Wrist Tendonitis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Wrist tendonitis is irritation and inflammation of the tendons at the wrist joint. It can be caused by overuse and repetitive movements like texting, playing video games, or writing.

Treatment for wrist tendonitis can include rest, icing, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), hand therapy, and cortisone injections.

This article gives you an overview of wrist tendonitis, including what it is and who's most likely to get it. You'll learn the symptoms and causes of wrist tendonitis and how it's diagnosed and treated.

Wrist Tendonitis Treatment

Verywell / Joshua Seong

What Is Wrist Tendonitis?

Tendons are structures that connect a muscle to bone. They allow joints to move.

The wrist tendons connect your forearm muscles to the hand and finger bones. They're divided into two groups:

  • Extensors: Three tendons across the back of the wrist that bend the wrist backward
  • Flexors: Three tendons across the front of the wrist that bend the wrist forward

Tendonitis usually affects one of these tendons, but it can involve two or more.

Often, wrist tendonitis occurs in the areas where tendons cross each other or pass over a bony area and become irritated. This can lead to pain when you move the wrist.

Tendon Sheaths

The wrist tendons glide through fluid-filled tendon sheaths. These help with smooth movement. When the sheath is inflamed, it's called tenosynovitis.

Wrist Tendonitis Symptoms

Symptoms of wrist tendonitis include:

  • Pain that's worse with movement
  • Swelling around the wrist joint
  • Warmth and redness
  • Grinding sensations (crepitus) with movement

Click Play to Learn More About Wrist Tendonitis

This video has been medically reviewed by Oluseun Olufade, MD.


Any tendon can become irritated and cause pain, but tendonitis is more common in a few specific tendons. That's due to their anatomy plus common activities.

Tendonitis can be caused by:

  • Trauma
  • Overuse
  • Repetitive movement

It can also be caused by several conditions, including:

Some of these causes are related more to inflammation. In others, the main feature is chronic damage to the tendon (tendinosis).


Six main tendons surround your wrist joint. When they're irritated, you may have pain, swelling, and grinding sensations. This is tendonitis. Causes include injury, overuse, repetitive movement, and some medical conditions.


Healthcare providers diagnose wrist tendonitis based in part on your symptoms. They'll also give you a physical exam.

Specific stretches can be used to identify which tendon is hurting. One example is a test for de Quervain's tenosynovitis. That's a type of tendonitis often seen shortly after childbirth.

To test for it, your provider will have you:

  • Bend your thumb into your palm
  • Make a fist around it
  • Bend your wrist toward your pinky finger

If the thumb side of your wrist hurts, it's most likely de Quervain's. This is called the Finkelstein test.

Imaging typically isn't needed to diagnose tendonitis. But your provider may want an X-ray to check for fractures or arthritis. An X-ray doesn't show tendonitis.

Ultrasounds and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be useful, though. They can show whether there's fluid around the aggravated tendon.


Your healthcare provider will choose wrist tendonitis treatments based on the location, type, and severity of your tendonitis.

Early goals usually focus on controlling inflammation and allowing the tendon time to heal. This may include a plan for wrist tendonitis treatment at home that involves:

  • Immobilization: A splint or cast prevents further irritation and allows the area to rest.
  • Icing: Icing a few times a day reduces inflammation and relieves swelling and pain. Be sure you ice properly.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs help lower inflammation and pain. Over-the-counter and prescription NSAIDs are available.

If those don't work, other options are:

  • Hand therapy: This specialized physical therapy may include wrist tendonitis exercises that stretch and strengthen the joint, electrical stimulation (TENS), ultrasound, and possibly splints or supports.
  • Cortisone injection: A powerful anti-inflammatory is injected right into the inflamed area. You can only have a few injections, though. Too many can weaken tendons.
  • Surgery: This is reserved for when other treatments fail. It may involve removing inflamed tissues or releasing pressure from tight tendon sheaths.


Diagnosing tendonitis involves looking at your symptoms, a physical exam, and possibly simple stretching tests. Imaging may be done to rule out other conditions.

Treatment may involve simple strategies like NSAIDs and ice. Or you may need therapy, steroid injections, or surgery.

Preventing Flare-Ups

Prevent flare-ups of wrist tendonitis by modifying activities that aggravate it.

This may mean changing the way you lift or adjusting your grip. Other steps include:

  • Wearing a splint, brace, or wrap during activities that irritate your wrist.
  • Be careful not to mask symptoms with medication. That can lead you to overuse your wrist without realizing it.
  • Prepare your tendons for activity with gentle stretching and heat. Ice afterward to quiet inflammation.

If you can't control the symptoms, see your healthcare provider.


Tendonitis is common in the six main tendons around your wrist joint. This painful condition can be caused by injury, overuse, and inflammatory disorders.

It's diagnosed based on symptoms, a physical exam, and simple tests. You may or may not be sent for imaging, like X-rays or an MRI.

Treatment with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication may help. Hand therapy and steroid injections may work, as well. to speed up recovery time for wrist tendonitis. Surgery is a last resort.

Modify your activities to keep tendonitis from coming back. If you need help with this, talk to your healthcare provider or physical therapist.

A Word From Verywell

Wrist tendonitis can be painful and debilitating. Don't think that you just have to live with it. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options.

Most types of wrist tendonitis do get a lot better with treatment. Stick to the regimen and be careful how you use the injured wrist. That'll help you get back to doing the activities you enjoy.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Vuillemin V, Guerini H, Bard H, Morvan G. Stenosing tenosynovitis. J Ultrasound. 2012;15(1):20-8. doi:10.1016/j.jus.2012.02.002

  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Tendonitis.

  3. University of Pennsylvania, Penn Medicine. Tendonitis treatments.

  4. Diabetes in Control. Tendon pain linked to diabetes.

  5. Goel R, Abzug JM. de Quervain's tenosynovitis: a review of the rehabilitative options. Hand (N Y). 2015;10(1):1-5. doi:10.1007/s11552-014-9649-3

Additional Reading
  • Adams JE, Habbu R. Tendinopathies of the hand and wrist [published correction appears in J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2016 Feb;24(2):123]. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2015;23(12):741-750. doi:10.5435/JAAOS-D-14-00216

By Jonathan Cluett, MD
Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.