Treatment Options:

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Wrist arthritis leads to narrowing of the wrist joint. Arthritis causes loss of articular cartilage, which covers the ends of the bones and allows those bones to move smoothly against each other. When the cartilage is damaged, the bones rub together during joint motion causing the patient pain. This can lead to pain with motion, clicking, grinding and/or a loss of strength. When arthritis becomes severe, the body attempts to stabilize the joint and limit motion by forming bone spurs or extra bone around the edges of the joint.

What are the causes?

There are two main types of arthritis: rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body's immune system causes inflammation in the joint. Osteoarthritis occurs when the joint surfaces wear down as a result of overuse, age or prior injury. When an infection in the joint leads to loss of cartilage, it is called septic arthritis.

What are the symptoms?

Patients suffering from wrist arthritis may experience pain, stiffness or loss of strength. A grinding, clicking or locking sensation may be felt in the affected joint. Loss of motion can become severe and the patient may have trouble performing everyday tasks, such as grasping objects.

How is it diagnosed?

Arthritis is diagnosed by physical exam and X-ray. Your orthopedic surgeon will examine your wrist, noting range of motion, strength and any pain with motion. Your surgeon will obtain X-rays or other imaging to evaluate the arthritis.

How is it treated?


Physical therapy can assist in treating wrist arthritis to strengthen soft tissues that support the joint. The stronger the supporting soft tissues, the less the body will need to rely on bony architecture to stabilize the joint. Therapy may lead to less stress on the arthritic joint. Because arthritis includes a component of inflammation, your surgeon may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications or suggest an injection to reduce the inflammation. For arthritis in its beginning stages, nutritional supplements may slow progression.


When non-operative treatment has failed, your surgeon may suggest surgery. Fusion or removing a row of hand bones is used for advanced arthritis. A fusion of the wrist joint will contribute to eliminating the patient's pain. Range of motion of the wrist, however, is severely limited after a fusion. Arthroscopy of the wrist, or a 'wrist scope', involves placing a tiny camera in the joint to help remove injured cartilage or impeding soft tissues. This procedure is not indicated for advanced arthritis.