Updated on April 15, 2020

5 Conditions affecting the wrist and elbow

Many people suffer from conditions that affect the wrists or elbows. That is because these parts of the body are prone to fractures, sprains or strains and because of repetitive movements. If you spend hours on your computer or if you often rely on the strength of your arms, these are the conditions that may affect you.

Knowing and understanding these conditions can help you avoid and treat them.

1. Carpal tunnel syndrome

The carpal tunnel syndrome is on top of the list as it affects around 3 to 6 percent of adults in the US. It is a result of having a pinched nerve in the wrist. If you have this condition, you’ll feel a tingling sensation and numbness in the wrist area. The condition is also common among Pregnant Women.


If you start to experience the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, don’t wait too long to treat it. Treating it early will help you get a favorable result.

If the symptoms are still mild, you’ll alleviate the symptoms by taking frequent breaks and applying a cold pack to ease the swelling. If the symptoms appear more frequently, other common treatments include the use of wrist brace or support and taking non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). For some people, corticosteroid injections may also help. If these conservative treatments do not help, the last resort is to have surgery by an orthopedic specialist.

Other conditions can have the same symptoms as the carpal tunnel syndrome, that is why it is important to obtain proper diagnosis and treatment.


The carpal tunnel syndrome is a very common condition among those who work for many hours using their hands. To avoid it, make sure to set up an ergonomic workstation. Your table should allow you to work while your hands and wrists are aligned with your forearms. Your elbows should always be close to your sides. Also, avoid leaning with the wrist or heel of your hands. Taking at least a 10-minute work break from time to time will also help. Moreover, there are also stretching exercises designed to help avoid the carpal tunnel syndrome.

2. Trigger finger

Trigger finger, otherwise known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition where one or more fingers lock or catch when you try to straighten them. When you push an affected finger, it will straighten with a snap or pop. In severe cases, it will be typically stuck in its bent position.

If you often do repetitive finger movements or gripping over several hours at once, you’ll be prone to developing trigger finger. This is common among musicians and those who are operating stiff machinery. Symptoms may include finger stiffness, nodule or tenderness at the base of the finger, popping sound each time you straighten the finger, and finger staying locked in a bent position.


Mild cases of trigger finger can be treated with conservative measures which include the use of a splint in the affected finger. Resting your finger also helps resolve mild symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend taking medication to reduce the inflammation. If your finger is locked in a bent position, an orthopedic specialist may recommend having surgery to correct it.


Just like the carpal tunnel syndrome, the best way to prevent trigger finger is to avoid overusing your hands and fingers. If you begin to experience one of those symptoms, take a rest. You could also alternate your activities so that you will not be putting too much pressure on your fingers for hours.

3. Ganglion cysts

Ganglion cysts are benign or non-cancerous tumors that normally sit on top of a joint like the wrist area. Depending on the size, the cysts may feel spongy or firm. The cause of ganglion cysts is not known, but some theories suggest that it could result when there is trauma in the joint, causing the joint to break down and form small cysts which then combine to form a larger cyst.

Symptoms of a ganglion cyst include a mass in the joint that doesn’t move. Swelling may also appear over time. Some cases come with some degree of pain for many which have no other symptom except the lump.


Different treatment strategies have been used for this condition including removing the cyst using a needle or through surgery. More conservative treatments are also available including the use of manual compression, corticosteroid and electroacupuncture therapies, among others.


As the cause of ganglion cysts is still unknown, it is also difficult to tell how to prevent them. However, as these cysts commonly appear after trauma, avoiding situations that could lead to trauma can reduce your risk of developing ganglion cysts.

4. Tennis elbow

Overusing any of your elbows could result in this condition. Tennis elbow is common among those who play sports like tennis, fencing, racquetball, squash, and weightlifting. It also affects people who frequently engage in activities like typing, carpentry, raking, painting, and knitting.

Tennis elbow comes with several symptoms including pain and tenderness in the bony knob around the elbow. The pain may also extend to the upper or lower arm. You’ll also experience pain when you lift something, tightly grip an object, form a fist, open a door, or raise your hand.


Depending on the severity of the condition, various forms of treatment are available if you experience tennis elbow. In most cases, non-surgical options are successful in treating tennis elbow. Patients are managed through a course of splinting, bracing and therapy. The most important part is for the affected tendon to have a long rest from doing aggravating activities. In some cases, steroid injections and NSAID medications also help alleviate the symptoms. If conservative treatment does not work after 6 to 12 months, your doctor may recommend surgery.


The best way to prevent tennis elbow is to avoid overusing your arm doing repeated movements that can possibly injure the tendons. If possible, alternate your hands during the activity and take about 10 minutes of a break as frequently as possible. Also, when playing sports, be sure to use the right equipment that matches your overall physique. In addition, wearing an elbow compression sleeve or support during activities could greatly help you avoid tennis elbow and other related injuries.

5. Golfer’s elbow

Golfer’s elbow is a condition that affects not only people who play golf but also others who play tennis and other racquet sports, bowling, archery, football, and baseball. People who also engage in carpentry, plumbing, and jobs that require repetitive gripping are also prone to this condition. Your risk of getting this condition is high if you overuse the muscles in your forearm and use it constantly for rotating, gripping and flexing.

Just like tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow is also a condition that results from overusing the affected area, causing tenderness and inflammation of the tendons in the elbow. However, unlike tennis elbow where the pain is outside the elbow, golfer’s elbow is associated with pain on the bony bump inside the elbow. The pain could also extend to the forearm.


There are various approaches to treating golfer’s elbow. As part of the initial treatment, the R.I.C.E. treatment usually works, that is – rest, ice, compression and elevation. If you experience the first signs of pain on your elbow, take a rest immediately, apply ice and then use the compression and elevation technique. Cold therapy can be applied for about 15 minutes every hour.

Depending on the severity of the condition and pain, other treatments involve the use of NSAIDs, splint support, and stretching and strengthening exercises. For those who are in constant pain, corticosteroid injections might help provide temporary relief. Your doctor may also recommend a rehabilitation program.


As they say, prevention is always better than cure. You could prevent golfer’s elbow if you avoid putting too much pressure on your elbow from repetitive motions that require much effort in this area. When playing golf or tennis, you could prevent this condition by gripping and swinging correctly. Also, some trainers recommend the use of an elbow compression sleeve to lower your risk of getting this condition.

There are many other conditions that affect the wrist and elbow areas, and the ones we have listed are just the most common. The wrist and elbow areas are also prone to fractures, sprain and strains because of an accident or the nature of your daily routine.

Wrap Up

Most of the conditions around one of your wrists and elbows are preventable as most of them are a result of overuse of the affected muscles. The most effective preventive technique is to rest and protect. Resting means that you have to take a break in between activities and do not wait for your wrist or elbow to become painful.

For protection, there are compression sleeves and supports that are designed to protect these parts and lower your risk of related conditions. Investing in these sleeves or supports can make a big difference.

About the Author

Graduated from HNB Garhwal University, Ugyen currently works as a clinical Physiotherapist in Bhutan. With 5 years of experience in the Physiotherapy field, and for the passion of blogging, the GoForPhysio.com was born. Find out tips, information & product reviews on Physiotherapy here.

Ugyen Dorji, Physiotherapist

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