Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ


I've been having sharp pain in my left wrist for months now. I don't remember doing anything to it. Would an X-ray be helpful?


Wrist pain can be difficult to diagnose. X-rays will show fractures, which could be a cause of wrist pain. Ligamentous tears can cause enough instability to cause pain but not enough to always show up on X-rays. Depending on which ligament is affected, specific tests done by the physician may be able to show what's wrong.

If a fracture is not present and nothing shows up on X-rays, MRIs may be ordered. Again, this type of imaging study doesn't always reveal ligamentous damage. Fraying of the ligament and/or deformity of the ligament can create enough wrist instability to be very painful.

Arthroscopic exam may be needed to find the cause of the problem. The surgeon inserts a long, thin scope (needle) into the joint. A tiny TV camera on the end of the scope gives an inside view of the wrist. The surgeon can inspect the soft tissues, joint capsules, and bones using this method. In some cases, repair and/or reconstruction of the wrist can be done at the same time. David J. Slutsky, MD. The Incidence of Dorsal Radiocarpal Ligament Tears in Patients Having Diagnostic Wrist Arthroscopy for Wrist Pain. In Journal of Hand Surgery. March 2008. Vol. 33. No. 3. Pp. 332-334.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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