People with wrist arthritis have wrist pain, swelling and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and wrist injuries can cause inflammation in the wrist joint. Steroid shots, wrist splints and anti-inflammatory drugs can ease pain and swelling. Rarely, people need surgery to improve their range of motion and reduce pain.
Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in the wrist joint. Many small bones make up your wrist, which connects your hand and forearm. The wrist joint helps you bend, straighten and rotate your hand. Arthritis in your wrist causes painful swelling and inflammation in this joint.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
You can get joint inflammation in different areas of the wrist. Healthcare providers name types of wrist arthritis for where they occur, including:
The wrist joint is part of the skeletal system. Several bones come together to form the wrist joint.
Cartilage (a connective tissue) at the ends of bones allows them to glide against each other. Age and some health conditions can wear away this cartilage. When this happens, bone rubs against bone, causing swelling, pain and stiffness. This is arthritis.
Different types of arthritis can affect the wrist, including:
Symptoms vary depending on the cause. For some people, symptoms are severe and interfere with daily life. For others, symptoms are mild and may come and go.
Wrist pain is one of the first signs of arthritis in the wrist. The pain may worsen when you rotate your palm or try to open jars or turn doorknobs. You may also experience:
Your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam to assess your range of motion and check for signs of inflammation. To diagnose arthritis type, you may have:
Wrist arthritis treatments depend on the arthritis type. They include:
If severe symptoms interfere with your daily life, you may need surgery. Surgical options include:
There isn’t much you can do to prevent arthritis that affects your wrists. Once arthritis develops, you can take steps like wearing a splint to ease pressure on the wrist.
Most people with wrist arthritis can manage the pain with NSAIDs, hand exercises and other at-home treatments. Steroid injections can also help.
If wrist pain becomes severe and affects your ability to enjoy life, your healthcare provider can discuss surgery options.
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
Wrist arthritis is a top cause of wrist pain. Your healthcare provider can help pinpoint the type of arthritis, which can determine the best treatment approach. Most people feel better with nonsurgical care like wearing a splint, modifying activities and doing hand exercises. If wrist pain interferes with daily life, your provider might recommend surgery.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/29/2021.
Learn more about our editorial process.