wrist flexion

Wrist Flexion Pain- Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Wrist Flexion is the action of bending the hand and wrist so that the palm of the hand is facing the underside of the arm. It belongs to the normal range of movement of the wrist. If the bending of your wrist is normal, then the muscles, bones and tendons that make up your wrist function as they should. However, there are certain health conditions that may stop you being able to flex your wrist.

What Is Wrist Flexion

Stretching is part of a normal range of movement of the wrist. Flexion is the opposite of extension. When you create flexion in your wrist, your palm is stretch to the underside of your arm. When you create an extension of the wrist, you raise your hand upwards. The image below shows the difference between wrist flexion and extension:

wrist flexion and extension
Wrist flexion and extension diagram.

Wrist Flexion Pain

If you do not have normal wrist flexion or extension, you may have problems with daily tasks that affect the wrist or hand. The most common cause of wrist pain (pain when bending the wrist) is overuse of the wrist. This can be caused by repetitive movements such as those played in sports such as tennis or from long periods of time spent on a computer. Other causes of wrist flexion pain may include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: This type of carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by an increased pressure on the median nerve that flows through a passage in the palm of the hand or at the side of the wrist. This pressure can cause pain. In most cases it is a kind of overuse injury.
  • Ganglion cysts: Ganglion cysts can disappear by themselves, but need to be removed if surgery is necessary. These are soft cysts that occur on the top of the wrists. They do not cause symptoms or visible bumps, but can be painful and prevent your wrist from moving normally.
  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis can cause pain in wrist flexion. It can cause pain in one or both wrists. It is more common for the pain to be caused by rheumatoid arthritis rather than osteoarthritis.
  • Injury or trauma to the wrist: Sudden impact injuries or traumas to the wrists, such as a fall which causes you to land on the wrist, can cause wrist flexure pain. You may need to get an X-Ray to rule out a sprain or fracture.
wrist flexion pain
Repetitive strain injury caused by working on a computer can cause wrist flexion pain.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will take a general medical history and ask you about any problems with the flexion of your wrist. To narrow down possible causes, your doctor may ask about recent injuries, hobbies, or what you do outside of work and for work. He or she may also ask whether the pain is worse at different times of the day or has worsened over time.

Your doctor can measure how much you move your wrist by asking you to perform a series of movements. This will help him or her to see if your wrist flexure is affected.

A physical examination and medical history should be enough for your doctor to make a diagnosis. If your doctor is unsure or you have recently had an injury, they may suggest an X-ray or MRI to diagnose the problem.

wrist xray
Your doctor may order further tests if you have had an injury.

Wrist Tendonitis

Wrist tendonitis (also called spelt tendinitis) is an inflammation of one or more tendons in the wrist. The inflammation can cause symptoms such as pain, swelling, stiffness and warmth in the wrists. Motions like opening and closing the hand, bending or twisting the wrist in one (or more) directions can be painful. It can also be caused by small (micro) tears in the tendons as a result of sudden or repeated injuries.

Wrist tendonitis is often misdiagnosed instead of Tendinosis (also spelt Tendonosis). Tendinosis is a chronic condition that is non-inflammatory, instead the collagen fibres of the wrist tendon begin to break down and degenerate. This is caused by excessive overuse that has not had time to heal. Tendinosis has similar symptoms to wrist tendonitis, including pain, weakness and stiffness. Both Tendinosis and Tendonitis are caused by repetitive use, but Tendinosis is a more severe case.

causes of wrist pain
Causes of wrist pain diagram by Very Well Health.

Treatment And Exercises

Gentle stretching and flexibility exercises are a great way to improve wrist mobility and build strength. Consult with your doctor or physical therapist before trying these exercises to ensure no further injury is caused:

Flexion and extension of wrist: With your arm laying flat on a table, hang your wrist and hand over the edge. Keep palms faced down. Gently raise and release just your hand. Hold for a few seconds and repeat 10 times. You may use a light weight for added intensity.

dumbbell wrist flexion
Image showing wrist flexion and extension exercise using a dumbell.

Side to side wrist bends: This one is very simple. You are bending your wrist from left to right while your palm remains flat. It is known as a radial to ulnar wrist deviation. If you can, hold the position on each side for a few seconds. Repeat 10 times on each side.

wrist bends
Image showing radial to ulnar wrist deviation.

Flexion and extension stretch: This one is similar to the first exercise but without the use of a table. Hold the wrist in an extension position with arm extended straight. You can use your other hand to support the wrist. Hold for a few seconds. And repeat the same stretch with a flexion wrist position. You can do this also at the side.

wrist stretch
Image showing wrist flexion and extension stretch assisted by the other hand.

The exercises listed above can help to treat problems with wrist flexion. Other treatments include:

  • icing the affected area to reduce pain and swelling
  • adjust your wrist seating position if the problem is caused by typing or other repetitive office work
  • rest if the problem is caused by repetitive movements
  • use splints and wrist supports
  • visit a physical therapist
  • surgery for Ganglion cysts, carpel tunnel syndrome and injuries
  • corticosteroid injections

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