Tendinitis in wrists: Causes, symptoms, exercises, and home remedies

Wrist tendinitis Wrist tendinitis is literally the inflammation of the wrist. This term can be a bit misleading, however, as studies have shown, there is in fact very little inflammation associated with the overuse of the wrist, which is what theoretically leads to the wrist tendinitis. Actually, the damage is more associated with the degeneration of collagen and the disorientation of other molecules and fibers in the wrist area.

The wrist itself is formed by the joining of the longer radius and ulna bones with the smaller set of carpal bones. The wrist and what is referred to as the finger flexors make it possible for your wrist and fingers to bend forward. The wrist and what is called the finger extensors do the opposite. They straighten and bend back the wrist and fingers. All activities performed by the wrist and fingers owe its activity to these bones.

Wrist tendinitis causes


The primary cause of wrist tendinitis is overuse of that area. The constant or repetitive use of the wrist wears on the tendons. We see a lot of this with athletes playing sports that require them to continually use their wrist muscles. Sports such as golf and tennis are the main athletic culprits, with other sports such as gymnastics also contributing to this condition.

Although these types of injuries often occur in athletes, they are not limited to just this one group. Careers such as painting or landscaping, carpentry, or even the regular use of a hammer can cause wrist tendinitis. Even further, hobbies like gardening or sewing, or working on a computer all day contribute to the tendinitis pain in the wrist.

On other occasions, simply lifting something heavy or falling on your wrist can initiate tendinitis. On top of that, a medical history of back or shoulder pain is also a contributing factor to the onset of wrist tendinitis.

Wrist tendinitis signs and symptoms

Pain in the wrist area is probably the most telling sign of tendinitis in the wrist. If you regularly participate in the activities mentioned above and experience this pain, chances are, the tendinitis is the cause of that pain.

But there are other symptoms that point to possible wrist tendinitis. Swelling in the wrist area is one sign, a sort of grinding sensation when you move your wrist is another indication, and the warming or redness of tendons are considered precursors to wrist tendinitis.

A physician should be able to decipher tendinitis by performing routine tests. Stretching the tendons will help precisely pinpoint the origins of the pain and help the doctor make more accurate suggestions for treatment. It’s important that you do not attempt to self-diagnose your condition. When dealing with tendons and muscles, the effects can linger and worsen if not treated properly. That can only happen with the proper diagnosis by a medical professional.

Treatment options for wrist tendinitis

Relieving wrist tendinitis can be achieved in several ways.

  • Immobilizing the wrist: Normally, the first step of treatment is placing the wrist in a splint or even a cast. This will prevent one of the primary causes of wrist tendinitis, which is repetitive movements, and help rest the tendons so the inflammation is given time to reduce.
  • Icing the area: Ice is good for two things. First, it helps increase the blood flow to the area. Next, it reduces any inflammation that may have arisen because of the tendinitis.
  • Medications to reduce inflammation: The inflammation of the tendons is typically what causes the most pain. Taking anti-inflammatory medication will help ease much of the pain and decrease any swelling.
  • Injection of cortisone: This is an option that should not be done too often. It works much like anti-inflammatory medication, except that the repeated use of cortisone can actually make the tendons weaker over time.
  • Surgery: The very last option is to have surgery on your wrist area to heal the tendinitis. Surgeons will either remove the inflamed tissue or release the tendon sheath responsible for pain.
  • Shockwave therapy: The use of high-energy sound waves to the site of inflammation to relieve pain.
  • Autologous blood injections: Using the patient’s own blood to be injected into the area near the damaged tendons. This treatment is believed to promote the healing process.

Exercises for wrist tendinitis

Exercising the affected wrist area is fairly simple and straightforward. Wrist bends, wrist rotations, and side wrist bends done twice a day should be enough. The key is to be consistent and not skip any days of therapy. The following are some exercise you can try right now.

Wrist stretches: There are several exercises you can to do stretch the wrist. The simplest one is to gently roll your wrists in a clockwise fashion for 15 seconds and then reverse, do this for as long as you see fit. Another wrist exercise is to hold one hand in front of you with palms facing outward and then, with the other hand, gently ease the fingers of the outstretched hand backward, feeling the stretch as you do so.

Thumb stretch: Begin by making a “thumbs-up” gesture with one hand and then lightly press the base of your thumb forward with the other hand, feeling the stretch as you apply light pressure.

Flexion exercises: Refers to pivoting the wrist down so that the palm moves closer to the inside of your arm. This exercise can be performed with an outstretched hand, with the palm facing downward, while you lower fingers face toward the ground, feeling the stretch.

Extension exercises: Refers to moving the wrist so that back to the hand approaches the top of the arm. This exercise can be performed with an outstretched hand, with the palm facing downward, and raising your fingers towards the ceiling.

Tendon gliding exercises: Begin with a flat hand, then use your fingers of the same hand to touch the top of your palm, then back again. Now reach for the center of your palm, then to the bottom. To exercise the thumb, move it back and forth from your palm then back to “thumbs up” position. This exercise helps to improve tendon lubrication for greater ease of motion.

Home remedies for wrist tendinitis

Much of the home remedies you can do to treat the tendinitis in your wrists resemble the regular treatments. Lots of rest, immobilizing the wrist area by putting it in a splint or possibly even a cast, and icing the affected area are all suitable remedies. The splint is something you may need help with, but the other two options are ones you can do with no help at all.

Regardless of the severity of your tendinitis, rest will always be part of the treatment. As we’ve mentioned, tendinitis is caused by the constant moving of the wrist area, so giving it the appropriate amount of time to rest will in some way reduce the inflammation and at least some of the pain.

It’s also important to make sure you take tendinitis seriously. Though it can start out as being an annoying pain, it can develop into an ongoing condition that requires surgery. At its worst, tendinitis is debilitating and can make you miss work and hamper any physical activity. The sooner your condition gets diagnosed and treated, the smaller the chances of your tendinitis lingering. Quick and effective treatment in the short term can prevent these long-term issues.


Taking a time out from any activity causing your case of wrist tendinitis is highly recommended. Activities that commonly overuse this joint include gardening, housework, typing, using hand tools, and working at a cash register, among others. It is important to limit these activities when symptoms arise with greater immobilization being achieved when using splints, wraps, or braces around the area. These devices help to prevent the wrist from bending and promote the healing process.

Herbal remedies for wrist tendinitis

While herbal medication may have its place in medicine, it is highly recommended to speak to a doctor first before starting any new herbal treatment. This is important because certain types of alternative medications, especially herbs, can still affect the body in a negative way.

  • Devil’s claw: Can be used as an effective pain reliever for symptoms of tendinitis.
  • Licorice roots: May help reduce the number of free radicals in the body. Licorice root is also known for having anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Fenugreek: Has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that may benefit cases of tendinitis.
  • Curcumin: Considered a strong pain reliever, while also having powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Ginseng roots: A popular herb known for its great pain relieving properties.
  • Cranberry: Extracts of this herb are often used in combination with other herbs for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Prevention of wrist tendinitis

It is also a good idea to prevent injury before it happens, as it is often more troublesome to deal with cases of tendinitis once excessive levels of inflammation are present. Taking this in to account, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk, such as adjusting the way your life heavy objects or adjusting your grip. The following are some additional tendinitis tips you may benefit from:

  • Wear a wrist splint or wrap during high-risk activities that may cause tendinitis
  • Stretch your wrist tendons and use heat to warm them up before any strenuous activity
  • See a doctor when if you feel your particular tendinitis case requires immediate medical attention

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.



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