSES OF WRIST PAIN
Injury or sudden impact is the main reason for wrist pain but it can also be caused due to some underlying medical reason. Squashing of the nerves passing through the wrist can also cause the pain.
Some of the common cause includes:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome – It is a condition that develops due to thickening of a ligament that puts pressure on a nerve. In turn, the nerve is squeezed causing the pain, numbness, and weakness in the hand. People who are obese, diabetic or have arthritis are at high risk of developing the syndrome. This is a result of repetitive work involving lifting, typing, or using equipment that causes vibrating in the hand.
- Osteoarthritis – This is caused due to inflammation of the joints occurring when the cartilage covering the bones wears away. This affects people who are middle aged or older as well as with a family history of the condition leading to decreased range of joint movement, including the wrist.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – It is an autoimmune disorder causing the healthy tissues to break down by the body’s immune system causing pain in the affected joint.
- De Quervain’s disease – This is caused by inflammation and swelling of tendons and their coverings on the thumb side of the wrist.
- Repetitive motion syndrome –This is caused by over use of the wrist joint due to repetitive action leading to pressure on the surrounding nerves.
- Triangular fibrocartilage complex injury – This cartilage is located on the side adjoining to the smallest finger of hand which acts as a cushion supporting the small bones. The cartilage can swell or inflame leading to pain in the wrist radiating to the palm.
- Wrist tendonitis – This condition occurs when the tendons of the wrist become irritated and inflamed or develop small tears. The tear, inflammation or irritation might be caused due to an injury or repetitive movement of the wrist.
- Wrist bursitis – The condition develops when bursa, small fluid-filled sacs (cushioning joints) become inflamed causing tenderness of the tendons in the wrist, redness in the affected region, and swelling.
- Ganglion cyst – This is caused due to fluid-filled soft tissue cysts that form usually on the wrist opposite the palm.
TREATMENT OF ELBOW AND WRIST PAIN
Treatment depends on the cause of pain and its severity. The least invasive treatment is recommended initially by the doctors. These would include:
- Home treatment – rest, ice or heat application and compression would help relieve pain and inflammation
- Splints – reduces the squeezing of the nerve and increases movement
- Additional treatment – cortisone injections decrease inflammation and reduce pain
- Surgery – It is the option once above treatments do not resolve the problem like removing the ligament in the wrist which releases pressure on the nerve.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from elbow or wrist pain, our expert providers at Specialty Care Clinics will take care of your health and help you recover.