What is Wrist Arthritis? 

Arthritis is caused by wear and tear of the joint and surrounding soft tissue that causes inflammation and if left untreated, the synovial fluid and cartilage will wear away, causing bone on bone friction and pain. Arthritis is progressive and can lead to serious joint damage. Wrist arthritis involves the several smaller joints that make up the wrist.

Dr. Sforzo and Dr. Dillingham both provide excellent treatment options for their patients with wrist arthritis. They are leaders in providing technically intricate procedures and advanced techniques.

Continue reading for an overview of wrist arthritis procedures, protocols, potential complications, and frequently asked questions.

Wrist Arthritis Anatomy 

The forearm bone (ulna) and the long arm bone (radius) connect the smaller carpal bones in the base of the hand to the wrist joint, which is a complex joint.  Two rows of carpal bones house four bones per row.  Because there are numerous bones involved in the wrist joint, articular cartilage covers each one to envelop and protect the joints.

Most Common Types of Wrist Arthritis 


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It’s caused by a mechanical degeneration of “wear and tear” of the bones and cartilage within the joint structure. When cartilage is thin, the friction on the bones becomes more pronounced, and the joint is less able to function smoothly.

Rheumatoid arthritis 

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and swelling in the joints, which happens when the body mistakes healthy tissue for foreign bodies and attacks the joints.

Post-traumatic arthritis 

Post-traumatic arthritis (PTA) is osteoarthritis that directly results from an injury or trauma to the affected joint. It is often fluid-filled due to the inflammatory response and is extremely painful.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis PsA is an autoimmune condition that can affect the joints and skin. The inflammation is thought to be caused by proteins in the immune system that cause disruptions by overproducing, which creates joint pain and swelling and skin disorders.  


Gout in the wrist is uncommon but is seen in elderly patients occasionally.  Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid. Uric acid causes painful crystals to form in the joint.

Causes of Wrist Arthritis: 

Because we use our wrists throughout the day in numerous tasks, the wrist is susceptible to arthritis due to wear and tear. In fact, in the United States, 1 in 7 people will develop wrist arthritis. Cartilage lines the ends of the bones to help them glide within the socket of the joints. When the cartilage wears thin due to overuse, injury, trauma, or health-related conditions, wrist arthritis will begin to happen and overtime, it is progressive and needs to be treated professionally.

Symptoms of Wrist Arthritis

Symptoms of wrist arthritis include, pain, inflammation, immobility and or limited range of motion in the wrist and hand. It may also be red and swollen and there may also be a visible bump in the wrist.

Wrist Arthritis Diagnosis 

Your orthopedic surgeon will perform a physical examination, which often reveals key indicators of wrist arthritis. A common symptom is pain and limited range of motion in the wrist and hand. 

The surgeon may also inject a numbing anesthetic directly into the joint in order to manually move the wrist with little discomfort for a more in-depth assessment. If the pain subsides during this examination, it is often arthritic related. If the pain persists, it may be another issue, such as a tendon or ligament tear, or fracture.

The next step is diagnostic imaging

An X-ray can reveal a narrowing of the bones within the joint, which indicates loss of cartilage. It can also show bone degeneration. MRI will give an even more in-depth look at the entire wrist and hand. MRI helps physicians see soft tissue, bone, and any fluid accumulated via detailed imaging.

Wrist Arthritis Treatments 

Nonsurgical Treatment

Ice/Heat: Applying ice and alternating with warm compresses can help reduce inflammation

Bracing to immobilize wrist movement

Bracing:  Using a brace to immobilize the wrist when it’s inflamed or painful can stabilize the joint and relieve discomfort.

Physical therapy: Physical Therapy and practicing wrist stretches and exercises can speed healing and strengthen the wrist. Today more than ever, Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine’s personalized level of care is their top priority. Therefore, they set a high standard of patient care for their in-house physical therapy department. The ability to communicate daily with their physical therapists and clinicians is ideal in orthopedic patient care.  Having the in-house physical therapy department allows the physicians to have insight and control over the advanced treatment their patients need and specifically design the best program for recovery. 

Injectable Medications: There are also injectables like viscosupplementation, which helps to relubricate the joint to re-establish a natural gliding sensation. Corticosteroid injections are also available; these are anti-inflammatory injectables that tamp down swelling internally.

Biotherapeutics: Regenerative medicine is a remarkable way to regenerate damaged tissues directly within the joint. This is a safe and natural alternative to surgery and has helped numerous people find relief and treat the root cause of their condition.

Medications: If wrist arthritis is caused by RA (rheumatoid arthritis), RA drugs can help alleviate the inflammatory response and ease the pain.

Surgical Treatment

Arthroscopy: Arthroscopic surgery may be performed for mild to moderate cases of wrist arthritis. It is a minimally invasive procedure utilizing tiny instruments through small incisions that is under fluoroscopy. During arthroscopy, the surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into the wrist joint. 

Surgery: Open Surgery is available in late-stage situations.  If open surgery is necessary, the recovery time is typically a few weeks or months depending on the patient’s overall health.  With physical therapy to prevent reinjury and optimal healing, recovery time is shortened. 

With decades of experience, at Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports

Medicine all of our surgeons are board certified and fellowship trained. We offer you the best treatment options and care.

We provide excellent medical care in a warm, caring, comfortable environment, where patients are treated efficiently, effectively, and as if they were the only patient. Let us get you back in your game.


Is arthritis hereditary?

Arthritis can be hereditary. The risk of developing arthritis gets more significant with age.

What type of joint is the wrist?

The wrist joint is also referred to as the radiocarpal joint, which is a condyloid synovial joint connecting the arm bones to the wrist and hand.

Is there a cure for arthritis in the wrist?

There is no cure, but patients can try to limit overuse, take breaks, and incorporate stretching.  It is thought that anti-inflammatory diets are important to decrease the progression of arthritis.

Focusing On You

As healthcare is ever changing, Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine, is doing things differently…

  • About Christopher R. Sforzo, M.D. Christopher R. Sforzo, M.D. is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and fellowship trained in hand and upper extremity surgery. He provides expert care in the treatment of problems involving the shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, wrist and hand. He performs many procedures using mini
  • About Christopher L. Dillingham, M.D. Christopher L. Dillingham, M.D. is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and fellowship trained in hand, shoulder, and arm surgery. He specializes in the treatment of problems with rotator cuff disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome and nerve injury, joint replacement, arthritis sur
  • About Charles E. Stewart, M.D. Charles E. Stewart M.D. is a board-certified, Johns Hopkins fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in adult complex reconstruction of the lower extremity.  His specialties include lower extremity sports injuries, meniscal injuries, ACL reconstruction, partial knee replacement,
  • About Philip A. Meinhardt, M.D. Philip A. Meinhardt, M.D. is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and fellowship trained spine surgeon. He specializes in adult spinal surgeries including reconstruction of spinal deformities, minimally invasive/microscopic spinal procedures, decompression, spinal instrumentation, fusion



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