Wrist Arthritis

Wrist Arthritis

Arthritis involves inflammation of one or more of your joints. Pain and stiffness are common symptoms of arthritis, and when these occur in your wrist, simple daily activities can become more difficult.

There are many types of arthritis, and most of these can affect the wrist. Although the severity of symptoms related to arthritis can vary, most arthritis-related diseases are chronic. This means that they are long-lasting—even permanent—and can eventually cause serious joint damage.

Your wrist is a complex joint—it is actually made up of multiple small joints. When healthy, the bones glide easily over each other during movement, protected by smooth cartilage that coats the joint surfaces. Arthritis damages this cartilage. As the disease progresses, there is a gradual loss of cartilage. Without a smooth joint surface, the bones rub against each other, leading to joint damage that cannot be repaired.

Although there is no cure for arthritis today, there are many treatment options available to help relieve your symptoms. Some options may also slow the progression of joint damage. With proper treatment, many people are able to manage their symptoms and stay active.


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Pain and stiffness are common symptoms of arthritis. Your wrist is made up of many small joints, and inflammation in these areas can be a sign of arthritis. Arthritis attacks your bones by destroying the cartilage, causing your bones to rub against one another. Other signs and symptoms of arthritis of the wrist include:




Limited range of motion

Clicking, cracking, or grinding sounds on movement


The most common reasons people develop wrist arthritis include:4

Prior wrist injuries: Post-traumatic arthritis occurs when the joint surface wears away following an injury to the wrist joint cartilage. This most commonly occurs when there is a fracture of the wrist that involves the cartilage surface of the joint. If the fracture extends into the joint surface, the cartilage can become uneven and prone to wrist arthritis.

Wrist instability: Wrist instability occurs after injuries to the small ligaments and bones in the wrist (carpal bones and carpal ligaments). When these structures are injured, their normal movement is affected, leading to a wearing away of wrist joint cartilage.

Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is among the most common causes of wrist arthritis. RA is a systemic disease, meaning it affects the entire body. The associated inflammation of joints can become so severe that it leads to the destruction of normal bone and cartilage.


Treatment Options for Wrist Arthritis


Some treatment options are things you can easily do at home that can have a big impact on your pain. That said, patients often must use these suggestions in conjunction with medical treatments.


These options work best when you are committed to following them day in and day out:

Lifestyle modifications: Many patients with symptoms of wrist arthritis can find successful relief simply by modifying their activities. Avoiding certain movements or tasks, such as lifting and carrying heavy loads, may provide relief from wrist arthritis.

Wrist splint: Support braces can help patients who have wrist arthritis. These braces act as a gentle support to wrist movements. They will not prevent severe injuries but may help you perform simple activities.

Heat applications: Heat applications are among the most commonly used treatments for wrist arthritis.

Medication is often needed to tame inflammation and provide added pain relief:

Anti-inflammatory medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications, commonly referred to as NSAIDs, are some of the most commonly prescribed medications, especially for patients with pain caused by problems such as wrist arthritis.

Cortisone injections: Cortisone is a powerful medication that treats inflammation. Discuss the possible benefits of a cortisone injection for your wrist arthritis with your doctor.

Surgery is not often needed in the treatment of wrist arthritis, but it can be performed when symptoms are severe and other treatments have not provided relief.

Surgical procedures for wrist arthritis include:

Wrist fusion: A wrist fusion is a procedure that eliminates all movement at the wrist joint by securing the bones of the forearm to the bones in the wrist and hand. A fusion provides predictable relief of pain from wrist arthritis, but the loss of motion can prevent some normal activities.

Proximal row carpectomy: A proximal row carpectomy is a procedure to remove three of the small bones of the wrist joint. By removing the arthritic bone, pain is diminished. Because there is no fusion, the motion is preserved. Proximal row carpectomy is only an option for some types of wrist arthritis but can provide excellent pain relief while preserving motion.

Wrist replacement: A wrist replacement surgery is performed to remove the damaged bone and replace it with a metal and plastic implant. Not many wrist replacements are being performed, and the results are not as predictable as some other surgical procedures (such as knee replacements and hip replacements).

There are many types of arthritis and most affect the wrist. The severity will depend on the type and whether that type is chronic. Chronic forms of arthritis are long-lasting and often permanent. Although there is no cure for chronic arthritis, many of the treatment options noted above can help relieve symptoms and even slow down joint damage. Treatment can also help you to manage wrist pain and stay active.


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