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hand-and-wrist-pain - Dr. John Atwater

Hands are an essential part of the human body. You use your hands for daily tasks, to express emotions, and to communicate. As a result, hand and wrist pain or discomfort can be especially discouraging. Hand and wrist injuries can be acute or chronic in nature. Acute injuries include fractures, crushing, punctures, and lacerations.

About 70% of hand injuries result from not wearing protection, and 30% of injuries are caused by wearing the wrong gloves.

At OSA, we recognize that hand and wrist pain conditions are not minor issues. We want to help you feel like yourself again. Our experienced doctors and staff work with patients to develop treatment plans that suit their needs and lifestyle. We focus on giving you control over your path to recovery.

The Anatomy of the Hand and Wrist

The hand and wrist:

  • The fingers: The four main fingers have three bones, and the thumb has two bones. There are five bones in the palm that link to the fingers. Joints are formed wherever these bones meet.
  • Muscles, ligaments, and tendons: There are two types of muscles, ligaments, and tendons: flexors and extensors. Flexors are under the forearm, and they bend the fingers. Extensors are on top of the forearm, and they straighten the fingers.
  • Ligaments and tendons: Ligaments connect bones to bones, and tendons connect bones to muscle. These add support to the muscles and bones of the hand and wrist. They cushion the bones so that movement doesn’t hurt. If your ligaments or tendons are damaged, your hands may hurt or feel tired.
  • Carpal bones: The carpus is formed by eight bones at the base of your hand.
  • The wrist: The carpus meets the two bones in your forearm (the radius and ulna). Together, these form your wrist. The wrist is made up of several small joints that allow your hand to move in lots of different ways.

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Causes of Hand and Wrist Pain

  • Sports or work injuries
  • Overuse (especially from typing)
  • Old age
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Genetics

How Hand and Wrist Pain Conditions are Diagnosed

Your doctor will ask you various questions about your history, lifestyle, and how your symptoms affect your daily life. Your doctor will also ask about the severity of your hand and wrist pain and will check for swelling or bruising around the area. Finally, your doctor will ask to see you move your hand in different positions.

These questions and observations can help diagnose your condition, but they also help doctors determine what treatments would be most suitable for your unique experience.

Here are some ways you can help your hand and wrist doctor:

  • Bring all medical records, scans, and recent laboratory results to your appointment. This is important!
  • Tell your doctor the type of pain you are having (dull or sharp) and how often.
  • Tell your doctor if you’ve noticed any changes to the skin on or around your hand and wrist.
  • Tell your doctor if your discomfort is limiting you from any activities.

Many doctors will want to see what’s going on inside your body. They may order one or more of the following:

  • X-rays
  • MRIs
  • CT Scans
  • Nerve studies
  • Arthroscopy
  • Blood tests

Surgical and Non-Surgical Treatments

For many patients, surgery is the last resort. In fact, many patients find that over time their pain gets better by itself or with some simple treatments. Other times, however, the pain will persist despite non-surgical and surgical treatments.

Non-surgical treatments include:

  • Physical therapy
  • RICE: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation
  • Changes in activity
  • Stretching
  • Medication to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Hot and cold therapies
  • Casts and splints to hold your wrist in place

The type of surgery you receive depends on your diagnosis; however, common hand and wrist surgical treatments include:

  • Wrist fusion: If your wrist is badly damaged, you may want to talk to your doctor about a wrist fusion. In this surgery, your doctor will fix your wrist to your hand. The surgery should help your pain go away and give you strength. However, you probably won’t be able to bend your wrist up and down after this. This surgery is especially common for arthritis patients.
  • Carpal tunnel release: Carpal tunnel is a common hand problem that happens when pressure is put on the median nerve. To help fix this, your surgeon will split the carpal tunnel ligament. This surgery is done under local anesthesia, so you probably won’t need to stay the night at the hospital.
  • Closed reduction and fixation: This surgery happens when you break a part of your hand, including your fingers. Your surgeon will realign the broken bone and then hold it in place with rods or wires while it heals.

Talk to your doctor if you would like to try any of these treatments for your hand and wrist pain. He or she can help you develop a safe, long-term plan for better health and mobility.