Pain on Pinky Side of Wrist – Ask a Hand Therapist

Question:

For the last two to three weeks I’ve had ongoing pain in my right hand/wrist that is on the pinky side of my hand. It starts halfway down from the pinky and goes to the wrist bone.  I haven’t had any injury that I can remember, but I think the pain was caused by my daily chin-up routine (which I have since stopped). I think maybe constant use of a mouse in my job has really aggravated it.

I’ve tried to rest it and it’s been getting better, but last night I went to a friend’s house and he was hitting golf balls in his back yard and asked me if I wanted to take a few swings. I thought, I’ll try it and see how my wrist does.

My first (and last) swing the pain in my wrist shot up. Ibuprofen is the only thing keeping it bearable. I’ve been icing it as much as possible, which also helps a bit.

If I take it easy, it doesn’t really hurt unless I do things like turn a doorknob or open a tight jar – motions that twist it wrong.

Should I just rest it or go to the ortho? Never really had an annoying pain like this before.

Any insight or suggestions you can provide are very welcome.

Thanks,

Ray

Answer:

If you are experiencing pain on the pinky side of your wrist it is likely to be the result of TFCC (Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex) dysfunction. This article will help you understand the anatomy, causes, treatments and therapies for pain on the pinky side of your wrist.  Clinicians refer to this type of pain, as ulnar-sided wrist pain or simply ulnar wrist pain.

Pain on the Ulnar (pinky) side of the wrist can vary from mild to severe depending on the cause. It may worsen when gripping, pushing/pulling or twisting the wrist in a palm down to palm up position.

In simple terms, if you experience pain on the pinky side of your wrist when opening a jar, turning a door knob, doing chin-ups, using a mouse, swinging a baseball bat or golf club, riding a motorcycle, or during other activity, it is likely to be caused by TFCC injury.

Anatomy

The ulnar side of the wrist contains a complex cartilage structure referred to as the TFCC (Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex). The TFCC provides stability between the forearm bones at the wrist as well as a cushion against loading forces. This structure can be damaged with repetitive use, heavy loading, falls, or sports related injuries.

anatomy tfcc druj

The term “wrist” describes the joint that connects the forearm to the hand, but the “wrist” is not just one simple joint.  There are eight smaller bones that connect the five main hand bones, called the metacarpals, to the two forearm bones (radius and ulna).

Causes

Due to the many parts in this “pinkie” side of the wrist, determining the cause of ulnar-sided wrist pain can be very difficult. Your doctor will examine your wrist to see where the pain is located and how the wrist moves.  X-rays might be taken. Sometimes other studies such as a CT scan or MRI might be needed.

Common causes of pain on pinky side of wrist:

  • Falls. A common cause of ulnar wrist pain is a fall onto an outstretched hand, which may fracture bones in the wrist.
  • Sports injuries. Certain sports — such as tennis, golf and football — can overextend the wrist and damage ligaments and tendons.
  • Occupational risks. Using a computer mouse or keyboard in a position that causes stress on the wrist can lead to wrist pain due to overuse. Carpenters and plumbers may develop ulnar wrist pain, because they often must use tools in small spaces that require awkward positioning of the wrist.
  • Arthritis of the joint(s) between bones
  • Ulnar impaction syndrome (when the ulna is longer than the radius, which can cause it to “bump into” the smaller wrist bones
  • Inflammation or irritation of the tendons that bend and extend the wrist
  • Nerve injury or compression
  • Masses (tumors), most commonly ganglion cysts, which are benign

Treatment

Injections can be helpful in diagnosing and treating ulnar-sided wrist pain. Most injuries that cause pain on the pinky side of the wrist can be treated with rest, activity modification, and bracing.  Tendonitis may respond well to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and ice.

tfcc ulnar sided wrist pain DRUJ braceBullseye Wrist Band is specifically designed to address pain on the pinky side of the wrist due to TFCC dysfunction. Early clinical testing has shown to reduce pain reduction of up to 50% in a cases where it was used in treating patients with TFCC injury.  100% of initial case studies have experienced pain reduction and high patient satisfaction.

TFCC injuries and ulnar impaction syndrome may need to be evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon if symptoms do not improve.

7 Comments on “Pain on Pinky Side of Wrist – Ask a Hand Therapist

  1. For several months now i have been having sever pain in my right wrist on the pinky side. It is at the wrist bone and radiates up into my elbow and pinky if i move it the wrong way. At the wrist bone, it is a little swollen and very tender. Im limited in motions, meaning I can not move it very well without a sharp pain. I am only 16 years old and this pain is awful. Any idea of as to what could be going on? I have to find some kind of relief soon because I cannot handle it anymore. Medicine do not touch it.

    1. Hi Kenze, I am very sorry to hear that you are dealing with such persistent wrist pain.

      I have asked our therapists to reply, so keep an eye on this post for a more clinically-qualified response. I can also say that this is not a typical description of the TFCC wrist pain and DRUJ instability that Bullseye Wrist Band is commonly used for. Finally, it sounds like your doctor should be involved and you probably should be referred to an orthopedic hand specialist for evaluation.

      I do have a few questions that might provide better background to understand what is going on.

      What kind of motions cause the most pain? For instance, opening a Jar or door knob?
      When you do twisting motions, like opening a Jar, is there any ‘clicking’ or ‘clunking’ in your wrist?
      Is the pain exclusively on your pinky side?
      Is there a particular activity, sport, or accident (like a slip and fall) that you feel might have caused your pain?
      Have you seen a doctor or hand therapist about this?

    2. Hi Kenze!
      I, too, am sorry that you have been struggling with such persistent pain. My first suggestion is that you see a qualified upper extremity physician who can evaluate your symptoms and provide you with a proper diagnosis. From there, treatment options can be discussed and explored with a qualified therapist. I agree with Doug that your symptoms do not present like a wrist injury that the Bullseye Brace is typically used to address. With radiating pain, I am somewhat suspicious of possible nerve involvement. Please consider seeing someone soon that can help you with your symptoms. The first step is always to obtain a proper diagnosis.
      Good luck and please let us know how it goes. If you need any help in the future, please reach out.

  2. Hi, I had a work injury to my right wrist March of last year 2017…did all the physical therapy, rest, ibuprofen, (I stock in a grocery store…so rest was short lived.) Finally found out 4 months later from an MRI that it was tfcc…I didn’t want surgery, so the following month I was in a lot of pain still… I went for a pain blocker shot. Months later when that didn’t do a thing for me…I had surgery Oct.25,2017 a month later I got the cast off, and started to wear a new brace…in December the surgeon said I wore the brace too long…and that I was behind on healing. Being pushed to get back to work by L&I I finally went back to work folding clothes, instead of stocking…through the pain, I finally was told I could go back to stocking…fast forward to now, and still having a lot of pain with grabbing, holding, lifting, opening things, cutting things, (like a apple). I still have to ice almost daily, use ibuprofen daily, and wear my brace. Thinking I need another MRI, because I don’t see how I can still be struggling with everyday life, and work, this far out after surgery.

  3. Last month I fell on my wrist playing volleyball outside. I wasn’t high off the ground. It didn’t hurt until I came inside when I was done. I went to practice that night and it didn’t hurt very bad but it was swollen. I told my coach the next day and she said to ice it, which I did. We played the next two days and I couldn’t do anything that put a ton of pressure on my hand with my palm facing up. I couldn’t open doors, turn knobs, wave, or pick up heavy things especially with my palm facing up. It was swollen for four days. Now the swelling is down, I can turn door knobs mostly, but it is still really tender to the touch and I still can’t pick things up. This pain is on the bottom of my pinky finger and to the bone that sticks up on your wrist. The swelling was also in that area and made the bone sticking up look very small. It has gotten better but still continues to hurt. I don’t know what to do and I appreciate any advice on what they problem could be.

  4. I had ulcer bone removed quite a few years ago have now twisted wrist causing continuous severe pain

  5. I fell s couple of weeks ago, my hand is alright but if you go to your palm and go down your pinky finger to the bone where the fat part is it hurts bad. I have sharp pain. No swollen.

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