Hand Ulnar-Sided Wrist Pain Wrist Wrist Pain

Ask a Doctor: Ulnar-Sided Wrist Pain


Hand surgeon Mark Yuhas, MD answers your questions about ulnar-sided wrist pain.

What does it mean to have “ulnar-sided” wrist pain?

Pain on the ulnar side of the wrist refers to pain in the region of the wrist on the “pinky side” of the wrist joint. The structures on the pinky side of the wrist make a complex interaction with bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons.  They allow us to grip, twist the forearm and wrist, and move the wrist forward (flexion) and backward (extension).  In the wrist, injury or wearing down of these structures may lead to pain or instability.

What are some causes of ulnar-sided wrist pain?

In a relatively small area on the ulnar side of the wrist, there are many different structures. The main structures that cause pain in this part of the wrist are ligaments (soft tissue that connects bone to bone), tendons (soft tissue that connects bone to muscle), bone, or cartilage (allow joints to move smoothly).  Also on this side of the wrist is the triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) which is a group of soft tissue structures that work together.

An injury, such as a fall or twisting the wrist awkwardly, can lead to ulnar-sided wrist pain. This may involve a ligament injury in the area of the TFCC, a broken bone, or stretched or torn tendon.

In other cases, pain can be caused by chronic “wear and tear” such as arthritis (joint inflammation and cartilage thinning), tendonitis (inflammation of tendon), or when bones on this side of the wrist hit against each other (ulnocarpal abutment or ulnar impaction). Some people may have a mismatch in the lengths of their two forearm bones that could lead to some of these problems.

Finally, pain from a variety of less common factors must be considered. The ulnar nerve could be compressed or irritated. Additionally, pain could be caused by a mass such as a ganglion cyst or tumor.

What are some signs and symptoms of ulnar-sided wrist pain?

  • Patients may complain of an aching dull pain near the pinky side of the wrist or a sharp, short -lasting pain when moving the wrist in certain directions.
  • Swelling and bruising may be present after an injury, and numbness and tingling in the pinky and ring fingers may signal a nerve problem.
  • Patients may also describe a clicking or snapping sensation near this side of the wrist that may represent a ligament or tendon abnormality.
  • Finally, stiffness with wrist movement and weakness with grip and squeezing may be the primary symptoms.

Should I see a hand surgeon for my pain? What tests may be ordered?

If you have pain that affects your daily activities and use of the wrist, it is a good idea to have this evaluated by a hand surgeon. Even without a known injury to the wrist, you can have this ulnar sided wrist pain.

When you visit a hand surgeon, expect a detailed wrist examination with some gentle movements and pressure on this area of your wrist. A detailed history is also very important.

X-rays of the involved wrist are also very common for evaluation. In some cases, an advanced study such as an MRI, ultrasound, or CT scan may be ordered to evaluate the wrist in more detail.

How is ulnar-sided wrist pain treated?

The cause of the pain, or the diagnosis, generally determines the treatment for this problem. Fortunately, many causes of ulnar-sided wrist pain can be treated without surgery. This may include a discussion about modifying some lifting and gripping activities for a period of time. Sometimes, bracing or taping the wrist in a specific way can be beneficial as well.

Other treatments, such as visiting a hand therapist, prescribing an anti-inflammatory medication, or offering a corticosteroid injection into the wrist may be suggested by your doctor.

In some cases when non-surgical treatment does not provide relief or is not indicated, then surgical treatment may be suggested.  Surgery will depend on the diagnosis and may include fixing a broken bone or using a camera (arthroscope) to look inside the wrist and fix a ligament. Other types of surgery may be suggested as well. It is important to speak with your hand surgeon to understand what treatment options are available and why they are suggesting these options for you.

Find a hand surgeon near you.


Dr. Mark Yuhas is an Orthopaedic Surgeon who specializes in Hand, Wrist, and Elbow care. He practices with Wellington Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine/ Mercy Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Cincinnati, OH. His current interests include trauma of the hand, wrist, and elbow; sports injuries of the upper extremity; and arthritis throughout the hand and wrist.

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8 Comments
  • Andre Cruz
    May 19, 2019 at 11:49 AM
    Reply

    The pain started after a fall were I used my hand to break the fall. I had a minor ankle sprain and wrist pain on the ulnar side. The wrist didn’t swell or anything related but I experienced sharp pain when I moved it Up and down ( in a motion like shooting a basketball).

    Its been a month since then and it still hurts when im doimg that motion. Ive never seen a doctor with expertise in bones but ive ask a friend and said that its nothing serious so i never saw an orthopedic.

    The pain is below the hand and above the ulna but i dont know what it is. Please help me with this problem

  • Ahmed
    May 1, 2019 at 10:36 PM
    Reply

    I injured my right wrist doing a clean and jerk type of movement at the gym , It’s been 2 years almost and it still hurts really bad , I’ve seen 2 doctors already but nothing is helping , multiple x rays , 2 MRI and nothing showed up. It hurts near the ulnar side of the wrist the most , and all around the wrist too when I try to apply force with my hand. what should I do? I wanna go back to weight lifting.

  • May 1, 2019 at 7:12 AM
    Reply

    My pain is not on my pinkie side the other what does that mean aches can’t hold much now I had a fall and put my hand out to catch my fall now it hurts alot

  • Markus
    April 2, 2019 at 1:08 PM
    Reply

    So I fell on my left hand about 11 days ago. I landed mainly on my thumb, pinky and ringfinger. I fell from about 2 meters onto a softpad. The hand was in a weird extended twist position I think. At the time it felt as I sprained my thumb, and pain only accours when i angle my thumb up. About 4 days ago I stated to feel a pain in my wrist, (pinky side, abit above the cyst, kinda direkt at the end of the long bone in the forearm). The pain have only gotten worse by each day, till the point where it acctually hurts to move my hand im some specfic movements( tilting my hand to the pinky side, trying to carry stuff that apply pressure at the place i descriped my pain, and now it sometimes randomly hurts when im standing up and my arm is just in a normal standing position). Should I go see a doctor or is it just a unregular but not harmful wristinjury?

  • April K
    March 20, 2019 at 11:50 PM
    Reply

    I’m not sure if this is the correct page to ask about TFCC surgery so if not, I do apologise and please kindly point me to the correct thread.

    INJURY: Partial tear of the foveal attachment (proxima lamina).

    BACKGROUND: After the first injury 7 years ago at 20 years old, the same spot was injured again while using a hammer 6 years later. Currently, it is quite painful to perform simple tasks at work, such as holding a ring binder full of documents.

    QUESTIONS:
    • It has been mentioned to me to try the Arthroscopic Knotless TFCC Repair using Pushlock anchor. I would like to know if this is the only procedure available or are there any other procedures that may be more suitable.

    • Is there a time limit during which the operation must be performed and if it is delayed, are there any possible risks, such as deterioration of the wrist during normal daily use?

    • What activities (including types of exercises) in normal daily use should be avoided while waiting for surgery? (please give examples, if possible)

    • If proceeding with the above-mentioned procedure to insert an anchor, what possible side effects might occur post surgery?

    • What is the worst possible result if this operation does not improve the current amount of pain and wrist function?

    • Are there any additional treatments available if the surgery fails?

    • Will further surgery be possible in the future?

  • April Kinion
    March 20, 2019 at 11:37 PM
    Reply

    I’m not sure if this is the correct page to ask about TFCC surgery so if not, I do apologise and please kindly point me to the correct thread.

    INJURY: Partial tear of the foveal attachment (proxima lamina).

    BACKGROUND: After the first injury 7 years ago at 20 years old, the same spot was injured again while using a hammer 6 years later. Currently, it is quite painful to perform simple tasks at work, such as holding a ring binder full of documents.

    QUESTIONS:
    • It has been mentioned to me to try the Arthroscopic Knotless TFCC Repair using Pushlock anchor. I would like to know if this is the only procedure available or are there any other procedures that may be more suitable.

    • Is there a time limit during which the operation must be performed and if it is delayed, are there any possible risks, such as deterioration of the wrist during normal daily use?

    • What activities (including types of exercises) in normal daily use should be avoided while waiting for surgery? (please give examples, if possible)

    • If proceeding with the above-mentioned procedure to insert an anchor, what possible side effects might occur post surgery?

    • What is the worst possible result if this operation does not improve the current amount of pain and wrist function?

    • Are there any additional treatments available if the surgery fails?

    • Will further surgery be possible in the future?

  • March 5, 2019 at 12:49 AM
    Reply

    I’ve had a 4 corner fusion and I’ve been in constant daily pain since, 9 months now. Also very painful on that side of my wrist, any ideas what might be wrong? I feel the fusion is not what’s required here, the pain on wrist has only came since the fusion. Would a wrist 4be mh best option?

  • June 12, 2018 at 7:50 AM
    Reply

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with all of us through your post. Good job, Keep posting and share your valuable tips with us.

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