Wrist Arthritis


Arthritis is a collection of rheumatic diseases related by common symptoms of joint pain, reduced range of motion, and swelling.  The disease affects the various tissues inside the joints causing the cartilage to wear down and the joints to gradually worsen over time.


Wrist arthritis is a common cause of wrist pain if there has been no injury, and we are more likely to develop it as we get older.  Although the disease can affect most joints in the body, the more common types of arthritis are likely to affect the hands and wrists, causing difficulty when carrying out a number of everyday activities.


It is possible to have more than one type of arthritis at a time and treatment is different depending on the cause.  There is no permanent cure for arthritis, but there are various treatments available to help control pain and relieve discomfort.




Wrist Joint Anatomy

The wrist is one of the more complex joints in the body.  It is in fact made up of other joints that work together to allow the wrist more stability and a wide range of movement.  The three main joints located in the wrist include:


Radiocarpal Joint

This joint is located where the radius (one of the forearm bones) connects with the first row of wrist bones (the scaphoid, lunate and triquetrum).  This joint is a condyloid joint, found mainly on the thumb side of your wrist that allows combined backward and forward movements, side to side and circular motions.


Ulnocarpal Joint

This joint is located between the ulna (the thinner forearm bone and the lunate and triquetrum wrist bones.  This joint is likely to be injured if you sprain your wrist. In some cases, people are born with (or can develop) an ulna that is longer than the radius, leading to stress and pain on the joint.


Distal Radioulnar Joint

Located between the two forearm bones (radius and the ulna), this joint allows for rotation of the forearm.  Pain or injury with this joint can be a difficult problem to treat.


Who is Most Likely to be Affected by Wrist Arthritis?

Most types of arthritis are linked by a combination of symptoms, but some have no obvious cause.  Factors that may increase your risk of developing arthritis include:



Arthritis can affect people of any age, but is more common amongst adults and worsens over time.



Damage or injury to a joint can make it more likely to develop arthritis in the future.



You may be more likely to develop arthritis if your parents or siblings suffer from the disease.



Maintaining a healthy weight is important to avoid excess stress on joints. Being overweight may contribute to the progression and development of arthritis in the knee. Smoking may also increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, worsen the condition or cause further medical issues.


Occupational Hazards

Occupations and activities involving repetitive movements can lead to joint damage and the development of arthritis.



Typically, arthritis is more common in women. However, gout, a type of arthritis, may develop more often in men.


Types of Wrist Arthritis

There are four types of arthritis that can affect the wrist:


Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, occurring when the cartilage that protects the end of your bones wears down over time.  The condition often develops within people over the age of 50 but can occur at any age.  Osteoarthritis can affect any joint but is most likely to occur in your wrists, knees, spine or hips, developing slowly and getting progressively worse.


Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, which means the immune system attacks its own tissue.  This form of arthritis affects joints symmetrically, usually occurring in the same joint on both sides of the body.  If left untreated, RA can result in permanent joint damage.


Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory skin and joint disease affecting some people that suffer from psoriasis.  In general, most people develop psoriasis and can even have it for years prior to being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.


Post-Traumatic Arthritis (PA)

Post-traumatic arthritis is a type of osteoarthritis often developing after an injury.  The injury may heal but post-traumatic arthritis may not surface until years after the injury.  Meniscal tears and ligament injuries can cause unsteadiness and added wear on the knee joint, which may lead to arthritis over time.


Symptoms of Wrist Arthritis

In some cases, you may not experience any symptoms from arthritis in the wrist.  Symptoms, or lack of, vary from person to person depending on their general health.  Frequent symptoms of arthritis may include:


Joint pain

Arthritic pain can come on suddenly but is more likely to develop slowly over a period of time.  You may notice it is worse in the morning or after being inactive for a while.


Joint inflammation

Swelling may be more obvious after a long period of inactivity, such as when you wake up in the morning.  The skin around the affected joint may look red and feel warm to touch.


Weakness and difficulty gripping objects

Resulting in an inability to perform daily tasks such as opening jars or turning door handles.


Reduced range of motion within the affected joint

Loose fragments of cartilage can cause a limited range of motion in the affected joint, causing it to lock or stick during movement, possibly creating a grinding sensation as you move.


Symptoms will differ depending on the specific type of arthritis and rheumatic disease.


Diagnosing Wrist Arthritis

During your consultation, your doctor will take a full medical history and discuss your symptoms.  A physical examination will be carried out where your doctor will examine your wrist for any swelling, pain and tenderness.  The site of the swelling can inform your doctor which joint in the wrist is most affected.


Following the physical examination, your doctor will assess the range of motion of the wrist by asking you to twist and flex both wrists in every direction.  This will help determine the severity of the condition.


Your doctor may also refer you for blood tests and imaging to help further assess the joint damage in the wrist, in order to determine what type of arthritis you may have.



X-rays are painless procedures that provide detailed images of dense structures, such as bone. X-rays of your wrist will allow your doctor to learn more about the precise location and severity of your arthritis. They can also help your doctor differentiate between various types of arthritis.


Blood tests

With rheumatoid and other types of inflammatory arthritis, blood tests are important in order to attain a precise diagnosis. Osteoarthritis is not connected with blood irregularities. Your doctor may recommend blood tests to determine which type of arthritis you have.


Treatment for Wrist Arthritis

The purpose of wrist arthritis treatment is to reduce pain, slow down progression, minimise joint damage and maintain physical function.  There are many treatment options to help alleviate symptoms of wrist arthritis with techniques varying depending on the type of arthritis you have.  Medication, lifestyle adjustments, joint injections and surgery are some of the options that may be considered when dealing with treatment of arthritis.


There is no permanent cure for arthritis; however, an effective treatment plan can help you manage the condition and relieve pain.  Your doctor may suggest surgery as a last resort if your symptoms are not relieved with non-surgical treatment, your quality of life is affected or because of pain and limited mobility.


Home remedies

Home remedies can help to relieve and reduce some of the symptoms experienced from arthritis such as over the counter painkillers.


A healthy lifestyle

Pain may have caused you to limit activities you participate in, but it is important to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.  Carrying excess weight can add stress to the joints, which can increase pain.  Exercise helps reduce pain and improve function, bone and muscle strength. 


It has been proven that Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation and regulate the immune system.  Along with exercise, a nutritious diet can help maintain a healthy weight, therefore reducing unnecessary strain on your joints.


Reducing stress

Reducing stress may also help reduce the pain and stiffness linked with arthritis.


Assistive devices

Making necessary adjustments to everyday jobs that cause stress to the joints, such as raising the keyboard or a mouse mat with a wrist support, can help protect them and make it easier for you to maintain your routine.  Wearing a wrist splint or arthritis gloves will ease any physical stress and help you perform daily activities with less discomfort.


Hot and cold therapy

Applying heat or ice to the affected area is an effective technique used for reducing arthritic pain.  Cold therapy causes circulation to slow, reducing swelling an easing pain.  Heat therapy can help increase circulation and ease stiff joints and sore muscles.



Regularly massaging the muscles and joints may help ease any symptoms of pain and reduce inflammation.


Preventing Wrist Arthritis

Most treatments for wrist arthritis are aimed at early recognition and prevention.  Unfortunately, though, you cannot always prevent arthritis. Some causes, such as genetics, increasing age, and gender are out of your control.


Some steps you could take to help avoid wrist arthritis or decrease your likelihood of developing the disease include:


  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Stopping smoking
  • If your profession involves a lot of pushing, pulling, or lifting of heavy objects, take the necessary health and safety precautions
  • Avoiding injury when playing sports or taking part in recreational activities
  • If your occupation requires for a lot of typing, a special keyboard, wrist cushion, or pad may help. Along with maintaining correct posture
  • Carrying out regular hand exercises to relieve any stiffness and strengthen muscles


Need Help?

Treatment for wrist arthritis is available at One Ashford Hospital in Kent with a leading Consultant Hand and Wrist Surgeon and we can book you in for a consultation, usually within 48 hours.  One Ashford Hospital is ideally located for patients in Ashford, Maidstone, Dover, Canterbury, Folkestone and all nearby areas.  To book an appointment, call the hospital direct on 01233 364 022 or email us today.