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Clicking Problems in the Wrists

By Natalie Smith ; Updated December 18, 2018

Your wrist may make clicking noises for a variety of reasons. Injuries, arthritis or wrist instability are possible causes for clicking noises when the wrist is moved. The clicking may not be serious, or it may require surgery to correct. Your physician can determine the cause of the clicking and recommend a course of treatment.


Ligament injuries are common causes for clicking noises in the wrist, according to Todd Foreman, et al., authors of "A Clinical Approach to Diagnosing Wrist Pain." When the ligaments are torn or completely severed, the bones in the wrist may rub against one another, causing a clicking sound when the wrist is moved. Another characteristic of a ligament injury is that it might cause extreme pain. Physicians treat torn or damaged ligaments by placing the wrist in a cast or splint or by surgically repairing the damaged ligament.


Osteoarthritis, or degenerative arthritis, affects most patients as they age. As the cartilage that protects the ends of the bones between the wrists wears down over time, a patient's wrists may begin to click when she moves them. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but steroids and anti-inflammatory medications may reduce the pain and swelling in the wrists. In severe cases, your physician may advise surgery to reconstruct the wrist.

Wrist Instability

Injuries or congenital malformations of the wrist may cause the wrist bones to fail to line up correctly, which can lead to rubbing and clicking. The treatment for this instability depends on which bones are affected and whether the patient's range of motion is affected, according to William Patrick Cooney, author of "The Wrist: Diagnosis and Operative Treatment." However, surgery to correct the alignment of the bones is the usual course of treatment, especially if it is painful or a patient's ability to move his wrist is limited because of the problem.

When to Consult a Physician

If your wrist is clicking, consult your physician for an evaluation. Your wrist may not require treatment, particularly if the clicking isn't accompanied by pain, swelling or problems with moving your wrist. However, if you develop swelling or problems moving your wrist, or if your wrist hurts, see your physician as soon as possible. Some problems, such as ligament injuries, may be easier to treat if you catch them early.

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