Orthopedic surgeon and hand expert, Dr. Jeffrey E. Budoff, MD

Arthroscopic and open surgery of the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder

Flexor Carpi Radialis (FCR) Tendinitis

The flexor carpi radialis (FCR) is one of the tendons that helps flex the wrist. It is located on the palmar surface of the wrist, near the base of the thumb. Overuse, such as occurs with repetitive lifting with the palm up, may lead to FCR tendinitis. This is similar to DeQuervain’s tendinitis in that it’s often caused by a space problem.

Like the tendons involved in DeQuervain’s syndrome, the FCR tendon runs in a sheath. Overuse can lead to swelling within that sheath, leading to compression/pinching of the FCR tendon. This leads to tendon pain,usually located about an inch above your wrist. This pain is often increased by lifting with your palm up and by grip, both of which stress the tendon.

Treatment starts with activity modification, lifting with the palm down when necessary, a splint that is worn during periods of heavy activity and a steroid injection to decrease inflammation and swelling. If that fails, then the FCR’s tunnel (sheath) can be surgically released. This is a simple, outpatient procedure that takes only 5-10 minutes. It can be performed under local anesthesia. Like the DeQuervain’s release, it is highly effective.

After surgery, keep the wound clean and dry for 3 days. Then you can shower and get it wet, but try not to submerge it under water for 10 days. Also try to avoid heavy activities for a week or two. Once released, the FCR tendon starts to heal. How long it takes to feel better depends on how much damage it had before it was released and how much the FCR tendon gets to rest following surgery.

In summary, wrist pain due to FCR tendinitis is fairly common and very treatable.