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Physical Therapy for Wrist Tendonitis – Information, Exercises, and More

Are you experiencing wrist tendonitis? 

The pain can be excruciating, daily tasks like carrying groceries or driving are difficult, and you’re worried the pain will never go away.

Coping with wrist tendonitis is downright awful.

Fortunately, there are many ways to manage wrist tendonitis and alleviate the pain. 

In this guide, we’ll cover what causes wrist tendonitis, common symptoms, and treatment options, including how physical therapy for wrist tendonitis may be exactly what you need.


What Is Wrist Tendonitis?

Wrist tendonitis is a condition that occurs when one or more of the tendons that attach the wrist to the forearm become inflamed. Several conditions can affect these tendons, including:

  • Wrist tendonitis — The early stages of irritation and inflammation
  • Tendinopathy — When the condition persists and becomes chronic
  • De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis — Tendonitis that develops on the thumb side of the wrist
  • Tenosynovitis — Irritation that occurs when the synovial sheath thickens and restricts the tendon

The pain and inflammation can make it difficult to move your hand, wrist, and fingers. Seeking treatment in the early stages of tendonitis can help reduce pain and inflammation and may help prevent the condition from becoming chronic.

What Causes Wrist Tendonitis?

The tendon supports the joint in the hand and can become inflamed when there is excessive use or wearing of the joints.

Wrist tendonitis is a common problem that several factors — including repetitive motions, age, and arthritis — can cause.

Repetitive Motions

When there is a pattern of repetitive motions in the hand, forearm, and wrist, tendonitis may become an issue for some.

People who may be at risk for wrist tendonitis include those whose work includes regular lifting, typing, or gripping, such as:

  • Factory workers
  • Construction workers
  • Receptionists; and
  • Landscapers

According to a University of Michigan study, people who engage in these types of daily work are 29 times more likely to develop wrist tendonitis.


Wrist tendonitis can occur at any age, but it is more common in people over 40 years of age. 

This is likely because repetitive motions often cause wrist tendonitis. As we age, our ability to perform these motions decreases, leading to the development of wrist tendonitis.


Wrist tendonitis can also result from arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation in the joints and can lead to pain and stiffness in the arms and legs. 

Sometimes, arthritis may also cause damage to the tendons in the arms and hands. Damage to a tendon can lead to wrist tendonitis.

Wrist Tendonitis Symptoms

Often, wrist tendonitis includes the following symptoms:

  • Pain where the hand meets the arm, often radiating to the elbow
  • Pain on the thumb side of the wrist or the pinky-finger side of the wrist
  • Pain when pressure is applied to the hand, such as pushing up from a chair to stand
  • Pain that occurs when the wrist is strained

Aside from pain, other symptoms may include:

  • Inflammation in the wrist
  • Tenderness to touch in the wrist and/or forearm muscles
  • Stiffness in the wrist
  • Decreased ability to extend or bend the wrist
  • Loss of grip strength


One of the major symptoms of wrist tendonitis is pain. 

Pain can be a sign that the tendonitis is getting worse and may require treatment. 

But the pain may also be a symptom of other conditions, such as arthritis or a torn tendon. 

Therefore, it’s important to seek medical attention to know the cause of your pain. 


Wrist tendonitis is a condition that can cause swelling in different places on the hand, such as: 

  • Along the wrist
  • The base of your fingers; and
  • Between the pinkie finger or thumb

The swelling associated with wrist tendonitis is due to the inflammation of the tendons.

Swelling may be noticeable, but it is not always easy to tell if wrist tendonitis is causing it. 


Other symptoms that may indicate wrist tendonitis include pain when: 

  • Moving the hand
  • Difficulty gripping things; and 
  • Feeling of stiffness or tightness in the wrist 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor for an evaluation.

How Is Wrist Tendonitis Diagnosed?

Physical therapy for wrist tendonitis includes a full screening of your entire arm, including the hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Your therapist may ask you to describe a typical day, what activities you normally perform, and which of these activities cause pain.

Your therapist will assess your strength and range of motion in your entire arm. They will also use manual manipulation, like gentle pressure, on specific areas of your wrist and forearm to help determine which tendons are involved and if there is any swelling.

Wrist Tendonitis Treatment

There are many treatments available for wrist tendonitis, depending on the underlying cause.

Treatment options may include rest, ice, medication, and physical therapy.


Medications can treat the pain that’s experienced with wrist tendonitis.

Many physicians will prescribe a corticosteroid, such as prednisone, as this is often effective in reducing inflammation and pain.

Other medications that can be prescribed include:

Treatment typically lasts for several weeks and should taper off gradually as the inflammation subsides.

Ice and Rest

Treatment typically includes ice, rest, and rehabilitation.

Ice may reduce inflammation and pain, while resting aids in healing the tendon.

Rehabilitation, such as physical therapy, typically follows this common treatment.

Physical Therapy

Treatment for wrist tendonitis can also include physical therapy for the hands and wrist to help improve movement and reduce pain.

Physical therapy exercises are used to:

  • Stretch the injured tendon; and
  • Strengthen the surrounding muscles

Physical therapy is often recommended as the first step in treating tendonitis, as it can help to improve range of motion and flexibility.

Physical Therapy for Wrist Tendonitis – Will PT Help?

Yes, physical therapy can help provide treatment for wrist tendonitis.

Physical therapists specialize in helping individuals with wrist tendonitis …

  • Recover from their injuries
  • Improve their range of motion and flexibility; and 
  • Return to their previous everyday routines and sports

… by strengthening the muscles and tendons around the wrist.

As experts in the field of physical movement, physical therapists can also teach you how to manage your wrist tendonitis through education and prescribed treatment plans.

Physical therapy treatment plans and exercises that may help include:

  • Massage to reduce stiffness and inflammation
  • Manual therapy to help get your wrists moving properly
  • Range of motion exercises to help increase mobility
  • Strengthening exercises to improve the condition of your wrist tendons
  • Patient education to help you safely return to your daily activities
  • Functional training to return to pain-free functioning in your wrist

If you are experiencing wrist tendonitis symptoms, seek medical help as soon as possible.

The sooner you treat the condition, the better your chances are that the condition won’t worsen and that you’ll recover fully.

Best Physical Therapy Exercises for Wrist Tendonitis

Consulting with a Doctor of Physical Therapy is the most effective way to ensure you’re performing the correct physical therapy exercises for wrist tendonitis.

You should also have an individualized therapy plan and progression of care to ensure the best possible treatment for you.

Exercises for wrist tendonitis should focus on:

  • Reducing pain
  • Restoring range of motion
  • Strengthening the tendon; and
  • Reducing inflammation

The best exercises for wrist tendonitis are those that stretch and strengthen the tendons while minimizing stress on the surrounding structures.

Range of motion exercises can include:

Strength training should concentrate on the wrist flexors and extensors, using slow-tempo movements that do not overload the muscles.

Strength exercises can focus on:

  • Resistance band work
  • Machine resistance; and
  • Weightlifting

Remember: Do not attempt a physical therapy treatment without the aid of a physical therapist. Each of the following exercises may be introduced by your physical therapist at some point in your treatment. 

Wrist Flexion and Extension

  1. Place your forearm on a flat surface. Your hand and affected wrist should be palm down and extended beyond the table.
  2. Bend your wrist to move your hand upward. Close your hand into a fist then lower your hand and relax your fingers, holding each position for about six seconds.
  3. Repeat this exercise 8 to 12 times or as prescribed by your physical therapist. 

Wrist Extensor Stretch

  1. Extend the affected arm/wrist in front of you and point your fingers down.
  2. Using your other hand, gently bend your wrist until you feel a moderate stretch in your forearm.
  3. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 times or as prescribed by your physical therapist.
  4. Once this exercise can be performed pain-free, you can progress by repeating the steps but extending the affected arm/wrist in front of you while making a fist with your palm facing down. Bend your wrist and point your fist toward the floor.

Wrist Flexor Stretch

  1. Extend your affected arm/wrist in front of you, facing your palm away from your body.
  2. Bend your wrist back and point your hand toward the ceiling.
  3. Using your other hand, gently bend your wrist until you feel a moderate stretch in your forearm.
  4. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 times or as prescribed by your physical therapist.
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 and extend your affected arm/wrist in front of you with your palm facing up. Bend your wrist back and point your hand toward the floor.

How In Motion O.C. Can Provide Physical Therapy for Wrist Tendonitis


There are many treatments for wrist tendonitis, and the best approach depends on the individual’s symptoms and condition.

That’s why you need a team of highly qualified therapists who will work with you to find the best treatment plan.

At In Motion O.C., we offer effective physical therapy for wrist tendonitis. And we have the testimonials to show it — check out In Motion O.C. on Yelp

We have helped hundreds of patients, like you, recover from wrist tendonitis and get back to their daily activities as soon as possible.

Our past and present clients have made it known that we are the #1 Physical Therapist in the U.S.

If you are experiencing wrist tendonitis, please contact In Motion O.C. today to request a free screening.


The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

In Motion O.C.