Physiotherapy for Wrist Pain: A Comprehensive Guide

Wrist pain can be a debilitating condition, affecting your ability to perform everyday tasks, from typing on a keyboard to lifting a cup of tea.

It’s a common issue that can arise from a variety of causes, including injury, overuse, or underlying health conditions.

Fortunately, physiotherapy offers a range of effective treatments to alleviate wrist pain and restore function.

This article provides a comprehensive guide to understanding wrist pain and the role of physiotherapy in its treatment.

Understanding Wrist Pain

The wrist is a complex structure composed of eight small bones, known as carpal bones, arranged in two rows.

These bones connect the bones of the forearm to the bones of the hand and are bound by ligaments.

Any damage or strain to these components can result in wrist pain.

Wrist pain can manifest in various ways, from a dull ache to a sharp, stabbing pain.

It may be constant or intermittent, and it may be exacerbated by movement or specific activities.

The nature of the pain often provides clues to its cause.

The Role of Physiotherapy in Treating Wrist Pain

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the treatment of wrist pain.

It involves a holistic approach, addressing not only the symptoms but also the underlying causes of the pain.

Physiotherapy treatments aim to reduce pain, improve mobility, strengthen the wrist, and prevent future injuries.

Common Wrist Conditions and Their Physiotherapy Treatments

Wrist Fractures

Wrist fractures are common injuries that often occur from falls or accidents, such as falling onto an outstretched hand.

Symptoms may include severe pain, swelling, and a visible deformity.

Physiotherapy treatments for fractures focus on reducing pain, improving range of motion, and strengthening the wrist once the fracture has healed.

This may involve gentle exercises, manual therapy, and advice on activity modification.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This condition is caused by pressure on the median nerve as it passes through the wrist.

Symptoms can include pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and fingers.

Physiotherapy can help alleviate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome through exercises designed to improve flexibility and strength, wrist supports to alleviate pressure on the nerve, and advice on activity modification to avoid aggravating the condition.

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

This condition affects the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist, causing pain and swelling.

It can be caused by overuse or repetitive movements.

Physiotherapy treatments include exercises to improve mobility and strength, manual therapy to reduce inflammation, and advice on activity modification.

Hand and Wrist Arthritis

Arthritis can cause pain and stiffness in the wrist.

It’s often a result of wear and tear over time, but it can also be caused by inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Physiotherapy can help manage these symptoms through a combination of exercises, manual therapy, and advice on managing the condition.

Repetitive Strain Injury

This condition is caused by overuse of the wrist and can be common in people who perform repetitive tasks, such as typing.

Physiotherapy can help manage repetitive strain injury through a combination of exercises, advice on activity modification, and wrist supports.

Referred Pain from the Neck

Sometimes, wrist pain can be caused by issues in the neck.

This is because the nerves that supply the wrist originate in the neck.

If these nerves are irritated or compressed, it can cause pain in the wrist.

Physiotherapy can help identify and treat the underlying cause of the pain.

Physiotherapy Techniques Used for Wrist Pain

Physiotherapy employs a range of techniques to treat wrist pain. These may include:

  • Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: These exercises are designed to improve flexibility and strength in the wrist, helping to alleviate pain and prevent future injuries.
  • Joint Mobilisation: This technique involves the gentle movement of the wrist joint to improve its range of motion.
  • Manipulation: This involves the physiotherapist applying a controlled force to the wrist to improve its function.
  • Wrist Supports: These can include taping or splints, which provide support to the wrist and help to reduce pain.
  • Electrotherapy: This uses electrical signals to stimulate the muscles and nerves in the wrist, helping to reduce pain and improve function.
  • Acupuncture: This traditional Chinese medicine technique involves inserting fine needles into specific points on the body to alleviate pain.
  • Heat and Ice Therapy: Applying heat can help to relax the muscles and improve circulation, while ice can help to reduce inflammation and numb pain.
  • Advice on Activity Modification: This involves providing advice on how to modify your activities to avoid aggravating your wrist pain.
  • Home Exercise Programme: This is a set of exercises that you can do at home to help improve your wrist condition.

Exercises for Wrist Pain

Here are some exercises that you can do at home to help manage your wrist pain.

Remember, it’s important to consult with your physiotherapist before starting any new exercise programme.

  1. Wrist Flexion and Extension: Rest your forearm on a table with your hand hanging over the edge, palm down. Slowly bend your wrist up and down. Repeat 10 times.
  2. Wrist Radial and Ulnar Deviation: With your forearm resting on a table and your hand hanging over the edge, palm down, move your hand side to side, leading with your thumb and then your little finger. Repeat 10 times.
  3. Thumb Flexion and Extension: Hold your hand out in front of you, palm up. Bend your thumb across your palm, then extend it back out. Repeat 10 times.
  4. Hand Squeezes: Hold a soft ball or stress ball in your hand. Squeeze it as hard as you can without causing pain. Hold for 5 seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times.

The Importance of Early Treatment

Seeking early treatment for wrist pain is crucial.

The sooner you start physiotherapy, the better your chances of a full recovery.

Early treatment can help to prevent the condition from becoming chronic and causing long-term damage.

It can also help to reduce your pain and improve your function more quickly.

Physio Assessment and Rehabilitation

During your first physiotherapy session, your physiotherapist will conduct a comprehensive assessment.

This will involve discussing your symptoms, medical history, and any specific concerns you may have.

They will also perform a physical examination of your wrist to assess your pain, strength, and range of motion.

Based on their findings, your physiotherapist will develop a personalised treatment plan.

This will include a variety of treatments tailored to your specific needs and goals.


Wrist pain can significantly impact your daily life, but with the right physiotherapy treatment, you can manage your symptoms and improve your wrist function.

Whether your wrist pain is due to an injury, overuse, or an underlying health condition, physiotherapy can provide effective, evidence-based treatments to help you get back to your normal activities.

Remember, early treatment is key to a successful recovery.

If you’re experiencing wrist pain, don’t hesitate to seek help from a physiotherapist.


What is the best treatment for wrist pain?

The best treatment for wrist pain depends on the cause of the pain. Physiotherapy is often a very effective treatment, as it can address a variety of causes and help to improve strength and flexibility.

How long does it take for wrist pain to go away?

The length of time it takes for wrist pain to go away can vary widely, depending on the cause of the pain. Some conditions may improve within a few weeks with appropriate treatment, while others may take several months or longer. Your physiotherapist can give you a more accurate timeline based on your specific condition.

Can physiotherapy make wrist pain worse?

Physiotherapy should not make your wrist pain worse. If you experience increased pain after a physiotherapy session, it’s important to let your physiotherapist know so they can adjust your treatment plan accordingly.

How often should I do the exercises for my wrist pain?

Your physiotherapist will provide a personalised exercise plan based on your specific condition and needs. Generally, you may be advised to do your exercises a few times a day. It’s important to follow your physiotherapist’s advice to ensure you’re doing the exercises correctly and safely.

Can I prevent wrist pain?

While not all causes of wrist pain can be prevented, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. This includes maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding repetitive strain on the wrist, using proper form and equipment when participating in sports or physical activities, and seeking early treatment for any wrist injuries or conditions.

Remember, if you’re experiencing wrist pain, it’s important to seek professional help. A physiotherapist can provide a comprehensive assessment and personalised treatment plan to help you manage your pain and improve your wrist function.

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