Symptoms A-Z

Severe Wrist Pain Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand severe wrist pain symptoms, including 8 causes & common questions.

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Severe Wrist Pain Symptoms

Many types of medical conditions and injuries can affect the wrist, and some can cause severe wrist pain. The wrists are prone to injury, for example the natural instinct to throw up the hands as a self-protective measure when falling. Multiple structures including bones, tendons, and nerves can be implicated in severe wrist pain [1].

Common accompanying symptoms of severe wrist pain

If you're experiencing severe wrist pain, it's also likely to experience:

Severe Wrist Pain Causes

Acute injuries

An injury to the wrist can result in severe pain. This most commonly occurs when a large force is applied to the wrist with the arm outstretched, such as during a fall or car accident. One or more of the bones that make up the wrist can be fractured or dislocated, causing severe pain and swelling [2].

Chronic injuries

Injuries acquired over time may include the following.

  • Tendon injury: Repetitive motion can cause an overuse injury to major tendons that pass through the wrist, resulting in severe pain on the thumb side of the wrist.
  • Nerve compression: Occupational activities or swelling due to underlying medical conditions can cause nerve compression that results in severe wrist pain. Tingling and weakness in the hand and fingers can also occur.
  • Bone damage: Rarely, wrist pain can be due to progressive damage and destruction of one of the wrist bones. This is thought to occur due to decreased blood supply associated with repetitive manual labor.


Arthritis is characterized by inflammation and/or damage to joints caused by repetitive motions. Any type of arthritis can cause severe wrist pain [3].

  • Crystal arthritis: The wrist can be affected by forms of arthritis caused by buildup of abnormal crystals in the joint, such as gout. An attack of gout will cause the wrist to be swollen, warm, and extremely painful.
  • Other types of arthritis: Multiple other types of arthritis can cause severe wrist pain symptoms. The arthritis may be inflammatory or, in older people, can result from damage to the joint due to wear and tear over time (degenerative). In addition to pain, there may be stiffness and swelling.


A bacterial infection of the wrist joint can cause severe pain that worsens with movement, along with swelling and warmth and can lead to serious problems [4]. Risk factors for development of a wrist infection include pre-existing joint abnormalities, such as arthritis, or a skin infection in the area of the wrist.

8 Possible Severe Wrist Pain Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced severe wrist pain. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition of numbness and tingling in the hand and arm caused by compression of the mediannerve as it travels through the carpal tunnel. Causes include overuse of the wrist and hand, especially highly repetitive activities such as typing or wo...

Wrist sprain

Wrist sprain is often associated with traumatic events such as falls or sporting accidents. However, wrist sprain can also stem from chronic issues such as repetitive stress and the normal aging process. The wrists are so necessary and used so frequently that sometimes it may be difficult to differe...

Contusion of the wrist

A bruise is the damage of the blood vessels that return blood to the heart (the capillaries and veins), which causes pooling of the blood. This explains the blue/purple color of most bruises. Bruises of the wrist are common, often due to minor injuries.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: wrist injury, pain in one wrist, wrist pain from an injury, swelling of one wrist, wrist bruise

Symptoms that always occur with contusion of the wrist: wrist injury

Urgency: Self-treatment

De quervain's tenosynovitis

De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. If you have de Quervain's tenosynovitis, you will feel pain upon turning your wrist, grasping anything, or making a fist.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: hand numbness, thumb pain, hand weakness, weakness in one hand, numbness in one hand

Symptoms that always occur with de quervain's tenosynovitis: thumb pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

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Rheumatoid arthritis

Arthritis is a general term for multiple conditions that cause painful inflammation and stiffness throughout the body. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition that is autoimmune in nature, meaning that the body's immune system which normally protects the body by att...

Buckle fracture of distal radius

A buckle fracture of the wrist, also known as a torus fracture, is a condition that are most common in children aged 5-10 years due to the elasticity of their bones. This fracture occurs when force is applied to the radius (one of the two bones of the forearm), causing the bone to split along the growth plate.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: constant forearm pain, forearm pain from an injury, pain in one forearm, swollen forearm, wrist injury

Symptoms that always occur with buckle fracture of distal radius: forearm pain from an injury, constant forearm pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Kienbock disease

Kienbock Disease is a condition where the blood going to one of the small bones in the wrist is disrupted, causing the bone to die and the wrist to become stiff and painful. The cause is not known but may be related to trauma to the wrist.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: hand weakness, pain in the back of the wrist, wrist pain from an injury, wrist pain that gets worse when gripping something, difficulty moving the wrist

Symptoms that always occur with kienbock disease: wrist pain from an injury, pain in the back of the wrist

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a condition which causes inflammation of the joints. In most circumstances, psoriatic arthritis presents between the ages of 30 and 50 years and occurs after the manifestation of the symptoms of psoriasis, which is a disease of the skin. Psoriatic arthritis...

Severe Wrist Pain Treatments and Relief

When it is an emergency

Seek emergency severe wrist pain treatment if:

  • You have any of the following symptoms after an acute injury: significant swelling; tenderness to pressure at one specific spot; tingling or weakness in your fingers; or an abnormal angle of the wrist.
  • You have the following symptoms and a fever: You have rapid-onset severe wrist pain, swelling, and warmth, and/or had a recent injury that broke the skin over the wrist.

In some cases, even though emergency care isn't necessary, you may need evaluation and treatment.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your medical provider if:

  • Your wrist pain is preventing you from carrying out your usual daily activities
  • Your sleep is affected: You are waking up at night due to pain.
  • Your wrist pain does not resolve over time or gets progressively worse
  • You have additional symptoms: Such as swelling and stiffness
  • You have tingling pain in your fingers

Medical treatments

Your medical provider may prescribe one or more of the following treatments, depending on the cause of your severe wrist pain:

  • Steroid injections: To help with pain and inflammation
  • Medication for arthritis: To slow the progression of inflammatory forms of arthritis
  • Medications to treat a current attack of gout: And prevent future attacks
  • Application of a splint to immobilize the wrist
  • Referral for surgical management: If other treatments are not effective

At-home treatments

Some home treatments may help with severe wrist pain.

  • Ice packs: Applying an ice pack for up to 15 minutes a few times a day can help ease pain and swelling due to arthritis or an injury.
  • NSAIDs: Such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help with pain
  • Move the wrist: Gently move the wrist from time to time in all directions to maintain range of motion.
  • Avoiding shellfish, red meat, and alcohol: This can help prevent attacks of gout in those predisposed to this illness.

FAQs About Severe Wrist Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about severe wrist pain.

Why is my wrist swollen and painful?

A variety of conditions can cause wrist swelling and severe pain. If you recently fell onto your hand, there may be an injury such as a fracture. If the swelling and pain are more chronic, arthritis or an overuse injury could be the cause. Sudden pain and swelling without a preceding injury could be caused by gout or an infection in the joint.

Why do I have tingling pain in my wrist and fingers?

A tingling, painful sensation in the wrist and fingers is likely due to compression of a nerve. In the common condition carpal tunnel syndrome, the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome typically causes pain and tingling in the wrist, thumb, first two fingers, and the half of the ring finger closest to the thumb. The pain is often particularly noticeable at night [5].

Can severe wrist pain be due to arthritis?

Yes, arthritis can occur in the wrist and can cause severe pain along with stiffness and swelling. The wrist can be affected by an inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or by osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear arthritis common in older people. An injury to the wrist earlier in life causes a predisposition to the development of osteoarthritis. In addition, wrist pain can result from arthritis caused by abnormal crystals in the joint, such as gout or pseudogout.

Can falling on the hand result in a wrist injury?

Falling on the hand with the arm stretched out is a common cause of injuries in the wrist. Severe wrist pain can result from a fracture of one or more of the arm and hand bones that meet to create the wrist joint. A fall onto the hand can also result in a dislocation of the wrist, where the bones are displaced from their normal positions. A fracture or dislocation will cause pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the wrist.

Why do I have severe pain in only one wrist?

Many causes of severe wrist pain will be present on only one side. Arthritis may affect just one wrist. This is particularly likely for gout or pseudogout, in which attacks typically occur in one joint at a time [6]. An injury or infection may occur in only one of the wrists. In addition, depending on how you use your wrists, one is likely more vulnerable to overuse injuries than the other.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Severe Wrist Pain

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Push the backs of your hands together like in this picture, and hold for 1 minute. Do you notice any numbness, tingling, or pain in either of your fingers/hands? (This is called the Phalen's maneuver.)
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Lightly tap on your inner wrist. Does this cause your symptoms to reappear?
  • Is your wrist pain worse when holding something?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your severe wrist pain

Severe Wrist Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced severe wrist pain have also experienced:

  • 5% Wrist Pain
  • 5% Wrist Stiffness
  • 4% Hand Tingling

People who have experienced severe wrist pain were most often matched with:

  • 50% Wrist Sprain
  • 37% Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • 12% Contusion Of The Wrist

People who have experienced severe wrist pain had symptoms persist for:

  • 32% Over a month
  • 26% Less than a week
  • 21% Less than a day

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Severe Wrist Pain Symptom Checker

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  1. Hand and Wrist Anatomy. Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Foundation Link.
  2. Ulnar Sided Wrist Pain. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Published 2015. ASSH Link.
  3. Jennings CD, Brubacher JW. Arthritis of the Wrist. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: OrthoInfo. Updated April 2016. OrthoInfo Link.
  4. Skeete K, Hess EP, Clark T, Moran S, Kakar S, Rizzo M. Epidemiology of Suspected Wrist Joint Infection Versus Inflammation. Journal of Hand Surgery. 2011;36(3):469-474. NCBI Link.
  5. Jennings CD, Faust K. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: OrthoInfo. Updated July 2016. OrthoInfo Link.
  6. Gout and Pseudogout. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Published 2013. ASSH Link.

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.