Wrist Pain and Popping When Rotating – 7 Possible Causes & Treatments

By Jessica Kelley | Health


You may experience popping and pain on your wrist for a variety of reasons. While in most cases the popping sound is not severe, there are times that it may require corrective surgery. It is best to consult your healthcare provider to determine the cause of your wrist popping and pain. This way, the best course of treatment will be initiated.

So, what’s causing your wrist pain and popping?

There are numerous causes of wrist pain and popping. Here are some of its possible causes.

Wrist Ligament Injury

Injuries in the ligaments are one the most common causes of wrist pain and popping. Whenever the ligaments on your wrist become torn or perhaps wholly damaged and severed, the bones on the wrist will rub against each other, causing the popping sound whenever you move or rotate your wrists.

Wrist ligament injury is treated through the placement of cast or splint. Another way to manage this type of injury is through surgically replacing the damaged ligament.



Degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis typically affects most people as they age and mature. The cartilage which protects the end of the wrist bones will wear down over time. When this happens, a popping or clicking sensation will be experienced every time the wrist is rotated or moved.

While there may be no cure for osteoarthritis, there are medications like anti-inflammatory medicines and steroids that can help reduce the pain as well as swelling in the wrists. For severe cases, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery to reconstruct the wrists.

Wrist Fractures

Wrist fracture can also cause wrist pain and popping sound whenever the wrist is moved or rotated.

Wrist fracture or broken wrist can be stable or severe. Also, it can be a non-displaced break, meaning the bones do not move out of place, while some fracture is categorized as a displaced break, meaning the bones have become misaligned at some point. Stable wrist fractures can often be treated through putting a splint or cast.

On the other hand, severe wrist fracture is a type of fracture that breaks apart the smooth joint surface of the wrist bone and shatter it into many pieces. This type of wrist fracture is considered unstable and will require surgery to restore the bones and hold their alignment.

Another type of severe fracture is an open wrist fracture. In this type of wrist fracture, a fragment of the wrist bone breaks and is forced out through the surface of the skin. This fracture increases the risk of infection to the exposed bone and will require corrective surgery for bone restoration and realignment.

Ulnar Impaction Syndrome

Ulnar impaction syndrome is a degenerative wrist condition that is caused by the ulnar head impacting upon the smaller wrist bones, which will ultimately cause wrist pain and popping. This condition often affected middle-aged individuals and presents with acute and chronic wrist pain and popping that is often exacerbated with movement, rotation, and other activities. Also, swelling may also be present.
The treatment for this condition varies and will depend on the ulnar variance and severity of the overall state of the wrist. Surgery may be initiated to shorten the ulnar and prevent further damage to the smaller wrist bones. 

Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex Injury (TFCC)

Triangular fibrocartilage complex is the cartilage structure that located on the small finger side of your wrist. This cartilage supports and cushions the small carpal bones in the wrist. Also, this structure keeps the forearm bones stable when the forearm rotates, and the hand grasps.

Triangular fibrocartilage complex injury is a condition affecting the cartilage that connects the ulna bone and the other wrist structures. Typically, this connection is torn by an injury, or it is merely frayed over time.

This injury is often associated with pain at the base of the small finger side, swelling of the wrist, painful popping or clicking sound of the wrist upon rotating, loss of grip strength and worsening pain as the wrist is bent from one side to another.

The treatment options for this condition will depend on the severity of the injury and may include non-surgical interventions and surgical interventions. Non-surgical treatment consists of the application of splint or cast, cortisone injection, ultrasound therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications. The surgical interventions, on the other hand, include arthroscopy which aims to fix the tears by debriding and cleaning the torn edges and damaged tissues.

Wrist Masses or Tumors

Wrist mass or tumor can also cause pain and popping on the wrist.

An abnormal bump or lump in the wrist or hand is considered a tumor. Not all tumors are considered malignant or cancerous. In fact, most of the tumors located on the wrist are considered benign.

Tumors can appear on the skin and come in the form of a wart or a mole. It can also be present under the skin, in the soft tissue or even in the bones.

The common types of wrist and hand tumors include ganglion cysts, giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath, and epidermal inclusion cyst.

A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled cyst and is the most common tumor in the wrist and hand and is frequently seen on the wrist, at the base of the fingers, or around the finger joints. Giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath is the second most common hand tumor and are considered more solid. They are benign and slow-growing tumors. Lastly, epidermal inclusion cyst is a benign tumor that forms under the skin where there may have been a puncture or cut. This cyst is filled with keratin, which has a soft and waxy consistency.

The treatment for this condition typically involves surgically removing the tumor, so the type of tumor can be appropriately determined. Some patients, however, opt not to get surgery considering the tumor is not cancerous and will not cause pain, swelling, and movement problems to the wrists.

Congenital Wrist Instability and Malformation

Congenital malformations and trauma may cause the wrist bones to become misaligned, which will ultimately result in bone rubbing, pain and popping sound upon movement.

The treatment for this kind of injury will depend on which of the wrist bones are affected. Besides, the severity of the affected range of motion on the wrist will also matter when treating this type of injury. However, corrective surgery to correct the alignment of the wrist bones is initiated when the affected individual complains of pain, and his or her ability to move his or her wrist becomes limited.

Treating Wrist Pain and Popping When Moving or Rotating

The treatment for wrist pain and popping varies and will significantly depend on the condition that is causing the symptoms.

In general, the treatment can include a combination of activity modification, hand therapy, casting or splinting, and medications like steroid injections and anti-inflammatory medicines. However, if non-operative treatment will not relieve the symptoms, surgery may be considered.

The surgical intervention to correct wrist pain and popping will also vary and depend which wrist bones are affected. Thus, a thorough assessment is necessary along with other diagnostic tests like x-ray, CT-scan, and MRI.

When Should You Consult Your Health Care Provider

If you notice that your wrist creates a popping or clicking sound when rotating or moving whether this may be accompanied with pain, you should consult your healthcare provider right away for assessment and evaluation. The symptoms when left untreated and undiagnosed can become complicated, causing more damage to the wrist and hindering your activities of daily activities.

If upon assessment, the popping sound is not accompanied by pain, immobility, and swelling, treatment may not be necessary. However, if the popping sound is accompanied by those symptoms, you should consult your doctor right away, as it would be easier to treat the cause and symptoms if you catch them early.


About the Author

I am Jessica, co-founder of CareHappiness.com. We work to inspire, educate and empower our readers with all the latest updates and authentic information. Our goal is to bring up the “Healthy attitude” among people in the world. On CareHappiness.com you will find high-quality health information, fitness tips, diet charts and answer to all your health queries.