What is my random wrist pain from?
November 22, 2010 8:23 PM   Subscribe

What could be causing the popping in my wrist? YANMD, etc. etc.

Sometime within the last few months, I started having pain in my wrist while moving my fingers. I still have a full range of motion, but if I try to move my fingers from slightly bent to extended, I can feel a pop in my wrist and a sharp pain. It occurs just before my fingers are fully extended. It also happens when I move my wrist down and then up, although only occasionally.

By "pop", I mean that you can see something moving in my wrist, right in the middle under the skin, almost as if something is sliding. If you feel that area while I move my fingers, you can feel a distinct movement as well. This only occurs on the top of my wrist, not the bottom/sides. The pain is sharp, but gone within a few seconds- almost like stabbing yourself with a pin and pulling it right back out. I have tried icing it, etc. but nothing has decreased that pain.

YANMD and I have an appointment with my PCP for next month, but in the mean time what could this be? I spend a lot of time typing/writing but I don't know if it's related. All the information I can find online is aimed at people with consistent pain in their wrists, not sharper, shorter pain. For what it's worth, I'm a right-handed female in my 20s. I've never had any hand/arm/finger related injuries other than a lot of jammed and sprained fingers, and there is absolutely no pain anywhere else in my arm.
posted by kro to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Take a look at ganglion cysts - they're not terribly uncommon, and can definitely be uncomfortable. It's possible you have one in a spot where that particular motion makes a tendon jump across it.

The good thing is, they're really not a big deal.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:26 PM on November 22, 2010

By "pop", I mean that you can see something moving in my wrist, right in the middle under the skin, almost as if something is sliding. If you feel that area while I move my fingers, you can feel a distinct movement as well.

I have no idea what could be wrong with your wrist, unfortunately, but as far as I am aware, this sliding you describe is completely normal on people with tiny wrists. You can't really see it on chunkier/more muscular people. However, I have the wrists of a waifish child, so a lot of tendon movement (sliding) is visible and palpable through my skin (it's pretty freaky).

Is something making a popping noise, perhaps? Or can you actually see the tendons physically pop over something, as if their movement is obstructed? (If it's the latter, a ganglion cyst may well be the culprit. My mom had one and had to get it surgically removed when I was really young.
posted by phunniemee at 8:33 PM on November 22, 2010

this sounds like a trigger finger, but i don't know anything about whether that can happen in wrists...seems like it could....the finger is easily treated with a short in-office minisurgery (hand surgeon), but i don't know how a wrist would go....

also, could you just speak to your pcp about getting a referral, now, to a hand orthopedist? and then once you can see a hand orthopedist, who will have a much better idea of hand/wrist anatomy than most pcps, you can get a better idea of whether this is an acute issue or something more vague and systemic. i only suggest to get the referral over the phone because you'll probably have to wait a month or so for a specialist appt. i have been dealing with sundry hand issues for years and it always seems to go like that, no matter which health plan i'm in.

and jumping to conclusions based on my own experience, just in case the surgeon wants to try to treat anything that he/she thinks is systemic/long term/vague, ask whether seeing a rheumatologist might be a good idea as well. i don't actually have arthritis (seeing a rheum was actually originally intended to rule some things out), but i have found that my rheumatologist offers more options for treating inflammatory conditions, besides the standard cortisone injections and prednisone cycles for inflammation, than the surgeon. ymmv, and i will be watching this thread with interest to find out how these things seem to go for others.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 9:06 PM on November 22, 2010

re previous comment: on readover, sorry if i am being a little too doomsday that something large is wrong -- i am definitely transferring a little bit, but i really wish someone had pointed out these sorts of options for these mysterious hand ailments before i just blindly followed my surgeons and/or suffered in unnecessary pain for unnecessary periods of time. i also hope maybe others will have some other ideas for you.

but i would really assume that it will turn out to be something simple....
posted by Tandem Affinity at 9:15 PM on November 22, 2010

I had a ganglion cyst in my wrist that was uncomfortable but not painful. It definitely restricted my wrist movement. After unsuccessfully trying to treat it via steroid injection, I had the thing surgically removed (and got PT), and it got a lot better.

Mine was caused by recurring tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon sheath) from overuse via typing and joystick-using video games. I switched to the Dvorak keyboard layout and haven't had such a problem since.
posted by bookdragoness at 7:53 AM on November 23, 2010

Don't know what is causing it, but I had something very similar caused by excessive mouse usage when writing my thesis (mostly playing that moronic minelayer game), and I solved it by using a trackball, it disappeared soon after and hasn't returned (I still use a trackball).
posted by wilful at 4:05 PM on November 23, 2010

Response by poster: Just wanted to follow up, I waited a month and went straight to a hand orthopedist, it was a ganglion cyst that had formed on the tendon sheath in my wrist, so a lovely painful cortisone shot later and hopefully it will be good as new in a few weeks. If not, it's off to surgery I go. Thanks so much for all the answers!
posted by kro at 11:13 PM on December 23, 2010

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