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Wrist & Elbow Pain

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Summary

Both the wrist and elbow joints are frequently used during day to day activities and motions, as well as throughout more high-impact activities such as sports. For this reason, wrist and elbow pain are relatively common and can often be attributed to overuse or Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).

Active Release Techniques, Musculoskeletal and Fascia Manipulation coupled with appropriate exercises can generally help wrist and elbow pain.

Quick facts

Extremely common
Low difficulty to treat

Did you know?

Women are more likely than men to get RSI,  however, the difference is small

source: RSI & Overuse Injury Association of the ACT Inc.

Wrist and elbow pain can affect people of all ages, but is found to be more prevalent among those between the ages of 45 and 65. Injury to the wrist or elbow is not uncommon and can be caused by a variety of factors, including overuse, trauma, nerve irritation or another underlying condition or disease.

The wrist is made up of 15 different bones, held together by a complex network of ligaments and controlled by the median, radial and ulnar nerves. The wrist is particularly susceptible to injury for people who spend long periods of time typing at a computer, playing the piano or video games as well as participants in sports which involve lots of wrist motion.

The elbow connects the forearm to the upper arm and is primarily made up of the humerus (upper arm) ulna and radius (forearm) bones, held together by ligaments. The elbow joint is designed to allow extension and flexion of the arm, which is aided by the arm muscles which are attached to the elbow, such as the biceps and triceps.

Wrist and elbow pain is often a result of RSI and can be prevented and managed by paying attentions to ergonomics and making appropriate lifestyle changes where necessary to support the wrist and elbow, rather than place strain on them.

Treatments like Active Release Techniques, Musculoskeletal and Fascia Manipulation coupled with appropriate exercises can help to ease the discomfort associated with wrist and elbow pain.

Causes of wrist & elbow pain

Wrist and elbow pain can be caused by the following:

  • Repetitive motions and movements
  • Tendon injury
  • Ligament strain
  • Incorrect sport technique
  • Trauma to the wrist or elbow
  • Leaning on your elbow for extended periods of time
  • Wrist or elbow strain
  • Overuse
  • Nerve irritation
  • Breaks and fractures
  • Lack of strength in shoulder and forearm muscles
  • Fluid build up in the wrist or elbow
  • Direct blow to the wrist or elbow
  • Dislocation

Other conditions which may cause wrist & elbow pain

Wrist and elbow pain can also be a symptom of a number of underlying conditions or diseases, which may include:

  • Cubital tunnel syndrome (elbow)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (wrist)
  • Arthritis
  • Ganglion cysts
  • Kienbock’s disease
  • Osteochondritis dissecans
  • Lateral Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
  • Tenosynovitis (tendon sheath inflammation)
  • Tendinitis
  • Bursitis
  • Distal Radioulnar Joint (DRUJ)

Top tips for wrist & elbow care

  • focus on building muscle and bone strength
  • prioritise ergonomics at home, work and leisure
  • ensure you warm up and cool down when partaking in sports
  • maintain proper technique when playing sports
  • wear protective gear during exercise
  • avoid activities which require you to keep your arm bent for extended periods of time
  • practice strengthening exercises

Effective treatment of wrist & elbow pain

Often wrist and elbow pain will go away after a couple of weeks with proper care at home. Effective treatments may include using ice or heat packs on the affected area, wrapping the affected joint in bandages or using wrist splints as well as over the counter pain and anti-inflammation medications.

Physical therapies which can be effective for treating and managing chronic wrist or elbow pain may include Active Release Techniques, Musculoskeletal and Fascia Manipulation coupled with appropriate exercises. In severe cases, surgery may be required.


This page has been produced, reviewed and approved by:

Dr Shermain Wong

BAppSc (Chiropractic), Masters (Clinical Chiropractic)

Dr Shermain Wong

Dr Shermain Wong is a chiropractor at Jurmaine Health with expertise in general treatment and over 6 years experience.

With a Masters in Clinical Chiropractic from RMIT University, Shermain has provided chiropractic and movement rehabilitation services at international sporting competitions, professional dancers, professional football players and professional athletes.

At Jurmaine Health, she helps patients address and treat common musculoskeletal symptoms and conditions, including back pain, neck pain; shoulder pain; nerve pain, joint pain and many other conditions

She is a member of Sport Medicine Australia, College of Osteopathy and Chiropractic Association, Australian Association of Musculoskeletal Medicine and International Society of Clinical Rehabilitation Specialists.

With her experience in Sports Medicine and treating Sports Injuries, she is a sought after expert for professional athletes and sports clubs. She has worked with the Coburg Lions VFL club, Melbourne Ice Hockey Women, World Ironman Championships, Australia CrossFit Regionals and others.


This document was last updated and reviewed in May 2016.

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