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Is Wrist Pain a Sign of Kienböck Disease?

Kienböck Disease causes one of the bones in the wrist (lunate bone) to slowly break down due to low blood supply. This process is called osteonecrosis. Symptoms include pain, swelling, limited movement, and decreased grip strength. The symptoms usually start in adulthood but can occur at any age and seems to affect females more often than males.

The most common signs and symptoms Kienböck Disease may differ from person to person. Some people may have more symptoms than others and symptoms can range from mild to severe. Damage to the lunate can lead to pain and stiffness. If time has passed since an injury, it can also lead to wrist arthritis. Most patients with Kienböck Disease have the following symptoms:

• Wrist pain

• Tenderness directly over the lunate bone

• Decreased motion or stiffness of the wrist

• Swelling

It is not well understood how Kienböck Disease changes over time. Typically, only one wrist is affected. The wrist joint may break down leading to arthritis in the surrounding bones. Some people with Kienböck Disease have no symptoms and the condition is only discovered by chance; others will find that it slowly gets worse over time.

The underlying cause of Kienböck Disease is unknown. Diagnosis is made by imaging studies such as an MRI or CT scan. Treatment aims to relieve pressure and restore blood flow within the bone and includes both surgical and non-surgical methods. Treatment options depend upon the severity and stage of the disease. In very early stages, the treatment can be as simple as observation, activity changes, and/or immobilization. For more advanced stages, surgery is usually considered. Surgery may be done to change forces across the lunate and wrist joint or to improve vascularity of the lunate. When the lunate is severely fracture, collapsed, or arthritic, salvage treatments such as lunate and other wrist bone removal may be necessary. Hand therapy does not change the course of the disease; however, it can help to minimize loss of motion from the disease. Treatment is designed to relieve pain and restore function.

If you have persistent wrist pain, it’s important to see a doctor to find out the cause. Early diagnosis and treatment of Kienböck Disease can lead to a better outcome. In an early stage of the disease, you may be able to relieve pain with conservative treatment. If Kienböck Disease isn’t treated, your lunate bone will continue to deteriorate. This could lead to severe pain and loss of movement in your wrist.

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your wrist, make an appointment at for an evaluation.


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