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Sudden intense wrist pain that won't go away

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I woke up one morning recently with intense wrist pain in my left wrist. I am right hand dominant. My grip is weak and it is painful to rotate the wrist in any direction. It is also painful to grip anything and moving my fingers causes pain. There is no visible swelling, redness, or bruising. The wrist is tender to the touch in the center of the wrist on the palm side of the hand. I've been taking ibuprofen but it's not really helping and the pain has only intensified over the past week. I've begun wearing a brace which mitigates the pain enough for me to barely function. I work in a lab so use of my hands is imperative. There was no injury or traumatic event. I was fine the evening before and woke up the next morning with the pain. There is no numbness or tingling, just intense joint pain. What is happening? I'm more than a little concerned.

-kadiya3
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replied January 3rd, 2012
Especially eHealthy
kadiya3,

From the constellation and location of your symptoms, you may be having some tenosynovitis of the flexor tendons.

On the volar (palmar) side of the wrist, there is a lot of soft tissue, before you actually get to the wrist bones proper. You have the median nerve, a bunch of flexor tendons (9 of which go through the carpal tunnel), and a square shaped muscle called the pronator quadratus. So, pain not associated with numbness or tingling, in that region is most likely coming from the tendons and their sheaths.

Also, the problem with grasping and finger motion, goes along with the tendons. All of the finger flexors are located there (they are 8 of the 9 tendons going through the carpal tunnel).

At the level of the wrist, the tendons are encased in a sheath, which allows them to glide smoothly. These synovial sheaths can become inflamed from improper positioning and compression. Which may have occured while sleeping.


Something what would be going on within the carpal joints of the wrist, would usually also be painful on the dorsal (back of hand) aspect of the wrist. The wrist joint is much closer to the surface here. There is basically only the skin and a few tendons over the joints. Also, many joint problems cause swelling in the joint.


You've done the first step, which would be to try some immobilization and over the counter NSAIDs. If this does not do the trick, then you may need to see a hand surgeon. First for a thorough evaluation to determine exactly what is going on and then also for further treatment.

Good luck.
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