Hard, Small, Painful Lump on your Wrist: Causes, Diagnosis, Symptoms

Lumps on hands and arms are not that common. Rather than lumps, pimples and lesions are more commonly associated with arms.

A lump on your wrist or on the wrist bone has a high chance of being a ganglion cyst. It can however be caused by other forms of cysts, sources of swelling or even cell malignancy. This article discusses hard, small, painful Lump on your Wrist: Causes, Diagnosis, Symptoms and treatment options.

Lump on your wrist due to ganglion cysts

Ganglion cysts are the most identifiable causes of lumps on wrists. A ganglion lump on wrist develops mostly on the joints or tendons of the hand. This is the part at which the thumb separates from the rest of the fingers. If you are to press on this location, you will feel a hard bone, the wrist bone.

It is on this bone that a ganglion lump on wrist develops usually. In some cases, the lumps can appear on the palms, finger, ankles or feet. If painful, a ganglion cyst on ankles or feet will cause a lump in the groin area for males.

Large ganglion cysts have been known to measure up to 2.5 cm. Small ones are no bigger than a pea. Large ones can interfere with the movement of the wrist joints. While ganglion cysts are usually painless, they can cause discomfort or even pain if squeezed.

Causes, symptoms and treatment for ganglion cyst lump on your wrist


Experts are not certain on what exactly causes these cysts. They however are noted to occur more in people between 20 and 40 years of age. As mentioned earlier, the cysts develop mostly on the joints of the wrist. It is therefore thought that joint complications and injuries will encourage the cysts to occur. This includes patients diagnosed with arthritis of the fingers. More cases of ganglion cysts are reported in women than in men.


Ganglion cysts are filled with a sticky, thick substance. They develop into round or oval shaped lumps. Under normal circumstances, the cyst will not be painful. However, the lump may grow into the path of nerve endings. When this happens, complications such as pain or hindered joint movement may arise.

An initial ganglion lump on wrist may prompt the development of other similar cysts.

Ganglion cysts are known to disappear on their own, just to reappear after a period of time. Some grow acutely while others develop slowly and gradually.

A ganglion cyst may develop on back of wrist without you realizing it. This is because the cyst is usually with no noticeable symptoms, until it is big enough to be seen. With time, pain and joint weakness are likely to set in.


Treatment for ganglion cysts is not always necessary. The lumps will go away on their own. However, surgical removal can be performed on the lump. Surgery is a very effective treatment alternative for lumps.

Other than surgery, your doctor may choose to drain the cyst and inject steroids into the same. Steroids are used as anti-inflammatory agents. They are sometimes used for treating a hard lump behind ear due to epidermoid cysts. After this procedure, a splint is applied, to keep the joint intact.

Other causes of lump on top of wrist

Metacarpal bossing

Metacarpal bossing leads to the formation of a hard lump on the wrist at the base of long or the index finger. It in fact is a bone overgrowth. You are likely to find lumps due to metacarpal bossing on the back of the wrist, mainly at the base of the pointer or the index finger.

Inclusion cysts

Inclusion cysts develop over time. They mostly begin after cells from top skin surface are pushed deeper into the skin by a skin injury or trauma. With time, the cells will accumulate in a sac and develop a hard outer layer. A lump on the back side of the neck due to cysts forms in an almost identical manner.

Mucous cysts

Mucous cysts are not very different from ganglion cysts. The type that affects the hand and toes is known as a digital mucous cyst.

Dupuytren’s contracture

Dupuytren’s contracture is a condition that interferes with how the muscles of the palms move. It is a deformity that makes it impossible or hard for the palm to attain a grip. The condition develops over a long period of time. In the long run, it will form a cord that will retract the fingers to bend. This may lead to formation of a hard lump on the wrist.

Rheumatoid extensor tenosynovitis

These long names are used to describe a condition that causes swelling of a tendon and the sheath that covers it. Infections are the common causes of this condition. It mostly affects the hands.

Carpal boss

Carpal boss is caused by continued wear and tear on the base joints of the middle and index finger. It occurs in osteoarthritis patients.

Autoimmune diseases

Diseases such as lupus are known to cause inflammations in different parts of the body. In fact, arthritis is a form of autoimmune disease. Such diseases are often accompanied by symptoms such as a hard lump on the back of the head due to swollen lymph nodes.


Cancer develops due to cell malignancy. A hard lump on the wrist can be caused by two types of cancer:

  • Melanoma – it is a deadly skin cancer. It can start in form of lesions on the palms. The lesions may also appear on the nail bed. With time, patients will notice the formation of brown or black lesions.
  • Sarcoma – it is a rare type of cancer that affects the connective tissues. Connective tissues are located in areas of the body that involve the coordination of bones, tendons and cartilages. The wrist is a good example. A big lump on the wrist under the skin may be caused by sarcoma.

Cancer lumps are commonly identified by formation of hard, fixed, irregular and painless lumps. On hands, they will usually form on parts most exposed to sun. Cancer tumors may also lead to formation of hard small lumps on the testicle, hoarse voice, weight loss, a painful lump in the breast and other such symptoms.

Lump on top of wrist below thumb

A lump on top of the wrist below the thumb can be caused by:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome – this is a defect that causes tendons that connect the forearm with hand to compress inside the carpal tunnel. The compression leads to the formation of a lump on top of the wrist below the thumb. It leads to numbness in the arm and hand.
  • Giant cell tumor – contrary to what the name may suggest a giant cell tumor is not cancerous. In fact, it is not a typical tumor. Lumps on the wrist below the thumb can be caused by this condition. Giant cell tumor cells multiply rapidly and can destroy a bone near a joint.

Lump on wrist bone with pain

If you are experiencing a lump on the wrist bone with pain, it could be due to the following:

Injuries or wrist sprains. Sprains on the back of the wrist affect the ligaments that connect tissues and bones in the joints. A lump may form due to natural inflammation of injured body regions.

You may also want to check if the wrist has not sustained any breakages or fractures. Bone injuries are usually very painful and do call for medical treatment.

It also could be due to wrist tendonitis. This is a very common condition that causes the wrist to swell and become painful.

If you have been experiencing gradual deterioration in your capacity to use your wrists, you may be dealing with arthritis. Arthritis is a disease of the joints and can cause pain and lumps on the wrists.

Lump on wrist under skin after cannula

Some patients complain about having developed a lump on wrist under skin after cannula. It is not a rare condition but can be a ridiculously painful one.

In most cases, a lump on your wrist after cannula will be caused by a condition known as phlebitis. It is basically an inflammation of a blood vein. Depending on the severity, multiple clotting can occur in the veins and cause very severe pain.

A lump after cannula should not outlast a period of 2 weeks. You can try warm compressing on the affected region. Warm compress encourages blood circulation and also eases pain due to the inflamed veins. Another alternative that may help involves bandaging the affected region. This will protect from physical assault on the affected region. If the condition doesn’t ease, check with your doctor. You may be dealing with multiple clots or inflammations in the blood veins.

In some cases, a lump on wrist under skin after cannula can be caused by spilling of blood or fluid between the layers of the skin. This can be painful but will clear in due time.

Diagnosis and treatment for lump on your wrist

The best treatment for a lump on the back of wrist or in the areas around the wrist depends on the causes and severity.

Lumps due to different types of cysts can be drained by a doctor. This is only necessary if the cysts are causing discomfort, pain or weakness.

Injuries and traumas to the wrist can be treated in different ways. The common method is to have the affected joint plastered or splinted.

Arthritis can be treated in different ways. Generally, your doctor will be in the best position to prescribe the best treatment option. As you can see, some of the causes identified above are very involved and complex from a medical standpoint.

Consider learning more on how to identify signs of malignancy in lumps that occur on different parts of the body. Topics such as what does a testicular lump look like or how to check for breast lumps can also help.