Wrist Examination

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Dorsal Wrist Pain


A = Intersection syndrome
B = De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
C = Scaphoid fracture / Wartenbergs syndrome (nerve entrapment)
D = Base of thumb arthritis
E = Ulnar collateral ligament injury
F = Carpal boss
G = Scapholunate ligament tear
H = Keinbock’s disease
I = Lunotriquetral ligament tear
J = DRUJ (distal radioulnar joint) arthritis / instability
K = Ulnar impaction / TFCC tear
L = ECU dislocation / tendonitis

Volar Wrist Pain


A = FCU tendonitis
B = Pisiotriquetral arthritis / Ulnar nerve entrapment / ulnar artery thrombosis
C = Hook of hamate fracture
D = Trigger finger
E = Base of thumb arthritis

Differential Diagnoses

Acute Wrist Pain

  • Distal radius fracture (often intra-articular in the athlete)
  • Scaphoid fracture
  • Wrist ligament sprain/tear (intercarpal, scapholunate, lunotriquetral)
  • Fracture of hook of hamate
  • Triangular fibrocartilage complex tear
  • Distal radioulnar joint instability
  • Scapholunate dissociation
  • Carpal dislocation
  • Anterior dislocation of lunate
  • Perilunar dislocation
  • Traumatic ulnar artery aneurysm or thrombosis (karate)
  • Dorsal wrist pain - Scaphoid fracture, Scaphoid impaction syndrome, Fracture dislocation of carpus, Lunate fracture, Distal radius fracture, Scapholunate ligament tear, Kienbock's disease (acute onset), Lunotriquetralligament tear, Distal radioulnar joint injury, Carpometacarpal dislocation
  • Volar wrist pain - Carpal instability, Hook of hamate fracture

Subacute Dorsal Wrist Pain

  • Ganglion
  • Intersection syndrome
  • Kienbock's disease
  • Dorsal pole of lunate and distal radius impingement (gymnasts)
  • Posterior interosseous nerve entrapment
  • Inflammatory arthropathy
  • Degenerative joint disease
  • Extensor carpi ulnaris tendinopathy
  • Extensor carpi ulnaris subluxation
  • Injuries to distal radial epiphysis (children)
  • Extensor pollicis longus impingement on Lister's tubercle (occasional rupture)

Subacute Volar Wrist Pain

  • Scaphoid aseptic necrosis
  • Stenosing tendinopathies
  • Flexor carpi ulnaris tendinopathy
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Ulnar tunnel syndrome
  • Pisotriquetral degenerative joint disease
  • Avascular necrosis of the capitate (weightlifters)
  • Extensor pollicis longus impingement/rupture (gymnasts)

Subacute Ulnar Wrist Pain

  • Triangular fibrocartilage complex tears
  • Ulnar Impaction syndrome
  • Distal radioulnar joint instability
  • Carpal instability
  • Scapholunate dissociation
  • Ulnar nerve compression (cyclists, golfers)
  • Flexor carpi ulnaris tendinopathy
  • Extensor carpi uinaris tendinopathy
  • Extensor carpi ulnaris subluxation
  • Distal radioulnar joint impaction syndromes (golfers)
  • Scaphoid impaction syndrome

Subacute Radial Wrist Pain

  • Scaphoid fracture (missed)
  • Non-union of scaphoid fracture
  • De Quervain Tendinopathy
  • Scaphoid impaction syndrome
  • Intersection Syndrome
  • Flexor carpi radialis tendinopathy
  • Dorsal pole of lunate impingement on distal radius (gymnasts)
  • Scapholunate dissociation
  • Osteoarthritis of the trapeziometacarpal (TMC) joint
  • Ganglia
  • Radial sensory nerve entrapment in the forearm
  • Crystal-induced arthritis
  • C6 radicular syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Cervical radiculopathy
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Pronator teres syndrome
  • Radial neuropathy
  • Ulnar neuropathy
  • Tenosynovitis
  • Raynaud syndrome
  • Inflammatory arthropathy
  • Peripheral nerve tumour
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Polyneuropathy (eg, diabetic or chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy)
  • Polyneuropathy (eg, diabetic or chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy)
  • Acute compression syndromes (eg, Saturday night palsy)