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Evaluation of the adult with subacute or chronic 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 overuse syndromes, and chronic wrist pain is a common presenting complaint in primary care and sports medicine clinics. Such pain may result from the residual effects of past trauma or nontraumatic conditions. Generally, we define chronic conditions are those that have been present for longer than three months, acute conditions as those present for less than two weeks, and subacute conditions as those present for two weeks to three months.

The common causes of chronic wrist pain and an approach to diagnosing these problems is provided here. Acute wrist pain, wrist anatomy and biomechanics, and more detailed discussions of specific wrist problems are reviewed separately. (See "Evaluation of the adult with acute 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 (see "Evaluation of the adult with acute wrist pain")

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Mar 21, 2017.
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