Hand & wrist tendonitis and bursitis

Person with hurt hand

​Hand and wrist tendonitis and bursitis can lead to weakness, inflammation, swelling and pain in the hand or wrist. 

Tendonitis is the swelling and irritation of a tendon (connects muscles to bones) caused by an injury or overuse. Two common problems associated with hand and wrist tendons include tendonitis, inflammation of a tendon, and tenosynovitis, inflammation of the lining of the tendon sheath around a tendon. 

The most common forms of hand and wrist tendonitis are: 

  • DeQuervain's tenosynovitis—the most common type of tenosynovitis disorder. It causes pain and swelling in the tendon sheath of the tendons in the thumb.

  • Trigger finger or trigger thumb—a type of tenosynovitis where the tendon sheath becomes inflamed and thickened making it hard to bend or straighten the finger or thumb. The finger or thumb may lock or "trigger" suddenly.

Bursitis refers to inflammation of bursa—tiny sacs of fluid—that results in pain and swelling in joints in the hand or wrist. It is usually temporary but may involve repeated incidents with pain and swelling. If left untreated, bursitis may cause deterioration of your muscles and limited movement in the affected joint of the hand or wrist.

Hand & wrist tendonitis and bursitis causes

The cause of tendonitis and tenosynovitis is often not known, but they are often caused by strain, overuse, injury or repetitive movements. Tendonitis may also be related to conditions such as diabetes, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid issues or infection. 

Hand & wrist tendonitis and bursitis symptoms

Tendonitis symptoms include:

  • Grating joint—a feeling of grating or grinding while the joint moves

  • Pain—pain or throbbing while moving the tendon

  • Swelling—fluid and inflammation in the joint or tendon 

Bursitis symptoms include:

  • Pain in wrist or hand while at rest or lifting heavy objects

  • Small lump or swelling that may be warm or tender to the touch

Hand & wrist tendonitis and bursitis diagnosis 

Experts at The Christ Hospital Health Network know you want to get back to your active lifestyle. During your visit, one of our team members will review your health history and conduct an exam. If more information is needed, your doctor may order the following tests: 

  • Bursa aspiration—a small amount of fluid is collected from the affected joint via a small needle. This fluid will be tested for infection and gout. 

  • X-ray—a simple, painless test that makes images of the bones in the hand and/or wrist Tendons are not visible on X-rays, but any bone damage caused by arthritis will be visible. 

Tendonitis and bursitis treatment 

Treatment for tendonitis and bursitis focuses on reducing pain and inflammation. Your doctor may prescribe any of the following treatments: 

  • Anti-inflammatory and pain medications—oral or topical medications that reduce swelling and inflammation that cause pain. 

  • Antibiotics—medication for the inflammation and pain of an infection.

  • Cold therapy—works by reducing blood flow to the painful hand or wrist, which can significantly reduce inflammation and swelling.

  • Cortisone injections—an anti-inflammatory medication that reduces inflammation in the hand or wrist.

  • Modify activities 

  • Physical therapy—techniques that promote the ability to move, reduce pain and restore function.

  • Rest—avoiding activities and sports that cause the tendonitis or bursitis to flare up.

  • Splint or cast to immobilize the affected area.

  • Surgery—if needed to treat severe tendonitis or an inflamed bursa.   

At The Christ Hospital Health Network, our physicians and specialists are experts in accurately diagnosing and treating hand and wrist pain, so you can regain your quality of life.