Wrist tendinitis or the more proper name, tendinopathy, is a common condition that causes pain and limited function on either side of the wrist. The term tendonitis often refers to acute inflammation of the tendons that cross the wrist into the hand and the term tendinopathy is often used for ongoing more chronic conditions. The symptoms of tendinopathy often consist of pain, swelling, stiffness, or warmth in the wrist associated with activity or specific movements usually involving finger or wrist movements. These symptoms are almost always located directly at the site of the effected tendon and are made worse by heavy gripping, twisting motions like removing a lid to a jar, or prolonged/new use of a tool. Athletic activities that place high loads on the tendons such as rock climbing, tennis or golf can also lead to wrist tendon pain.
Tendons are normally very strong, ropelike structures that attach between the muscles and the bones and cause our fingers, hands and arms to move when the muscles contract. The onset of symptoms is commonly due to large increases in physical activity that loads the tendon much more than what it is normally used to. This can be something simple such as typing with your wrist at an over extended angle or performing heavy gardening activity for the first time in a while. When this breakdown occurs at a higher rate than the body can repair it, the result is often pain, inflammation and limited function. When the tendons are in a more chronic state of overload, they can begin to break down and have lower tolerance to activity.
A variety of factors play a role in the development of tendonitis such as age, sex, biomechanics,
conditioning/fitness, prolonged inactivity, hormones, genetics, medications, and body composition.
There are a number of treatments available to help with tendinopathy. When the problem is in the acute stage or reactive stage, reducing the load and giving the tendon a break is very useful. This includes modification of the intensity, duration, frequency and type of activity and could include ergonomic changes, a splint, or taping to help reduce the load on the tendon. Over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are also found to be very effective in this phase. A graded return to activity and exercise are key to optimal recovery.
If the tendon is in the later or degenerative stage, exercise, particularly eccentric exercise, has been shown to improve both tendon structure and pain. The combination of a structured exercise program, a graded return to activity and improving the quality of movement are key in returning to the things the patients wants and needs to do.