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Evaluation of the adult with acute wrist pain

Blake Reid Boggess, DO, FAAFP
Section Editor
Karl B Fields, MD
Deputy Editor
Jonathan Grayzel, MD, FAAEM


Due to its location and anatomy, the wrist is susceptible to a range of injuries, and acute wrist pain is a common presenting complaint in primary care and sports medicine clinics. Such pain often results from trauma but may stem from nontraumatic conditions. Generally, we define acute conditions of the wrist as those present for less than two weeks, subacute conditions as those present for two weeks to three months, and chronic conditions are those that have been present for longer than three months.

This topic review will provide an overview to acute wrist pain or injury in the adult. Subacute and chronic causes of wrist pain and specific wrist injuries are discussed in detail separately. (See "Evaluation of the adult with subacute or chronic wrist pain" and "Overview of carpal fractures" and "Distal radius fractures in adults" and "Scaphoid fractures".)


The anatomy and biomechanics of the wrist are reviewed in detail separately. (See "Anatomy and basic biomechanics of the wrist".)


Using information from the history, key symptoms, and findings from the basic wrist examination, the clinician can usually select one of three common diagnostic categories that best fits the patient. The three major categories are:

Acute wrist pain, either from trauma or associated with overuse


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Apr 3, 2015.
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