Friday, January 14, 2011
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Wrist pain, stiffness and weakness may be signs of arthritis. The most common cause of wrist arthritis is a past trauma or fracture in the affected wrist area. The January issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter provides an overview of wrist arthritis and simple steps to reduce pain and maintain function.
Many home care and medical treatment options can help, including:
- Using wrists wisely: Simple changes or adjustments can avoid pain-causing movements. For example, lever-style door handles can be installed if turning a doorknob causes pain.
- Heat or cold: Electric heat pads or a warm-water soak can ease pain, reduce stiffness and relax tense muscles. An ice pack wrapped in cloth, or hand soaks in cool to cold water can help reduce pain in the event of a flare-up from too much activity. Some people find contrast baths helpful, with an initial hand soak in warm water (100 to 110 F) for five to 10 minutes. The second soak is in cooler water (65 to 75 F) for about one minute. The alternating soaks should continue for about 30 minutes, ending with the warm water.
- Topical pain-relieving drugs: The prescription gel diclofenac (Voltaren, Solaraze, others) can be rubbed directly on the skin around the affected joint. Topical products that contain methyl salicylate (BenGay, Icy Hot, others) or capsaicin (Capzasin, Zostrix, others) also may reduce pain.
- Pain medications: Nonprescription pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen or naproxen can ease arthritis pain. However, regular use of these medications can cause serious side effects.
- Splints: A splint can provide the wrist support needed to recover from a pain flare-up. Splints can be purchased in drugstores or custom-made.
- Corticosteroid injections: An injection of this anti-inflammatory medicine can reduce pain and swelling for weeks to months. However, injected medications can cause cumulative damage on tendons and cartilage. Many Mayo Clinic hand specialists allow no more than three injections in the same site, even if the injections are spread over several years.
Wrist pain can have many other causes, including rheumatoid arthritis, or may be related to Lyme disease, gout or autoimmune problems such as lupus. A careful examination is required to make a diagnosis and determine a treatment plan.
Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of reliable, accurate and practical information on today's health and medical news. To subscribe, please call 800-333-9037 (toll-free), extension 9771, or visit Mayo Clinic Health Letter Online.
About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education for people from all walks of life. For more information, visit MayoClinic.com or MayoClinic.org/news.
Journalists can become a member of the Mayo Clinic News Network for the latest health, science and research news and access to video, audio, text and graphic elements that can be downloaded or embedded.