What are the Treatments for Arthritis in the Wrist?

Alicia Sparks

The most effective treatment for arthritic wrists will depend on the reason for and severity of the arthritis. Nonsurgical treatments for arthritis in the wrist are the most common options and usually the first recommendations a doctor will make. If nonsurgical options don’t work, or the arthritis is severe enough, a doctor might suggest certain surgical procedures. Regardless of which treatment options or combination of options a patient and doctor choose, making certain lifestyle changes can help alleviate and prevent future wrist pain.

Cold packs, when used in conjunction with heat therapy, can provide relief for those who have arthritis pain.
Cold packs, when used in conjunction with heat therapy, can provide relief for those who have arthritis pain.

Understanding the reason for arthritic wrists is the first step to determining effective treatments. The two most common types of arthritis in the wrists are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis leads to tissue and joint inflammation, and osteoarthritis destroys the cartilage that protects bones from rubbing against each other. Psoriatic arthritis is another type of wrist arthritis, though it’s usually only associated with psoriasis. If a person is suffering from wrist pain but hasn’t been diagnosed with any kind of arthritis in the wrist, he should talk with a doctor about other conditions that might cause pain in the wrist.

Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in the joints.
Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in the joints.

Nonsurgical options for treating arthritis in the wrist include taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and aspirin. Steroid injections in the joint can also help with wrist pain. Some patients experience pain relief when they complete wrist exercises designed specifically for arthritic wrists. Others find keeping the wrist immobilized for a certain amount of time each day helps. A doctor might suggest spending time with hot or cold compresses on the wrist, or alternating the two temperatures.

Depending on the severity of the arthritis and the pain the patient is experiencing, a doctor might suggest surgical treatment options. One surgical option is to remove the arthritic bones. Joint fusion, which prevents the wrist from moving, is another option. If removing bones or fusing joints isn't possible, or if no other treatment option works, a doctor might suggest joint replacement. Joint replacement in the wrist is rare, but it can help alleviate wrist pain and restore the wrist’s strength and motion.

In addition to the nonsurgical and surgical treatments for arthritis in the wrist, there are various lifestyle changes a person can make to ease wrist pain. It’s important to avoid or lessen the frequency of any activities that cause the pain to flare. A person who works using computers can invest in an ergonomic keyboard, mouse, and mouse pad. Regular wrist massages can help alleviate pain, and wearing wrist splints to bed can help reduce swelling and pain in the morning.

Some arthritis patients have found acupuncture to be an effective treatment option.
Some arthritis patients have found acupuncture to be an effective treatment option.

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Discussion Comments


My dad got wrist fusion surgery last year due to arthritis. He can't bend his wrist now but he is free of pain. He thinks it was worth it.


@donasmrs-- Yes, physical therapy is available for arthritis. But I think it may be available to those who have suffered loss of movement due to arthritis. You should ask your doctor about this option. There are also wrist exercises you could do at home to keep your wrist strong and flexible. Ask your doctor about this as well.

Medications are usually enough for people with minor arthritis. Topical medicated creams can relieve the symptoms quite well. This was the treatment I followed until the arthritis worsened and the creams and tablet pain-relievers no longer worked. So I got steroid injections in my wrist six months ago.

The injections have completely resolved my pain. Hopefully, you won't ever need them, but if you do, don't hesitate. When inflammation gets out of hand, steroid injections treat it much more effectively than other medications.


Are oral and topical medications enough to treat minor arthritis in the wrist? And is physical therapy an option for this type of arthritis?

I just found out that I have minor wrist arthritis. I'm hoping that it will be easily treated because injections and surgery don't sound like much fun.

Does anyone else here have wrist arthritis? What are you doing for treatment?

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