Your wrist is extremely important to almost everything you do with your hands, including lifting objects, exercising, preparing food, etc. The ulnar side of your wrist is the side of your “pinkie” finger (or small finger), and pain on this side can be very common. It’s so common, in fact, that it can sometimes be difficult to determine the exact cause. The anatomy of the wrist is extremely complicated, which means that ulnar-sided wrist pain can result from an injury to bones, cartilage, ligaments or tendons.
We all know the health benefits of regular exercise. Many fitness workouts involve putting pressure on your wrists. You may have noticed some discomfort while lifting weights or during yoga poses that require you to put weight on your hands. Here are some tips to make sure you are not straining your wrists while staying active.
- Tip #1: Keep your wrists flexible. Tight wrists put extra strain on surrounding ligaments, muscles, and joints. Make sure your wrists can move comfortably in all the motions you will use during your workout. If an exercise requires the wrist to bend 90 degrees (as in a push-up, see photo above), gently stretch your wrists back so they can move into the position with ease before adding your body weight.
- Tip #2: Maintain your strength. Strong wrists are more stable during weight lifting and weight-bearing activities. A strong grip allows you to hold weights more securely during intense exercises. Stress balls and spring grippers can be used to strengthen your grip. To help prevent wrist injuries and wrist pain, strengthen the muscles in your forearms using light resistance bands or small weights to resist wrist motions.
- Tip #3: Use your wrists in the most stable position. Keep your hand and forearm in a straight alignment during exercises. Improper wrist position puts strain on the small ligaments. If your exercise program requires putting weight through an outstretched hand (as in a plank pose), add stability at the base of your wrist by slightly arching your hand.
from the Cleveland Clinic
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. But it doesn’t always tell you if you need medical treatment. So when pain develops in your hand, wrist or elbow, how do you know whether to treat it at home or see a doctor?
Orthopedic surgeon William Seitz, Jr., MD, who specializes in upper extremity problems, says if something is seriously wrong, you’ll know it.
A wrist fracture, for instance, will cause pain you can’t ignore. “When the pain is so bad you can’t move past it, call your doctor or head to the emergency department,” he says. If you don’t have that level of pain, then listen to your body. Take a moment to consider why you might be feeling pain and what it can tell you.
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.
Have you been experiencing pain in your wrist during day-to-day activities? Wrist pain may be attributed to many things, as the wrist is a complex network of tendons, ligaments, bones, vessels, and cartilage in and around the joints.
A common location of wrist pain is on the small finger side of the wrist, as highlighted in the image above. Pain in this area is referred to as ulnar sided wrist pain because it is on the same side of the wrist as the ulna bone. This area has a large collection of ligaments and cartilage that form a complex structure called the Triangular FibroCartilage Complex, TFCC for short. Pain here can greatly interfere with and limit day-to-day activities. So what should you look for?
What causes ulnar-sided wrist pain?
Acute injuries such as falling on your hand and/or a twisting injury while gripping can cause pain on this side of your wrist. Another culprit for such wrist pain can be repetitive stress from continued gripping and/or weight bearing. Sports such as tennis, baseball and gymnastics are examples of activities where these types of recurring injuries most often happen.
Tendons are fibrous cords that are similar to a rope, attached to muscles and bone. The tendons that control movement in your hands, wrists and fingers run through your forearm. There are 6 tendons that help move your wrist. The wrist tendons are:
- Flexor carpi radialis: This tendon is one of two tendons that bend the wrist. It attaches to the base of the second and third hand bones. It also attaches to the trapezium, one of your wrist bones.
- Flexor carpi ulnaris: This is the other tendon that bends the wrist. It attaches to the pisiform, another wrist bone, and to the 5th hand bone.
- Palmaris longus tendon: This tendon is unique because only 3/4 of the population has it. For those who do have it, it can vary in size. It is, however, a tendon you can live without because it has very little function in the hand and wrist. This tendon is often used to repair other tendons since it serves such a small purpose.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of the most common conditions of the hand and wrist. It is the result of pressure on a nerve in the wrist which leads to pain, numbness, tingling and a weak grip. Carpal Tunnel can prevent you from enjoying hobbies or daily activities that you enjoy. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, visit a hand surgeon to discuss potential treatment options for you.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be treated in a variety of ways, including:
- Changing the way you use your hands
- Wearing a wrist splint
- Steroid injection
Watch our 3-minute video above to hear directly from a hand surgeon about the causes, symptoms and treatment options for this condition. Or, go to www.HandCare.org to read about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, watch other videos, and view printable resources.
Dr. Mark Yuhas answers your questions about Kienbock’s Disease:
What is Kienbock’s Disease?
Kienbock’s Disease, also known as avascular necrosis of the lunate, is a disease that can result in pain and stiffness in the wrist. The lunate is one of eight small bones in the wrist that give the wrist its complex and unique motion. “Avascular necrosis” is a lack of blood supply to the bone, which results in bone death. Blood supply is important to all bones to grow, heal, and provide structure and support to the body. Without blood supply, the lunate may not provide the same support and structure needed for proper wrist function.
What is the cause of Kienbock’s Disease? Can it be prevented?
There are several theories about the cause of Kienbock’s Disease, but a single cause has not been identified. Multiple variables are thought to be involved, including a history of wrist trauma. Other contributing factors include variations in anatomy such as the position of the forearm bones at the wrist, the shape of the lunate, and the pattern of blood supply to the lunate. Most of these factors are not able to be controlled by the patient.
There is no way that we know to prevent Kienbock’s Disease. However, it is important to identify this problem as soon as possible in order to prevent progression of the disease which can lead to wrist arthritis. This ultimately can cause pain, stiffness, and decreased function in the wrist.