Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Tendonitis of the Wrist & Hand

Tendonitis of the wrist and hand refers to inflammation of the tendons that connect the muscles in the forearm to the bones in the wrist and hand. These tendons control the movements of the fingers, hands, and wrists. The inflammation causes pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected area. The specific tendon is important in diagnosing and defining treatment. The tendons may travel through a sheath or envelope that gets too tight.

Flexor Tendonitis

Flexor carpi radialis tendonitis: Affects the tendon that bends the wrist towards the thumb side.

Flexor carpi ulnaris tendonitis: Affects the tendon that bends the wrist towards the little finger side.

Extensor Tendonitis

Extensor carpi radialis brevis and longus tendonitis: Affects the tendons that extends (bends back) the wrist and thumb side

Extensor carpi ulnaris tendonitis: Affects the tendon that extends the wrist towards the little finger side.

Extensor pollicis longus tendonitis: Affects the tendon that extends the thumb.

Intersection syndrome: Inflammation of the tendons that extend the wrist and thumb where they cross over each other.

Other Types

De Quervain’s tendinitis (see separate page): Affects the tendons in the wrist/thumb that allow movement of the thumb.

Trigger finger/thumb (see separate page): Catching or locking of the finger/thumb flexor tendons in the palm.

The flexor and extensor tendons in the wrist and hand can become inflamed due to overuse, repetitive motions, or acute injury, leading to pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected area

Common Symptoms

Common symptoms of wrist and hand tendonitis include:

  • Dull ache or pain in the wrist, especially with movement
  • Warmth and redness over the affected area
  • Swelling and inflammation, reducing wrist mobility
  • Grinding or creaking noise when moving the wrist
  • Weakness in the wrist and hand
  • Inability to perform certain movements like gripping, pinching, or typing

Cause & Anatomy

The most common cause is repetitive motion or overuse from activities like typing, writing, playing sports, or manual labor. Other potential causes include acute injury, age, poor posture, misaligned joints, diabetes, and conditions like arthritis.

Important Anatomy

The wrist contains many tendons that surround the joint and control finger, hand, and wrist movements. These tendons normally glide smoothly through a sheath lined with synovial fluid. Inflammation can thicken this sheath, restricting tendon movement and causing pain.


Diagnosis is typically made through a physical exam, where the doctor may ask the patient to move the wrist in certain ways to identify the inflamed area. Imaging tests like X-rays, ultrasounds, or MRIs may be used to rule out other issues and visualize fluid buildup around tendons.


Tips to prevent wrist/hand tendonitis include avoiding repetitive activities when possible, taking breaks, wearing supportive braces, and performing stretching exercises for the wrists.


Non-surgical treatments aim to reduce pain and inflammation, such as:

  • Rest and activity modification
  • Ice packs to reduce inflammation
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications
  • Splinting or bracing to immobilize the wrist
  • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation
  • Physical therapy exercises and stretches


If non-surgical treatments fail or there is tendon damage, surgery may be needed to release the tight tendon sheath and remove inflamed tissue, allowing the tendon to move freely again. This is usually an outpatient, minimally invasive procedure.


Rehabilitation focuses on gradually restoring strength, flexibility and function through exercises, stretches, and modalities like electrical stimulation under the guidance of a hand therapist. Custom splints may be used initially to control wrist movements.


Some common questions about wrist/hand tendonitis may include recovery timelines, recommended activities or exercises during recovery, long-term prognosis and risk of recurrence, and options for severe or chronic cases. Consulting a doctor is advisable for personalized guidance.

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