Do I Need a Wrist Specialist? What Type of Doctor to See for Wrist Pain

According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, it’s estimated that 11 – 20% of emergency room visits in the United States are for hand and wrist injuries.

That may seem like a disproportionate percentage of visits, but Americans – especially service people, laborers and those in computer-based careers – injure their hands and wrists while at work every day. On-the-job accidents, repetitive wrist motions and excessive typing can cause acute or chronic hand and wrist pain and injuries. Additionally, many recreational activities and sports involve a higher risk of lower extremity injuries.

If you’ve suffered a wrist injury or are dealing with chronic wrist pain, you might be wondering if it’s time to see a wrist specialist.

What is a wrist specialist called?

While you might be inclined to see your regular doctor for your wrist pain, he or she may ultimately recommend seeing a specialist. That’s because the orthopedic systems of the hand and wrist are complex and may require an orthopedic specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Per the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, orthopedics is “the medical specialty that focuses on injuries and diseases of your body’s musculoskeletal system. This complex system, which includes your bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves, allows you to move, work, and be active.”

As such, orthopedic wrist specialists spend four years in medical school, five years training in an orthopaedic residency and one or two optional years of fellowship specializing in hands and wrists.

When Not to See a Wrist Doctor

If you tweaked your wrist, had a small fall or suffered some other minor injury, you may not need to see an orthopedic specialist. Minor strains and sprains can typically be treated effectively at home with ice, rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin (Bayer), acetaminophen (Tylenol) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).

However, if your pain and swelling do not subside in a day or two – or if your symptoms become worse – you should see a hand and wrist specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

When to See a Wrist Specialist

If you’ve suffered an acute injury, such as a compound fracture, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of less obvious wrist injuries vary greatly and determining when to see an orthopedic specialist isn’t always clear cut.

If you’ve fallen on an outstretched hand or injured your wrist while playing a sport, you may be experiencing swelling, numbness and tingling, bruising and acute pain. If these symptoms don’t respond to elevation, rest, ice and NAIDs – or if they get worse – you should see an orthopedic wrist specialist as soon as you are able.

If you’ve been experiencing any sort of chronic pain for an extended period of time, it may be due time to seek treatment. Putting off proper diagnosis and treatment may only cause your condition to worsen or become permanent.

Wrist Injuries and Common Causes Wrist Pain


Tendon Injuries


Other Wrist Conditions and Diseases

The hand and wrist are such an integrated, delicate system of bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles – it can be difficult to know when to see a hand and wrist specialist for diagnosis and treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your wrist pain, please contact us and we’ll be happy to provide our professional medical advice.

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