Wrist Tendonitis Information

Wrist tendonitis, also known as tenosynovitis, is a common wrist condition characterized by irritation, pain and inflammation of the tendons around the wrist joint. There are several large tendons running into the wrist and tendonitis usually only effects one tendon, but in more severe cases more tendons may be effected. Because wrist tendonitis inflames the tendons, the worst effected areas are usually where the tendons cross over each other or are close to the bone.

Anatomy of the Wrist

Below you will find an image of the wrist which illustrates the area where the wrist tendonitis pain will be felt. The area circled on this image is where the tendons bunch together through the carpal tunnel area into the hand.

Causes of Wrist Tendonitis

Wrist tendonitis is caused by repetitive use. The condition is common amoungst people that work with computers (in particular people who use the mouse a lot. eg, designers), people working in factorys and athletes. Activites like throwing, catching, bowling, hitting a tennis ball, typing, or sewing have been known to cause wrist tendonitis.

As with all types of tendonits, older people are much more at risk than younger people. As you get older your tendons lose their elasticity and can become brittle. This makes them more likely to become inflamed.

Common Symptoms

The first signs of wrist tendonitis will be a slight pain felt in the area where the arm meets the hand (see diagram). In the initial stages this pain is usually only felt when the wrist is under strain (this could be when you're working or playing sport). As the wrist tendonitis develops the pain may be felt throughout the day, whether your wrist is under strain or not. You will feel this pain when trying to move the wrist in any direction.

Other symptoms that may develop include: (1) stiffness of the wrist and inability to flex wrist fully, (2) inflammation and swelling of the wrist area, (3) a feeling of heat or redness around the wrist area and (4) swelling of the wrist.

Wrist Tendonitis Treatment

In most cases wrist tendonitis can be treated without visiting the doctor. There are 3 steps you can take at home before seeing your doctor. These 3 steps are:

  1. Immobilize the Wrist
    Placing the wrist in a splint or a cast is the first treatment step. Wrist tendonitis is due to recurrent irritation of the tendon and its sheath. By resting the tendon, the inflammation should decrease.
  2. Apply Ice
    Ice is one of the best methods of reducing inflammation and swelling. Ice also promotes blood flow to the area. You should apply ice intermittently throughout the day. Do not apply ice directly to the area, wrap the ice pack in a towel.
  3. Anti-Inflammatory Medications
    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications will help control symptoms of pain, but more importantly they help in the treatment of wrist tendonitis to decrease inflammation and swelling of the soft-tissues. These treatment medications will decease the inflammatory response which is the cause of the pain.

If you have followed the above steps and the wrist tendonitis symptoms do not start to get better you may have to see your doctor. Your doctor may recommend you get cortisone injections. Cortisone is a more powerful anti-inflammatory treatment and is only usually recommended in severe cases. The last resort in treating wrist tendonitis is surgery. Surgery is very rare and only used is all other treatment options have failed. During wrist surgery all the inflamed wrist tissue is removed to make more space for the tendon to move freely.


Preventing wrist tendonitis is much easier than treating it. If you undertake activities that may put stress on the wrist you should always make sure you warm up the wrist area before beginning such activities. You can warm up your wrist by stretching and flexing it in various directions. Twisting the wrist 360 degrees slowly is also a good method.

If job involves constant wrist movements that may result in tendonitis occurring you should take regular breaks, make sure you have an ergonomic workstation and adequate wrist supports. For factory workers a wrist brace is recommended.

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