• Mayo Clinic Minute: Relief for achy wrists

With problems such as wrist sprains, carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis, it’s easy to see why wrist pain is a very common ailment. But there is a multitude of other achy wrist conditions, too.

“The problem is it’s very confusing,” says Dr. Sanj Kakar, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon. “And one of the key things is that each of these is not mutually exclusive. If you treat the conditions individually and don’t appreciate the spectrum of injury, that’s when you can get into some difficulty in terms of recovery.”  Where do you start in finding relief? Ian Roth gathered some expert advice.

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Dr. Kakar says wrists are one of the body’s most underappreciated load-bearing joints.  “Absolutely. If you think of your forearm, basically you have an ulnar bone and everything rotates around this,” he says as he points at the arm bone adjoining the heel of the palm.

Add in the mechanics of gripping or heavy lifting when an injury exists, Dr. Kakar says, "and [patients] classically have pain right in this area and this is something that really causes them to stop what they’re doing and, sort of, to seek treatment.”

Diagnosis involves isolating the problem to bones, cartilage, tendons ligaments or muscles, perhaps even multiple tissues. If surgery is required, there are many minimally invasive options.

Although, Dr. Kakar says surgery can generally be avoided. “Hand therapy with a dedicated hand therapist can work very well in doing stretching exercises, for example, ultrasound or therapies such as [the mild electrical current] of iontophoresis. Those things can help.”

Immediately after a wrist injury, Dr. Kakar says to remember the acronym RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression with a wrap or splint, and elevating the joint. Dr. Kakar says if wrist pain continues to get worse or lingers beyond a few days without improvement, it’s a good idea to have it checked out by a health care professional.

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