Wrist Injury Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

There are a few types of wrist injury caused by three main categories of conditions - traumatic causes, positional causes, and inflammatory causes. For traumatic causes, usually a sports injury, wrist fractures, a broken bone, and wrist sprains are common. For positional causes, repetitive wear and tear in the same position can cause a condition called carpal tunnel syndrome and lead to wrist pain. For inflammatory causes, autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis is another cause. Read below for more details, treatments, and a free digital checker to help you navigate and recover from your wrist injury.

  1. Wrist Injury Symptoms
  2. Wrist Injury Causes
  3. 5 Possible Wrist Injury Conditions
  4. Wrist Injury Treatments & Prevention
  5. Real-Life Stories
  6. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  7. Statistics
  8. Related Articles
  9. References

Wrist Injury Symptoms

A wrist injury is often associated with traumatic events such as falls or sporting accidents that cause sprains or fractures. However, wrist injury symptoms can also stem from chronic issues such as repetitive stress and the normal aging process. The wrists are used so frequently and often that sometimes it is difficult to differentiate aches and pains from a wrist injury that requires prompt medical attention.

Common characteristics of wear-and-tear

If your wrist pain is related to normal wear-and-tear, you may experience:

  • Stiffness
  • Restricted movement
  • Transient numbness

Common characteristics of wrist injury

Symptoms of wrist pain that are the result of injury include:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Tingling
  • Persistent numbness
  • Weakness or decreased strength
  • Pain in the fingers or hand

It is important to be able to identify and differentiate these symptoms of wrist pain in order to prevent future damage and receive appropriate care. See a physician for any significant wrist injuries or if your pain worsens or persists.

Wrist Injury Causes

Many factors can lead to a wrist injury, making an accurate diagnosis from a physician is essential for proper treatment and care. The following details may help you better understand your symptoms.

The wrist is a joint with multiple components — bones, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons [1]. The wrist is susceptible to injury in numerous places. See this image for a visual representation. Any condition that causes stress, overuse, or damage to these components can result in wrist pain and injury.

Traumatic causes

Direct trauma to the wrist from a motor vehicle accident, for example, can cause significant trauma to the wrist. However, other causes can also result in injury.

  • Falls: Falling on an outstretched hand puts direct trauma on the wrist. Bones can easily shift and break, nerves and blood vessels can be pinched and severed, and muscles and ligaments can be torn.
  • Sports injuries: Similar to falls, wrist injuries are common in contact sports, such as football and hockey, and in sports that may involve falls, such as skiing, volleyball, or biking.

Positional causes

Positions such as typing and knitting put direct pressure on the nerves in the wrist and can cause chronic stress and injury [2]. These activities may seem benign, but when performed often, they can lead to a serious wrist injury.

Inflammatory causes

Processes that cause inflammation of the components of the wrist, especially the blood vessels and nerves, can lead to compression and resulting wrist pain and injury.

  • Arthritis: Arthritis is a term for multiple conditions that cause painful inflammation and stiffness of the bones and joints. Arthritic processes can affect many parts of the wrist and cause irritation that often leads to injury [3].
  • Cysts: Cysts are sacs that can be filled with fluid, air, or other material that can form in any part of the body. Cysts often occur in the wrist and cause pain that can lead to injury from constant inflammation [4].

5 Possible Wrist Injury Conditions

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

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...

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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

Wrist Injury Symptom Checker

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

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

Repetitive strain injury of the upper arm

Repetitive strain injury of the upper arm is caused by consistent repetitive use.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: upper arm pain from overuse, upper arm weakness, upper arm numbness

Symptoms that always occur with repetitive strain injury of the upper arm: upper arm pain from overuse

Symptoms that never occur with repetitive strain injury of the upper arm: upper arm injury, severe upper arm pain

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

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 working on an assembly line. Injuries can damage the carpal tunnel, as can arthritis, diabetes, and obesity.

Symptoms include numbness and shock-like pain in the wrist, palm, and fingers. There may be weakness in the hand when trying to hold an object. Carpal tunnel syndrome gets worse over time and may lead to permanent damage if not addressed.

Treatment options include supportive devices, stretching exercises, medications, and surgery.

Click the link above for more details.

Wrist Injury Treatments and Relief

At-home treatments

If your symptoms are a result of mal-positioning, try these self-care tips and suggestions for relief.

  • Practice ergonomics: If you spend much of your day typing at a keyboard or doing activities that put pressure on the wrist, make time for regular breaks. Keep your wrists in a relaxed, neutral position when you type and consider using foam supports and keyboards that decrease tension on your wrist [5].
  • Use protective gear during sports activities: Use wrist guards during activities such as snowboarding, rollerblading, gymnastics, and tennis.
  • Hazard-proof the home: Try to replace slippery rugs and mats, install handrails in the bathroom or shower, and illuminate spaces to prevent accidental trips.
  • Apply ice then heat: Put ice on your wrist to help reduce pain and relax sore or tight muscles. Limit application of ice or heat to 20 minutes at a time. You can do this every couple of hours for relief.
  • Build up your bones: Take calcium supplements to strengthen your bones and prevent fractures. Make sure you're eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.

When to see a doctor

See your doctor promptly if you have symptoms of a significant wrist injury (bruising, shooting pain, numbness or tingling). Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor may suggest:

  • Physical therapy or rehabilitation: Your doctor may prescribe stretching exercises or a physical therapy/rehabilitation program to help you restore range of motion, strength, and stability to your wrist. If you have a broken bone, you may need a cast or splint to help hold the fractured pieces together during the healing process. Even if your wrist injury is due to a sprain, you may need to wear a splint to protect the wrist.
  • Non-inflammatory medications: Your doctor may prescribe this type of medication to combat arthritic processes that are causing wrist pain and injury [6].
  • Surgery: If at-home remedies and medication options from your doctor do not provide relief, you and your doctor may look into surgical options [7].

Real-life Stories

Once your story is reviewed and approved by our editors, it will live on Buoy as a helpful resource for anyone who may be dealing with something similar. If you want to learn more, try Buoy Assistant.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Wrist Injury

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

  • Did you just suffer from a high impact injury (e.g., a fall, collision, accident or sports trauma)?
  • Press on the thumb along the hand. Does this hurt?
  • How would you describe your wrist injury?
  • Do you have difficulty moving your thumb?

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

Wrist Injury Symptom Checker

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

Wrist Injury Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced wrist injury have also experienced:

  • 13% Wrist Pain
  • 10% Wrist Stiffness
  • 6% Hand Tingling

People who have experienced wrist injury were most often matched with:

  • 44% Wrist Sprain
  • 44% Buckle Fracture Of Distal Radius
  • 11% Contusion Of The Wrist

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

Wrist Injury Symptom Checker

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


  1. Hand and Wrist Anatomy. Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Foundation Link.
  2. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Published January 2017. NINDS Link.
  3. What is Arthritis? Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Foundation Link.
  4. Charles DJ, Stuart JF. Ganglion Cyst of the Wrist and Hand. American Academy. Published March 7, 2018. OrthoInfo Link
  5. Ergonomics: The Study of Work. U.S. Department of Labor: Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Published 2000. OSHA Link.
  6. Medications to Treat Hands and Wrists. Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Foundation Link.
  7. Hand and Wrist Surgery. Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Foundation Link.

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