Some Health Conditions that Can Cause Wrist Pain for Employees
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, faces excessive pressure at the wrist. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway that is formed by the bones and ligaments in the wrist.
The compression of the median nerve in this “tunnel” leads to a variety of symptoms, typically affecting the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and part of the ring finger.
The main symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may include:
- Pain or discomfort in the wrist that may radiate up to the arm
- Intermittent/persistent tingling or numbness in the fingers, particularly the thumb, index, and middle fingers.
- Burning sensation in the affected hand or fingers.
- Reduced grip strength, making it challenging to hold objects
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination due to decreased sensation and weakness in the fingers.
CTS may be caused due to activities such as:
- Repetitive hand movements, such as using a computer mouse, repetitive gripping, or typing
- Wrist motions without proper ergonomics or breaks
- Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, and diabetes which may increase the risk of developing CTS
Wrist arthritis refers to the degeneration of the joints in the wrist, leading to inflammation, pain, and stiffness. Arthritis causes joint inflammation, and it can affect any joint in the body, including those in the wrist.
The two most common types of arthritis that can impact the wrist are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis:
- Osteoarthritis (OA) – A degenerative joint disease characterized by the gradual breakdown of joint cartilage.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) – An autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system ends up attacking the synovium (lining of the membranes surrounding the joints) by mistake, leading to inflammation, joint damage, and deformities in the wrist.
Some of the most common symptoms of wrist arthritis include:
- Pain in the wrist joint, which may be aggravated by movement
- Stiffness in the wrist joint, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity
- Inflammation and swelling around the wrist joint
- Difficulty moving the wrist through its full range of motion
- Weakening of the muscles around the wrist due to pain and inflammation
- Joint deformities (in advanced cases), such as changes in the shape of the wrist or fingers
Employees could suffer from wrist arthritis due to the following reasons:
- Wrist joint overuse or injury at work
- Autoimmune factors, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis
- Environmental triggers
- Genetic factors
Wrist tendinitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the tendons (which connect the muscles to bones) in the wrist. Wrist tendinitis often involves irritation and inflammation of the tendons and their protective sheaths.
Some common causes of wrist tendinitis include:
- Engaging in repetitive motions or activities that involve the wrist, such as typing or using a computer mouse, leading to overuse and irritation of the tendons
- Poor ergonomics in the workplace, including using poorly designed equipment or maintaining awkward hand and wrist positions for extended periods
- Acute injuries, such as falls or direct blows to the wrist, which can cause damage to the tendons and trigger inflammation
The main symptoms of wrist tendinitis include:
- Pain, exacerbated by movement or pressure on the affected tendons.
- Swelling around the affected tendons
- Tenderness in the wrist while touching, especially over the inflamed tendons.
- Stiffness in the wrist, particularly in the morning or after periods of inactivity
- A crackling or grating sensation (crepitus) when moving the wrist.
A ganglion cyst in the wrist is a non-cancerous, fluid-filled lump that typically forms near joints or tendons in the wrist. These cysts are the most common type of soft tissue mass or lump found in the hand and wrist. Ganglion cysts often appear as small, round, or oval-shaped nodes visible just beneath the skin.
Some common symptoms associated with a ganglion cyst in the wrist include:
- Presence of a visible lump or mass, typically round or oval-shaped, near the wrist joint. The lump is often soft and may change in size over time.
- Pain or discomfort (although uncommon), especially if the cyst presses on nearby nerves or tissues.
- Area around the cyst tender to the touch
- More noticeable cyst size after repetitive use of the wrist
- Stiffness in the wrist, particularly if it limits joint movement
- Pronounced discomfort with specific wrist movements or activities that put pressure on the cyst
- A sensation of numbness or tingling in case the cyst may compress the nearby nerves
While the precise cause may not be known in every case, several factors may contribute to the development of ganglion cysts in the wrist:
- A leakage or bulging of synovial fluid from the joint or tendon sheath leading to the development of a cyst
- Repetitive use or irritation of a joint or tendon
- A previous injury or trauma to the wrist, such as a sprain, strain, or impact that may lead to the leakage of synovial fluid and the subsequent development of a cyst
- Degeneration of the joint or tendon structures in the wrist
Infections are among the potential culprits of health conditions that can cause your employees to experience wrist pain. Some of the infections that can contribute to wrist pain include:
- Cellulitis – A skin infection caused by bacteria that can occur anywhere on the body, including the wrist. Symptoms include redness, swelling, and pain.
- Septic Arthritis – An infection that can occur in any joint, including the wrist. Symptoms include severe pain, swelling, warmth, and limited range of motion.
- Tenosynovitis – Infection of the tendon sheath that can cause wrist pain. Symptoms may involve pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected tendons.
- Paronychia – An infection around the fingernail or toenail that can extend to the surrounding tissues in the wrist. Symptoms include pain, swelling, redness, and sometimes pus formation.
- Osteomyelitis – A bacterial infection that can affect the bones in the wrist. Symptoms include deep, throbbing pain, swelling, and tenderness over the affected bone.
- Soft Tissue Infections – Infections of soft tissues, including skin and muscles, that can extend to the wrist and cause pain. Commonly results from cuts, wounds, or breaks in the skin.
Kienböck’s disease is a condition that affects the wrist and occurs when the supply of blood to the lunate, one of the small bones in the wrist, is disrupted. As a result, the bone begins to die (avascular necrosis), leading to pain and potential long-term complications.
Several factors may contribute to the development of this condition, including:
- Disruption of blood supply to the lunate bone in the wrist
- A previous trauma that may disrupt the blood flow to the lunate
- Variations in the blood vessels supplying the lunate
- Repetitive stress or loading on the wrist from certain occupations or activities
Symptoms of Kienböck’s disease typically include:
- Pain in the wrist, particularly on the radial side (thumb side)
- Swelling and tenderness.
- Reduced range of motion in the wrist
- Weak grip strength
Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa in your wrist joint. The bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that cushions between bones, tendons, and muscles, reducing friction and facilitating smooth movement. When this “cushion” becomes inflamed, it can lead to bursitis.
Some common symptoms of wrist bursitis may include:
- Redness and warmth
The causes of wrist bursitis can include any of the following:
- Repetitive motion at work
- Trauma or injury to the wrist
- Infection that leads to a rare inflammatory response