March 01, 2019

Wrist osteoarthritis

Taming flare-ups and pain

The wrist that you broke all those years ago has been causing a dull ache in recent months. After a weekend spent painting two rooms, the dull ache has become much more painful. You have to use your other hand for even basic tasks such as turning a doorknob.

The wrist is a complicated joint, and wrist pain can have many causes. One common source of wrist pain in older adults is osteoarthritis — sometimes called wear-and-tear arthritis.

Twists and turns

The wrist is made up of eight small bones — that look like a handful of macadamia nuts — with various joint surfaces. A wrist joint is the interface between your forearm and finger bones. Wrists give your hands a wide range of motion and are quite durable considering the high volume of use and stress they take.

The joint surfaces of each of your wrist bones are covered by a smooth and slippery lining (cartilage) that facilitates easy, pain-free movement. Osteoarthritis occurs when areas of cartilage wear away and roughen. With wrist osteoarthritis, cartilage wear is usually preceded by a wrist fracture or some kind of ligament damage. This leads to uneven loading of joint surfaces, which leads to wear over time. Eventually, cartilage may wear away in spots and allow bone to rub on bone.

A key symptom is pain throughout the wrist area. Pain often develops over time, but can sometimes come on due to a specific event. Once pain develops, it's often aggravated by wrist overuse or strain,...