Common Causes For Sharp Pain in Wrists

Common Causes For Sharp Pain in Wrists

This content was updated for accuracy and relevance on 02/13/2024.

Ever wondered, “Why does my wrist hurt?” when you have no coherent injury? If so, you are not alone. Sudden sharp pain in your wrist is not normal; it’s important to investigate the source of the pain immediately, so you can prevent it in the future. Many of us might assume that sharp wrist pain comes simply from typing heavily on a keyboard, working in the office for a long period of time with their wrist bent, or other work routines that cause wrist and sometimes hand pain. However, this wrist pain when bending could actually be caused by a deeper, underlying joint pain trigger known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).

If your severe wrist pain is accompanied by swelling, discomfort, numbness, tingling, or other symptoms, it is highly recommended to visit a physical therapist to uncover the underlying cause. Below, we’ll discuss common wrist pain causes, carpal tunnel syndrome, and carpal tunnel prevention.

Why do I have sharp pain in my wrist?

What causes sudden wrist pain? When you are experiencing a symptom like increased pain when bending your hand or wrist, it may be due to a significant amount of pressure or repetitive movement that’s placed on your hand and wrist joint, where the joint is bent for an extended period of time. This can be caused by:

  • Sleep position
  • Activities such as repetitive hand movements over time
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • A possible wrist injury, or wrist fracture
  • Ligament damage

On the palm-side of your wrist, you’ll find a nerve tunnel known as the carpal tunnel. Nerves run all throughout the tunnels in our hands and wrists, and a nerve called the “median nerve” runs through this particular carpal tunnel. When the carpal tunnel in the wrist is squeezed for extended periods of time, or swollen nerves pinch it, you’ll begin to experience severe pain in your wrists. Other common symptoms can include

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Wrist swelling

What does tendonitis feel like in the wrist?

Wrist tendonitis is an inflammation of the wrist tendon, also typically caused by overuse or awkward bent angles. While carpal tunnel is caused by compression of the nerve, tendonitis is inflammation and wrist swelling. The location of your sudden wrist pain and wrist discomfort can help pinpoint exactly what your joint pain cause is.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs on the palm side of the wrist, potentially with a tingling that moves to the thumb, index, and middle fingers, while wrist tendonitis occurs on the other side of the wrist. There may be numbness in the pinky finger instead, which could be the result of an inflamed flexor tendon. If you want to stop waking up with numb hands, there are steps you can take to treat your wrist and hand pain.

How to treat wrist pain

Chronic wrist and hand pain can be treated in a few ways.

  • Wear a wrist splint: It’s important to try to avoid pinching the carpal tunnel, and one item that is really beneficial for this is a wrist splint. A wrist splint works effectively by holding the wrist in a neutral position so nerves can flow freely in your wrist.
  • Take medication: If you are experiencing chronic pain and swelling, a cold pack can help to reduce this. Anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen may also help to reduce the sharp pain in wrist.

When to see a doctor for wrist pain

A professional doctorate in physical therapy can help evaluate the cause of your wrist problems and assist with solutions. If you have tried the above home wrist pain treatment options and are still experiencing chronic pain, a physical therapist or occupational therapist can help.

The Ivy Rehab Network has many clinics and therapists that are experts in the hand & wrist, and can help alleviate chronic hand and wrist pain. Our specialists know how to treat sharp pain in the wrist and other common symptoms with nonsurgical treatment to reduce swelling and numbness and for pain relief.

Whether you may require nonsurgical treatment or hand surgery, our rehabilitation physical therapy specialist will help get you on the right path towards recovery. So, if you seek treatment for hand pain or ulnar wrist pain, you can request an appointment at your nearest location by clicking here.

Article Reviewed by Holly Lookabaugh-Deur, PT, DSc, GCS, CEEAA

Holly Lookabaugh-Deur, PT, DSc, GCS, CEEAA is a practicing physical therapist and a partner and Director of Clinical Services at Ivy Rehab Network. Deur is board certified as a geriatric clinical specialist and certified exercise expert for aging adults with more than 35 years of clinical experience.  She is certified as an aquatic and oncology rehabilitation specialist and serves as adjunct faculty at Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University.  

The medical information contained herein is provided as an information resource only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultation with healthcare professionals. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. IvyRehab Network, Inc. disclaims any and all responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained herein.

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