Physical Therapy for Wrist Tendonitis
A systematic study reveals that 10% of all injuries involving wrist pain are caused by athletic activities or demanding occupations. Over the years, typing and excessive use of digital devices (like smartphones, game consoles, and iPads) have contributed to increased wrist injuries. Age and lifestyle choices are other factors that influence the development of such musculoskeletal disorders.
Wrist tendonitis has become one of the most common injuries in this category. It begins as a dull ache in the wrist region before escalating in intensity and frequency. The failure to receive physical therapy for wrist tendonitis can drastically affect one’s quality of life.
Luckily, we are here to discuss symptoms, causes, and effective physical therapy for wrist tendonitis treatment methods. You can use this knowledge to form an informed decision and select a suitable option for recovery and rehabilitation.
Here’s everything you should know:
The Basics: What Is Wrist Tendonitis?
Wrist tendonitis is essentially an overuse injury that causes inflammation and irritation due to excessive movement, injury, or strain. This condition impacts a network of fibrous muscle-like cords present on the front of our wrist (flexors) and back of the wrist (extensors).
Both groups of tendons serve as connection points between our forearms and hand (and fingers). Their presence promotes frictionless wrist movements. In other words, tendons allow you to bend and rotate your wrist with ease.
Unfortunately, some activities such as typing for prolonged periods, training for wrist-based sports activities (like tennis, golf or baseball) or manual labor with frequent wrist usage places undue pressure on our tendons. Subsequently, it causes inflammation and swelling in the distressed tendons.
Common types of wrist tendonitis include:
Tennis Elbow (lateral Epicondylitis)
This form of wrist tendonitis is associated with its eponymous sport. Yet, it can develop in individuals that perform rigorous and repetitive tasks involving the forearm and wrist.
In this case, you may experience pain on the outside of your elbow and forearm, as it places a strain on the wrist and finger extensors. Due to this, you may experience pain when stretching your hand forwards or bending your hand backward.
Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)
Like tennis elbow, this overuse injury is not restricted to sports. It develops after excessive use of wrist tendons due to occupational activities or recreational interests. The pain is localized from the wrist to the elbows at the inner side of the forearm (i.e., the medial side of your forearm).
Consequently, it may cause pain when stretching your wrist backward and can prevent patients from bending their wrists downwards as it affects the flexors.
In both cases, you may experience wrist pain during flexion and extension movement, which reduces mobility and limits range of motion. Due to this, you may be unable to perform activities of daily living. It lowers the quality of life and may cause permanent damage to your upper limbs.
Wrist Tendonitis vs. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Are They the Same Thing?
No, they are fairly different disorders that limit hand movements and the overall range of motion in your elbows and shoulder. The difference lies in the anatomical reasons behind the physical symptoms.
For instance, wrist tendonitis refers to the inflammation of tendons while carpal tunnel syndrome develops due to a pinched nerve (i.e., the median nerve). Moreover, tendonitis has a significant impact on muscle strength and movement.
In contrast, carpal tunnel syndrome reduces mobility due to its impact on carpal bones and ligaments.
Consulting a physical therapist for wrist tendonitis treatment can help you learn the differences between the two disorders. Our team, in particular, eliminates misdiagnosis by carefully assessing overlapping symptoms and identifying the root cause of your wrist pain.
Wrist Tendonitis Symptoms
Wrist tendonitis begins as a dull ache, which escalates with time. You might experience more wrist pain or a burning sensation in your forearm when you move.
Other common signs of wrist tendonitis include:
- Redness in the injured area
- Swelling and inflammation in the affected sites (i.e., wrist, forearm, and elbow)
- Stiffness and difficulty felt when you move your wrist or forearm
- You may experience a creaking noise or grinding during wrist movements
- A weakness in the wrist that makes it difficult to lift objects or grasp things
Early intervention can stop the pain from worsening while increasing the chances of complete recovery.
Causes: Why Does Wrist Tendonitis Occur?
Wrist tendonitis refers to the progressive wear and tear of tendons due to repetitive movements. Overuse can be caused by:
- Non-stop typing and frequent use of a computer mouse or keyboard
- High-usage of digital devices to text or play video games
- Playing sports requiring repetitive wrist movements (i.e., tennis, racquetball, badminton, golf, etc.)
- Manual labor (like chopping wood, hammering, and other carpentry/construction work)
Moreover, certain risk factors contribute to the stress placed on your overworked tendons.
Common reasons include:
- Improper posture, maintained for prolonged periods
- Incorrect postural alignment of the back, wrist, and joints
- An acute wrist injury that results in trauma to the wrist, joints, or forearms
- Weakness and limited range of motion in the shoulder, elbow, or wrist
Other causes can be associated with a health problem, such as an infection, arthritis, or diabetes.
Nevertheless, most causes of wrist tendonitis are preventable. Physical therapy exercises for wrist tendonitis and functional training can lead to rehabilitation.
Physical Therapy for Wrist Tendonitis
We offer personalized physical therapy for wrist tendonitis and associated mobility issues. Tailoring a treatment plan that aligns with your symptoms, lifestyle, and movement goals can maximize positive outcomes during recovery.
Our physical therapists perform a thorough evaluation along with treatment during your 1st session. The initial appointment includes a detailed physical exam of your arm. We begin with a comparative analysis of your medical records, previous shoulder/wrist injury, and current symptoms.
In addition to this, we will discuss the frequency and intensity of your wrist and shoulder pain and how it disrupts your movement. Your physical therapist will palpate different target symptomatic areas of your wrist and forearm to identify swollen areas and muscle dysfunction.
Your physical therapist may ask you to move your arm from side to side, upwards, or stretch it in different directions. Additionally, we might ask you to lift small objects, catch a ball, or pick items to observe your range of motion.
This allows us to assess the debilitative effect of your condition and its influence on your activities of daily living. After this, we develop a clear physical therapy for wrist tendonitis treatment plan to promote natural recovery.
Wrist Tendonitis Treatment Plan
Our individualized programs focus on wrist pain management and manual therapy. You will learn how to improve your posture and hand placement. For instance, we can teach you how to maintain a neutral position when you type to reduce stress on the affected wrist. In turn, this can prevent re-injury.
These alterations are supported by manual therapy, massage, and electrical stimulation. Popular options include transverse friction massage, wrist stretches and guided joint movements.
Moreover, you will learn and become proficient with these physical therapy exercises for wrist tendonitis.
We specialize in developing individualized home exercise programs based on your pain patterns and level of mobility. It features wrist stretches, range of motion exercises, and muscle strengthening workout routines. Each exercise targets a specific part of your arm, including your wrist, elbow, and shoulders.
Using a combination of techniques increases the effectiveness of our treatment plans. These methods ensure that your wrist regains lost mobility and joint support required to return to the previous range of motion.
Apart from this, you may have to wear a wrist tendonitis brace if required. Having a supportive brace can help inflamed, and torn tendons heal better. That’s because it restricts wrist movements and allows your body to rest, keeping your wrist in a neutral position.
Patients interested in advanced physical therapy treatment for wrist tendonitis can opt for functional training. We begin this phase of treatment after your symptoms improve. Our trained physical therapists will conduct an ergonomic assessment of your work environment. This service is offered regardless of your profession. We are happy to offer guidance of your office, home, based upon photos or videos you take of the workspaces.
After this, we teach you the basics of wrist mechanics and how your workplace setup might disrupt optimal functioning. Decisions are made to adjust the physical setup and make conscious changes in how you perform everyday activities (like typing, swinging your baseball bat, playing violin). Implementing these preventive tips can ensure a pain-free transition to life before the injury.
Lastly, we offer our continuous support by scheduling follow-up appointments and conducting routine checkups.
Wrist Tendonitis Treatment at Home
As explained earlier, wrist tendonitis can be preventable if you’re more attuned to your hand movements and physical health. Additionally, adopting an active lifestyle, eating a balanced diet, and focusing on workplace ergonomics can prove effective in the long run.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Limit repetitive activities and hand motions wherever possible as they might cause a strain on your wrist or inflict more wrist pain on the affected hand
- Avoid overuse injuries by taking short breaks during prolonged activity involving frequent wrist use (i.e., typing, painting, knitting, sports)
- Warm-up before the activity to prevent stiffness and stimulate blood circulation in the wrist and elbow joint
- Maintain an ergonomic posture and workplace setup if your occupational activities are a cause for concern
- Wear a supportive wrist tendonitis brace to limit the strain placed on the wrist
- Use ice packs or hot water bottles to soothe your hands after particularly strenuous activity.
Many preventive measures can help you reduce the risk of developing this hand problem. Alternatively, these practices can prevent further deterioration of inflamed tendons while maintaining mobility.
Top 3 Physical Therapy Exercises for Wrist Tendonitis
Whether you are an athlete, office worker, artist, or musician, wrist tendonitis exercises can benefit you. Workout routines that focus on stretching and strengthening muscles play a pivotal role in physical therapy.
Regular practice can improve joint flexibility, maintain optimal range of motion, and support everyday hand movements. These steps can facilitate wrist tendonitis recovery time.
Here are a few wrist tendonitis exercises that can work for you:
Wrist Extensor Stretch
- Gently extend the injured arm while placing the affected wrist in front of you.
- Your fingers should face the floor.
- Use your other hand to bend your wrist downwards to stretch your extensor tendons. Keep bending until you feel a slight twinge in your forearm.
- Maintain this position for a few seconds (approx. 15-30 seconds).
- Repeat steps 1-4 a couple of times.
You can switch up the routine when you perform this stretch without any difficulty. You can do this by using the same steps in a different position. Extensor Stretch 2.0 requires you to make a fist when you extend and bend your wrist.
Wrist Flexor Stretch
- Slowly extend your affected wrist by stretching your arm and bringing it away from your body.
- Ensure that your palm faces downwards.
- Use your other hand to bend back the injured wrist. Your palm should face the ceiling when you do this.
- Continue bending your wrist further till you experience a mild stretch in your forearm.
- Try holding the stretch for a minimum of 15-30 seconds.
- Repeat the bending movement 2-5 times.
Once you get used to this stretch, you can perform this exercise with a closed fist.
Hand Flips for Wrist Mobility
- Sit straight in a comfortable chair.
- Place both hands on your lap, with palms facing downwards.
- Turn your hands slowly to bring your palm upwards.
- Alternate between steps 3 and 4 while your forearm stays firmly on your thigh.
- Repeat these hand flips 5-10 times a day.
We recommend patients perform these wrist tendonitis exercises twice a day. The best part about these stretches is that they are easy to follow and can be done between work. You can even do a few wrists stretches at your desk to counter stiff hands.
The Bottom Line
In the end, physical therapy for wrist tendonitis serves as an excellent way to avoid surgery. It supports your natural recovery process by using non-invasive ways to heal the affected arm. It also manages to restore range of motion and facilitate joint mobility for optimal use.
We do this through personalized treatment plans revolving around manual therapy, soft-tissue messages, and physical therapy exercises for wrist tendonitis.
As a result, you can return to your job, recreational sports, or favorite activity without worrying about the risk of a relapse.
Get in touch online or call us at (201) 773-8851) for all queries concerning wrist tendonitis treatment and physical therapy. Specialized Physical Therapy hopes to serve as the first step towards complete rejuvenation and rehabilitation from this overuse injury.