Why Does My Wrist Crack When I Rotate It? Is It Fractured or Not?

Cracking knuckles, wrists, and other joints are one of the favorite hobbies of most of us. Some do it to relieve pain while others find it satisfying. On the contrary, some are worried and curious to know about it. 

So, why does my wrist crack when I rotate it

The most basic cause of wrist cracking is the bursting of gas bubbles present in the joint fluid which produce weird sounds. Moreover, there are other possible reasons such as osteoarthritis, tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and TFCC. Remember! Painless cracking is completely normal but painful isn’t. 

To learn the individual details of the causes associated with wrist cracking are explained in this write-up. So, read on! 

Why Does My Wrist Crack When I Rotate It? 

If you’re here to ask, why does my left wrist make a cracking sound when I move it? Then just relax! Because as long as the wrist cracking doesn’t hurt you, there isn’t any need to worry about it.

Your joints have their natural system of protection which is regulated by a fluid called synovial fluid that reduces friction and acts as a cushioning force. Sometimes, gases can accumulate in this fluid in the wrist joint leading to bubble formation which when popped produces weird sounds such as cracking. 

why-does-my-wrist-crack-when-i-rotate-it

Hence, you shouldn’t be concerned about it if you have painless cracking. However, if cracking the wrist relieves pain or wrist cracking and pain occur together, then you must look for professional advice. 

Probable causes of wrist cracking are: 

Wrist Tendonitis 

My wrist sometimes hurt when I rotate it and it makes multiple loud crackling– why is that so? Your muscles are attached to the bones via tendons whose inflammation is called tendonitis. Overuse and putting a lot of stress on the tendons of the wrist can lead to wrist tendonitis which is quite rare in both men and women. 

Symptoms: Swelling, wrist pain especially towards the thumb and the little finger, difficulty in performing simple tasks, tenderness in the wrist joint, and feeling of grinding while moving the wrist and fingers. 

Treatment: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and surgical treatment are common. However, people with wrist tendonitis must learn to manage the pain in their routine lifestyle to avoid daily inconveniences.  

Crepitus

The most appropriate answer to your question, why does my wrist crack when I rotate it, is “Crepitus.” It is the popping and cracking sound caused due to the air present in the joint. In this condition, movement of the wrist often comes up with weird sounds due to the popping of gas bubbles during movement of the joint, however, it is painless.

Symptoms: Crunching, and cracking sounds when the joint moves, occasional swelling, and wrist popping but no pain

Treatment: Crepitus itself can be a symptom of some serious conditions such as arthritis, hence, it usually doesn’t require any treatment. 

Wrist Osteoarthritis 

Wrist osteoarthritis is usually caused due to the wearing away of the cartilage that helps in the easy sliding of bones in the wrist, so, when the cartilage degenerates, friction increases which causes painful grinding noises while moving the wrist. 

wrist-osteoarthritis

Symptoms: Redness, Hand weakness, reduced mobility, puffiness, stiffness, difficulty in carrying a load, and grinding noise with pain when moving the wrist.

Treatment: Physiotherapy, Pain-relieving injections, exercises, and wrist splint can be used to reduce pain and improve mobility. 

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

Your wrist has a tunnel through which the tendons and nerves pass called carpal tunnel which if inflamed can lead to the compression of the median nerve leading to carpal tunnel syndrome. It is associated with nerve damage symptoms such as tingling sensations. 

Symptoms: Pain in hands and fingers, numbness, muscle spasms, loss of grip in the worst case, and weird sounds such as popping while moving associated with pain due to nerve compression. 

Treatment: painkillers and exercise are often recommended to relieve pain and non-surgical method includes wrist splinting.  

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis 

It is also known as “Gamer’s thumb” because this disorder primarily involves the tendons of the thumb thereby affecting the extension of the thumb. It usually hurts while making a fist or when you turn your wrist to grasp something. 

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis 

If you’re a mother or caregiver to a newborn baby, and your wrist hurts after carrying the baby, then the “mommy’s wrist” can be the culprit which is a masked name for De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. Inappropriate carrying of the baby and putting most of the strain on your thumb while holding babies can make you suffer from Mommy’s wrist. 

Symptoms: Tingling, burning pain, swelling in the thumb region, particularly at the base near tendons, and wrist pain and popping when rotating the thumb side.

Treatment: Pain-relieving medications, icing, wearing a splint, avoiding stress, and therapy can help in effective treatment. 

Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex (TFCC) Injury

If you’re here to say, my wrist hurts when I rotate it in different directions, and softly clicks when I turn it sideways, then maybe it’s TFCC injury! This is because sounds like clicking and popping are the most prominent symptoms of TFCC injury. 

The TFCC works as a tough complex that helps in grasping while your hand is rotating, so any harm to the complex can cause instability of the bones of the forearm leading to difficulty in gripping associated with pain.

Symptoms: Clicking, popping, Reduced gripping ability, swelling, weakness, and reduced rotation. 

Treatment: Icing, compression, painkillers, wrist splinting, and physiotherapy. 

Even if your both wrists make a cracking sound while moving, it can still be harmless if the sound is painless. However, any feeling of pain, tingling, burning, grinding, or crushing can turn into a disaster if not looked after properly, hence, it is better to immediately consult your doctor. 

How To Know If It’s Not A Fracture? 

Your wrist is made by the union of different bones from the hand and the forearm allowing the movement at the joint in two axes only. A fracture usually happens when you fall on an outstretched hand, during any quarrel, during sports, and due to many other reasons.  

Wrist sprain or break comes up with extreme pain that often increases during movement and must be looked after carefully. We know that distinguishing wrist fractures and sprain isn’t an easy task, so, we’ve collected some marks of identification for you.   

Pain isn’t a scale to detect if it’s a fracture or sprain, however, if your wrist isn’t straight or appears crooked, then it can be a fracture. Swelling, bruising, weakness, and pain are all common in all the disorders of the wrist be it fracture, any syndrome, or sprain. 

If you experience extreme pain that worsens with movement, and also swelling, tenderness, and a bent wrist, then it’s better to get an X-ray done because these are all visible symptoms of a wrist fracture

What Should I Do Next? 

If you experience a sudden onset of extreme pain associated with swelling that even persists in resting condition, then immediately seek medical help. Bearing pain isn’t always the best solution, sometimes it makes the things worse, so, never take the following signs non-seriously:

  • Extreme pain that doesn’t go away even after icing and trying other home remedies 
  • The wrist becomes straight  
  • Worsening of pain with movement
  • When no flexion and extension occurs/the wrist  becomes immobile

how to stop wrist cracking? Well, if you’re having wrist pain, then home remedies such as icing might help you but make sure to avoid rubbing or moving the wrist inappropriately as it might aggravate the condition. The treatment varies according to the cause of wrist cracking. Whatever disorder you’re suffering from, treatment would be specified for that. 

FAQs

Is it normal for my wrists to crack?

Yes! It is completely normal if your wrists crack but only a painless cracking sound is considered normal which is usually due to the accumulation of gas bubbles. However, if your wrist cracks with pain, swelling, bruising, or any other symptom, then you must get it checked. 

How do you fix a clicking wrist?

Clicking associated with pain in the wrist joint is often caused due to a condition called triangular fibrocartilage complex injury. You can relieve the symptoms by icing, physiotherapy, and compression. For treatment, the doctor can recommend you a minimally invasive surgical procedure for only aggravated cases. TFCC injury if not severe enough can easily heal on its own. 

Is cracking my wrist bad for me?

Just like cracking knuckles, you might have a habit of cracking and popping your wrist too which isn’t too bad if it is painless. However, applying pressure or extra load on your wrist can put you in a very painful condition. 

Final Verdict 

You must’ve found the answer to the question, “why does my wrist crack when I rotate it?” When it comes to wrist cracking and popping, it can be wrist tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, TFCC injury, De Quiverain syndrome, or any other disorder associated with wrist pain. 

The cracking and popping sound is often due to the accumulation of gas in the synovial fluid which forms bubbles and upon bursting, you hear them as popping sounds. However, painless cracking sounds are harmless but if you experience even the slightest pain, you must consult your doctor.

Mehrosh Ahmer

Mehrosh Ahmer

My name is Mehrosh Ahmer and I’m currently a student of MBBS at Jinnah Sindh Medical University. My passion for studying the wonder that is the human body and the desire to give back to my society has led me to pursue a career in medicine. As I research, I learn more about my field, and it improves my understanding. This is why I enjoy writing the articles so that more people might get to read about subjects that they otherwise might never encounter.

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