3 Treatments for Wrist Tendonitis
Wrist tendonitis is a common condition in which the tendons of the wrist become irritated and inflamed, most often from overuse. These types of overuse injuries can happen in athletes, fiber artists, avid video games, and anyone who uses a keyboard or laptop to type for long periods.
There are various ways to treat wrist tendonitis, but treatments focused on targeting the source and strengthening the muscles will minimize flare-ups in the future. Let’s take a look:
Causes of Wrist Tendonitis
Tendonitis is an umbrella term for inflammation of the tendons, which surround and support your joints, most often caused by overuse. Tendonitis differs from an acute sprain or strain because it’s not caused by sudden trauma, such as catching yourself with your hands when you fall. It’s also different from arthritis because arthritis refers to the wearing away or breaking down of the tissues around the joints, including tendons, that eventually causes the bones of the joint to rub together.
Wrist tendonitis is often caused by repetitive movements, such as typing or sewing for long periods without taking breaks or using proper posture and ergonomic tools (such as a wrist rest). Athletes who utilize their wrist muscles, like tennis plays or golfers, can also develop tendonitis in the wrist from repetitive movements.
Symptoms of Wrist Tendonitis
If you think you might have wrist tendonitis, consider if you experience the following symptoms:
- Pain, especially when moving the wrist
- Swelling, although often mild
- Tenderness in the joint when pressure is applied (i.e., squeezing the wrist)
- Weakness in the wrist, such as when holding or grasping something
You may also be able to hear a creaking sound when moving the wrist, which is less common but also indicates the possibility of tendonitis.
Tendonitis is often a chronic condition that can flare up occasionally. If you have multiple episodes of wrist pain as described above, it’s important to address it before a more severe injury occurs.
Wrist Tendonitis Treatments
1. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
While you probably don’t want to stop doing the activities causing your wrist tendonitis, it’s important to rest the area and allow the tendons to recover. A common approach is the RICE method, or rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
- Resting the affected joint for a few days and taking rest breaks throughout the day can help relieve sore tendons.
- Icing the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes a few times a day can also relieve pain from inflammation by temporarily restricting blood flow to the area.
- Compression, such as a wrist brace, can also help relieve pain and make activities more tolerable.
- Elevation also restricts blood flow and reduces swelling. The trick is to get the affected joint above your heart to the blood has to travel uphill, in a sense. Resting your arm on the back of your couch or laying down with your arm above your head can relieve swelling temporarily.
The RICE method is good for the temporary alleviation of symptoms or to help you get through the workday if the task causing your tendonitis is part of your job. However, to avoid causing significant damage, you should seek ways to treat the problem at its source.
2. Physical Therapy & Wrist Strengthening Exercises
Physical therapy is another treatment option for wrist tendonitis. Physical therapists can help you strengthen the muscles in and around your wrist, which can help reduce pain and improve function.
They may also have you perform exercises at home that will help with healing, such as stretching or strengthening exercises for other parts of the body, like your arms and shoulders. When these muscles are strengthened, they can take some of the strain off your wrists.
Your health insurance may cover physical therapy, so it’s worth looking into to preserve your joints — especially if you have multiple flare-ups or need your wrists for work.
Home Exercises for Wrist Tendonitis
If physical therapy isn’t right for you, you can still practice exercises at home or the gym to build that wrist strength. Many people who experience wrist tendonitis find some relief through simple exercises like wrist curls. Wrist curls are an excellent way to strengthen the muscles in your wrist, which can help prevent further damage and pain.
To do wrist curls, follow these instructions:
- Rest your arms on a flat surface, such as a table or bench, with your palms and forearms facing up.
- Make sure your hands and wrists are off the edge of your surface so they can bend freely up and down.
- Start with your wrists flexed so your palms face away from you entirely.
- Bend your wrists slowly to bring your hands toward you in a controlled movement.
- Flex your wrists back down.
- Repeat this exercise for ten reps, rest, and perform two to three sets of wrist curls.
You can add weights if you like, but start small. Even 2lbs hand weights can make a big difference! Check out some variations of the wrist curl in this article from VeryWellFit.
Doing wrist curls or other stretches and exercises to warm up your wrists before engaging in an activity is also recommended to prevent strain. Even if you’re knitting, typing, or gaming with a controller — the pros in these activities will tell you they warm up their joints like any athlete!
3. Laser Therapy for Wrist Tendonitis
Laser therapy is a non-invasive treatment that uses specific wavelengths of red and near-infrared light to reduce inflammation and pain. The light wavelengths used in laser therapy specifically target the mitochondria of the body’s cells, boosting the body’s energy transport systems and natural healing abilities. These processes repair damaged tissue and resolve inflammation quickly.
Laser therapy treatment for wrist tendonitis will take several short sessions over multiple weeks, but you should start to feel relief after just one or two sessions! During a session, a certified laser operator, like a doctor, physical therapist, or chiropractor, will apply laser light to your wrist over a few minutes. This treatment is painless, but you may feel slight warming in the joint or skin.
While this treatment can seem like a bigger commitment, it does target the source of the issue — repairing the overused, inflamed tissue. Laser therapy is an excellent addition to exercise and physical therapy to help speed up the tissue healing process, allowing you to see results more quickly while managing pain at the source.
Wrist tendonitis can be frustrating, especially if it’s disrupting your ability to work or do the things you enjoy — but it’s not something you have to live with forever. With the right treatment plan and some patience, you can take control of the pain and reduce the risk and severity of future flare-ups.
If you want to try laser therapy for wrist tendonitis, find an Aspen Laser provider near you!