Resilience Orthopedics Logo

Wrist Bursitis Treatment

Dr. Pamela Mehta, MD
Hand Surgeon in San Jose

Wrist Bursitis Treatment in San Jose

Dr. Pamela Mehta is an experienced hand & wrist surgeon renowned for her expertise in sports injuries and joint arthritis. She is the founder of Resilience Orthopedics.

With an impressive career and training under leading innovators, she has served as Chief of Orthopedics and National Orthopedic Director for a major orthopedic hospitalist group and advises several publicly traded companies.

Pamela Mehta

Table of Contents

What is Wrist Bursitis?

In the morning, as you prepare to enjoy your first cup of coffee, you might experience an unexpected and sharp pain in your wrist.

This discomfort could be an indication of wrist bursitis, a condition that complicates simple daily activities, placing limitations on what you can do. This can be both challenging and frustrating.

But what exactly is wrist bursitis? Picture two small pillow-like structures, called bursa, nestled in your wrist. One, the ulnar bursa, protects the tendons for your fingers, from index to ring finger. The other, the radial bursa, is all about the thumb tendon.

Together, these bursa help to ensure everything moves smoothly when moving your fingers and thumb.

Together, these bursa help to ensure everything moves smoothly when moving your fingers and thumb.

However, when these bursa get inflamed (hello, bursitis!), every wrist movement feels like a tiny rebellion.

Curious about how to ease wrist bursitis and regain your comfort?

Here’s the basics:

  • Rest your wrist and avoid aggravating movements.
  • Apply ice or a warm compress to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Engage in gentle stretching and strengthening exercises.
  • Use a wrist brace or support for extra stability.
  • Consider over-the-counter pain relief if necessary.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into these strategies to help you find relief from wrist bursitis.

inflamed wrist bursitis anatomy

Book a Consultation with Dr. Pamela Mehta, MD

The Best Hand Surgeon in San Jose

Dr. Mehta is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who can help you recover from your hand condition.

We can help if you:

Wrist Bursitis Symptoms

Wrist bursitis typically presents with a range of symptoms that can vary in intensity. These signs help in identifying the condition and distinguishing it from other wrist-related issues.

Here are the key symptoms to be aware of:

It’s important to note that symptoms may develop gradually or appear suddenly, depending on the cause of the bursitis. 

If you experience these symptoms, particularly if they persist or worsen, it’s advisable to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Diagnosing Wrist Bursitis

When you encounter wrist pain, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for a thorough diagnosis. Here’s how the process typically unfolds:

While your doctor may have a slightly different approach, it will all boil down to this eventually.

This comprehensive diagnostic approach helps ensure an accurate diagnosis of wrist bursitis, paving the way for effective treatment.


Effectively treating wrist bursitis involves a strategic and thoughtful approach. Initially, it’s essential to allow your wrist some rest. Managing wrist bursitis effectively involves a combination of self-care measures and medical interventions, depending on the severity of the condition.

It’s important to work closely with your healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on the specifics of your condition. Treatment effectiveness can vary from person to person, and what works for one individual may not be as effective for another.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the various treatment options:

RICE Method

This is the first line of treatment.
  • Rest: Avoid activities that exacerbate the pain to prevent further irritation.

  • Ice: Apply cold packs to the wrist for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce swelling and pain.

  • Compression: Use a wrist wrap or bandage to provide support and reduce swelling.

  • Elevation: Keep the wrist elevated above heart level, especially after an injury or during sleep, to decrease swelling.


Medications are one option to help you manage your pain while your wrist is improving.

  • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce pain and inflammation. If you have other health conditions (especially kidney, heart, or stomach problems), it’s better to stick to acetaminophen (tylenol).

  • Corticosteroids: In more severe cases, your doctor might recommend a corticosteroid injection to reduce inflammation and pain. There are alternative injections available, which you can find information about in our service page.

Activity Modification & Assistive Devices

Making changes to your day to day activities can help reduce strain on your wrist and make recovery from bursitis easier.
  • Ergonomic Adjustments: Making changes to your workspace or the way you perform tasks can reduce stress on your wrist.

  • Activity Limitation: Temporarily limiting or avoiding activities that trigger symptoms is crucial.

  • Wrist Braces or Splints: These can immobilize the wrist, allowing it to rest and heal.

Alternative Therapies

If you’d prefer to use alternative theries to help your wrist improve, here are a couple of options:

  • Heat Therapy: Applying heat can be beneficial for easing stiffness.
  • Acupuncture or Acupressure: Some find relief through these alternative treatments.

Beware that not all alternative therapies are evidence-based or effective. Check in with your hand doctor to see what might work best for you.

Surgery for Wrist Bursitis

While rarely needed, wrist surgery may be needed if other treatments aren’t working or your symptoms are severe. There are two main surgical options for wrist bursitis: drainage and removal.

Drainage, a minimally invasive procedure, involves inserting a needle to evacuate excess fluid, offering quick relief in some cases.

However, if the inflammation originates from a damaged or infected bursa, complete removal, called a bursectomy, might be necessary. This involves a small incision, careful extraction of the bursa, and meticulous closure.

While potentially offering permanent relief, surgery isn’t a magic wand. Recovery, involving immobilization and physical therapy, takes weeks. Risks like infection and nerve damage, though rare, exist.

Incorporating gentle stretches and strength-building exercises can significantly benefit your wrist as a revitalizing daily routine.

Certain exercises can greatly aid in managing and relieving wrist bursitis. These exercises are designed to improve flexibility, increase strength, and reduce stiffness in the wrist.

However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting to ensure these exercises are suitable for your condition.

Here are some beneficial exercises:

Wrist Flexion and Extension
  • Flexion: Gently bend your wrist forward, holding for 5 seconds.
  • Extension: Gently bend your wrist backward, holding for 5 seconds.

Perform 10 repetitions of each, ideally twice a day.

man doing side to side movement in his wrist
Wrist Rotations

Slowly rotate your wrist clockwise. Repeat this counter clockwise.

Do 10 rotations in each direction, twice daily.

If this feels too easy, you can try to perform the same movement with an exercise band, holding it still with the non-affected side and turning over your hands.

Wrist Side-to-Side Movement

Move your wrist from side to side, holding each side for a few seconds.

Repeat this movement 10 times in each direction.

Tendon Glides
  • Start with your fingers extended straight out.
  • Then, bend your fingers towards your palm and hold for a few seconds.

Straighten your fingers again, repeating this 10 times.

Grip Strengthening
  • Use a soft stress ball or therapeutic putty.
  • Squeeze the ball or putty with your hand, hold for a few seconds, and release.

Repeat this 10-15 times.

Prayer Stretch
  • Place your palms together in front of your chest, elbows pointing out.
  • Lower your hands towards your waistline, keeping palms together and elbows out, feeling a gentle stretch.

Hold this position for 10-15 seconds.

Wrist Flexion Stretch
  • Extend your arm in front of you with your palm facing down.
  • Using your other hand, gently press down on the back of the affected hand to stretch the wrist and forearm.

Hold for 15-20 seconds, then release.

Remember, when it comes to these exercises, gentle is the name of the game! Don’t force your wrist into any moves that scream ‘ouch’. Regularly sprinkling these exercises into your day can keep your wrist nimble, cut down on stiffness, and keep your wrist in tip-top shape.

If you feel more than a slight stretch, pause, and consider chatting with a hand doctor.

Final Thoughts

Managing wrist bursitis might feel daunting, but with the right approach, it’s a manageable condition. Here’s a concise guide to help you navigate through it:

By following these steps, you can effectively manage wrist bursitis, making daily activities pain-free.

Remember, it’s about informed care, proactive management, and applying recommended treatments consistently!

What Hand & Wrist Services Do We Offer?

Hand & Wrist Pain Assessment

We use our hands every day of our lives for some of the most important of life's activities. Hand and wrist pain can be debilitating, meaning you struggle to drive, write, and play sports.

Hand & Wrist Surgery

If your hand condition is severe, or nothing you have tried has helped, Dr. Mehta can advise you on the options for surgery. She is a hand surgeon and can offer expert opinion and care.

Treatment of Hand & Wrist Conditions


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome causes pain and numbness in your hand, and sometimes requires surgery.

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis causes swelling and pain at the base of your thumb.

Wrist Bursitis

Wrist bursitis can cause pain and stiffness if your wrist. Treatment is often non-surgical.

& Many More

Dr. Mehta is experienced in hand and wrist surgery and non-surgical treatments.

Dr. Mehta offers diagnosis and treatment of all hand & wrist conditions and can offer her specialist opinion as an expert hand doctor.