Ask a Hand Therapist: Pain on Pinky Side of Wrist

Question:

 

For the last two to three weeks I’ve had pain in my right hand/wrist that is on the pinky side of my hand. It starts halfway down from the pinky and goes to the wrist bone.  I haven’t had any injury that I can remember, but I think the pain was caused by my daily chin-up routine (which I have since stopped). I think maybe constant use of a mouse in my job has really aggravated it.

Then, I tried hitting a few golf balls, but on the very first swing the pain in my wrist shot up. Ibuprofen is the only thing keeping it bearable. I’ve been icing it as much as possible, which also helps a bit. It also gets worse when I do things like turn a doorknob or open a tight jar – motions that twist it.

Should I just rest it or go to the ortho?

Any insight or suggestions you can provide are very welcome.

Thanks,

Ray

Answer:

If you are experiencing pain on the pinky side of your wrist it is likely to be the result of TFCC (Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex) dysfunction. This article will help you understand the anatomy, causes, treatments and therapies for pain on the pinky side of your wrist.  Clinicians refer to this type of pain, as ulnar-sided wrist pain or simply ulnar wrist pain.

Pain on the Ulnar (pinky) side of the wrist can vary from mild to severe depending on the cause. It may worsen when gripping, pushing/pulling or twisting the wrist in a palm down to palm up position.

In simple terms, if you experience pain on the pinky side of your wrist when opening a jar, turning a door knob, doing chin-ups, using a mouse, swinging a baseball bat or golf club, riding a motorcycle, or during other activity, it is likely to be caused by TFCC injury.

Anatomy

TFCC DRUJ Anatomy
anatomy tfcc druj

The ulnar side of the wrist contains a complex cartilage structure referred to as the TFCC (Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex). The TFCC provides stability between the forearm bones at the wrist as well as a cushion against loading forces. This structure can be damaged with repetitive use, heavy loading, falls, or sports related injuries.

The term “wrist” describes the joint that connects the forearm to the hand, but the “wrist” is not just one simple joint.  There are eight smaller bones that connect the five main hand bones, called the metacarpals, to the two forearm bones (radius and ulna).

Causes

Due to the many parts in this “pinkie” side of the wrist, determining the cause of ulnar-sided wrist pain can be very difficult. Your doctor will examine your wrist to see where the pain is located and how the wrist moves.  X-rays might be taken. Sometimes other studies such as a CT scan or MRI might be needed.

Common causes of pain on pinky side of wrist:

  • Falls. A common cause of ulnar wrist pain is a fall onto an outstretched hand, which may fracture bones in the wrist.
  • Sports injuries. Certain sports — such as tennis, golf and football — can overextend the wrist and damage ligaments and tendons.
  • Occupational risks. Using a computer mouse or keyboard in a position that causes stress on the wrist can lead to wrist pain due to overuse. Carpenters and plumbers may develop ulnar wrist pain, because they often must use tools in small spaces that require awkward positioning of the wrist.
  • Arthritis of the joint(s) between bones
  • Ulnar impaction syndrome (when the ulna is longer than the radius, which can cause it to “bump into” the smaller wrist bones
  • Inflammation or irritation of the tendons that bend and extend the wrist
  • Nerve injury or compression
  • Masses (tumors), most commonly ganglion cysts, which are benign

Treatment

Injections can be helpful in diagnosing and treating ulnar-sided wrist pain. Most injuries that cause pain on the pinky side of the wrist can be treated with rest, activity modification, and bracing.  Tendonitis may respond well to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and ice.

Bullseye Wrist Band | TFCC brace | DRUJ injuryBullseye Wrist Band is specifically designed to address pain on the pinky side of the wrist due to TFCC dysfunction. Early clinical testing has shown to reduce pain reduction of up to 50% in a cases where it was used in treating patients with TFCC injury.  100% of initial case studies have experienced pain reduction and high patient satisfaction.

TFCC injuries and ulnar impaction syndrome may need to be evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon if symptoms do not improve.

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