Why Does My Wrist Crack When I Rotate It?

The cracking sound of any joint is known as crepitus, and it might be problematic in the future. While it can be considered normal for most of us, it could be a sign hinting at an underlying condition like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and TFCC. Most of these conditions, including TFCC, are caused by the repetitive use of your wrists daily. This is treatable through home remedies, but when it comes to a disease, it’s always best to consult your doctor if the pain refuses to go down.

Cracking your knuckles is a very common habit among most people and those who do barely even feel anything. However, when it comes to your wrist and you hear a cracking sound every time you rotate your wrist, it could mean an underlying condition.

If this cracking emits some sort of noticeable pain, it’s always best to consult a doctor. Better safe than sorry. But of course, the below reasons can be the most likely and probable explanation for the noises coming from your wrist.

But why do your wrists pop when you rotate them? What is TFCC and what are its symptoms? How can you differentiate wrist pain from a wrist fracture? Is there any kind of treatment you could follow to stop your wrist from popping? At what point should you seek medical attention?

Why do wrists ‘pop’?

If you’re someone that plays sports that require constant activity from your wrists, you might be used to hearing some unusual sounds from your wrist; more specifically in sports like tennis and golf because you’ll be making a lot of repetitive wrist movements.

A young woman has wrist pain (possible carpal tunnel) because of heavy typing on her laptop.

The wrists are bound by ligaments, so if one gets damaged it will, in turn, affect the other ligaments.

So, when the tendon in the wrist is harmed, it starts to rub over the bones and muscles in its way, and this leads to a “popping” sound and sometimes an uncomfortable feeling.

But can this clicking possibly mean you have an underlying condition? Below are some other possible reasons that contribute to your wrists cracks and pops

  1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Apart from the annoying clicks, if you feel some sort of inflammation in your wrist, this could probably be the reason. It could be a tingling sensation or even a numb sensation in your wrist and forearm. Repetitive motions using your wrist like when typing, gaming, or exercising could cause this.
  2. Arthritis – If you feel a sense of stiffness, soreness, or constant aching, you might be experiencing the side effects of arthritis. This is caused by the swelling and tenderness of one or more of your joints and it also includes the risk of getting worse as you age.
  3. Tendinitis – Most people develop this condition as they constantly repeat a certain wrist movement, adding more stress on the tendons daily. This can cause a whole lot of uncomfortable cracking sounds with certain movements that you make. Worn tendons can usually self heal, given time and rest.

But if the cracking sounds happen whenever you’re making a move to grip on to something by pushing in your hand, and if you feel a sudden intense pain in your wrist, then you might be facing a TFCC injury.

What are TFCC, its symptoms, and treatment?

TFCC, known as triangular fibrocartilage complex can be triggered by falling over on your extended hand, repetitive use, or even while aging. All these actions can act as triggers causing your wrist cartilage to wear off.

The most at-risk groups for this illness would be baseball players and gymnasts. The symptom that you can mostly expect in this injury, is a tearing pain along your pinky finger side with the popping sound whenever you even slightly move or rotate your forearm. Some may even notice minor swelling of the wrist.

For any sort of pain that you feel related to your wrist, it’s always best to consult with your local doctor.

Apart from getting prescribed, you could also try applying ice on the swollen or painful area to cool it down and ease the pain. Doctors may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen and aspirin.

But, what’s most important to do in such an instance is to always rest your wrist in a brace. This is very important for not only the overall healing process but also because it helps to stop any further injury.

You can always pick a brace that allows you to move your fingers freely.

Wrist pain vs. wrist fractures – how can I know the difference?

Whenever you face a joint injury, it’s quite difficult for doctors to give a straight diagnosis because of the similarities between a ligament sprain and a fracture. So, it’s better to understand and differentiate the two from each other.

Both wrist sprains and fractures may show similar symptoms. You can expect bruising, pain, and swelling in both of these injuries.

While a fracture refers to the actual breaking of a wrist bone, a sprain refers to the injury of ligaments that bind your wrist together.

The below table contains the major differences between the two.

Wrist SprainWrist Fractures
A popping sound might be heard when the wrist is in motion.Popping or cracking noises when rotating wrist.
Swelling and bruisingCaused mostly due to a sudden impact
A certain redness and warmth in the wrist.Numbing feeling
The wrist can move but will be uncomfortable.Limited wrist movement
Pain will occur only with movement. Not a constant pain like in a fracture.A constant aching that doesn’t really go away.
Sprains vs. Fractures

Mind you, depending on the nature of the accident and injury and a bit of bad luck, it is possible to have a wrist sprain along with a fracture. So, it is always best to get an X-Ray in this kind of situation.

How can I treat my wrist condition?

In any kind of ligament or joint injury, or even if your wrist is excessively popping for no reason at all, an X-ray is recommended so that you can get a clear understanding of what you’re dealing with.

X-rays are usually taken to rule out a fractured bone and an MRI is used to analyze your ligaments and cartilage.

Thereafter, depending entirely on the gravity of damage to your wrist (if any), your treatment may vary. Splints and braces, to hold your wrists in one place to rest, and anti-inflammatory medication to cope with the pain are the most widely used treatments.

Cortisone injections are also used in hospitals to relieve pain. There is also the option of surgical repair of the bone or soft tissue if it’s too badly hurt.

If your wrist problems come from the over-use of wrist actions, the most important thing to focus on would be to regaining stability in your joints. For this purpose, gentle strengthening exercises and physical therapy can be used.

Physical therapy helps you to manage your wrist pain and any other related symptom.

Not only does it provide physical relief but also psychological healing which most athletes find quite helpful.

With therapeutic exercises and manual therapy, the chances are that you can grow stronger and more resilient hands, wrists, and forearms because such therapists analyze your condition and come up with a personal detailed plan to help you address the physical discomfort that you feel.

When should you seek medical attention?

If it is a sudden abrupt pain that you are going through with your wrist, you should speak to a physician only if these symptoms start progressing and home remedies don’t work out so well.

A man with wrist pain is at the doctors to get it examined.

Always make sure that don’t just ignore the pain and bear through as it may only lead to more tendon damage. In the end, you might just have to resort to surgery, so let’s not allow it to progress that far.

It is a different scenario if you have had some sort of fall or injury during a sport. Then unlike before, it is very essential that you immediately seek the assistance of a physician.

If you don’t, you will likely face more damage, which will in turn make the recovery process far longer and annoying than you’d ever have imagined.

There are also some other symptoms you might face, which as soon as you notice, it’d be safest to visit your doctor.

  1. Constant extreme tiredness.
  2. Widespread pain along your body.
  3. Bowel or bladder dysfunction.
  4. Hypermobility in various other joints as well.

Conclusion

With the current dawn of the computer age, wrist popping annoyances and hand pain have become one of the most common complaints among workspaces.

Washington study has revealed that worker claims for compensation from 1987 until 1995 have shown an incidence rate for wrist disorders of 98.2 cases per 10,000 persons. This is why it’s very important that we take constant breaks from our digital devices, do some gentle wrist exercises to stay away from risky conditions like these.

The sound of your wrist cracking can be something trivial that can heal itself in a few days or something serious which might need surgery. If you’ve had it for a few days and if you start to feel pain, it might be a good idea to consult your doctor and check out an X-Ray.

After all, like we’ve said before, better safe than sorry.