The hands and wrists are incredibly complex. They consist of 27 bones, as well as muscles and connective tissues. Hand and Wrist pain is one of the most common medical complaints.
The discomfort can progress to the point that simple activities become difficult or impossible. Hand and wrist pain may be a result of injury, overuse or long-term degeneration. Seniors, athletes and people who work with their hands are especially vulnerable.
Symptoms include burning, stinging, aching, numbness, soreness and stiffness. The fingers or wrists can become swollen and hard to move. They might change color, or feel hot or cold.
Sprains, strains and small fractures often are responsible for the hand and wrist pain and swelling. They frequently can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications and the RICE formula (rest, ice, compression and elevation). Examples of degenerative problems are carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. More serious conditions require medical attention and, in some cases, surgery.
The wrist consists of eight small bones aligned in two rows, between the forearm and the hand bones. Ligaments and tendons hold muscles and bones together. Injury or deterioration involving any of these components can result in pain, lost range of motion and disability. Those most at risk are athletes and people who do repetitive work with their hands. Diabetes, leukemia, lupus and other conditions make patients more prone to wrist and hand pain.
Wrist surgery is necessary for severely broken bones, as the pieces of bones must be reconnected with metal materials. Orthopedic surgeons also correct advanced cases of carpal tunnel syndrome by cutting open the tunnel to take pressure off the nerve. Other procedures entail repairing ruptured tendons and ligaments.
The hand features a network of small bones, dozens of joints, muscles and tendons. It also contains the median, ulnar and radial nerves. Hand pain often is related to a larger issue, like arthritis or diabetes. It also can result from the trauma of a sports injury or accident.
Among the diagnoses of wrist and hand problems are:
This occurs when the median nerve, in the wrist’s carpal tunnel, is pinched and becomes inflamed due to excessive pressure. One of the most frequently diagnosed nerve disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome affects about 3 percent of the U.S. population. It causes pain, weakness, tingling or numbness in the hand, wrist and forearm. Surgery may be needed to take pressure off the nerve. Only a local anesthetic is necessary for a procedure in which an orthopedic surgeon splits the carpal tunnel ligament.
Flexor tendons permit people to curl their fingers, form fists and grip objects. Extensor tendons are used to straighten fingers. These tissues can tear or rupture as a result of rheumatoid or inflammatory arthritis. Surgeons often use material from healthy tendons in other fingers to repair ruptured tendons. In some cases, the bone in the wrist must be removed or made smoother to prevent future ruptures.
This repetitive stress injury, which patients feel in the wrist at the bottom of the thumb, also is called De Quervain’s tendonosis. The pain, which may occur instantly or come on gradually, can extend throughout the thumb and up the forearm. Making a fist and gripping things becomes difficult. The pain eminates from wrist tendons swollen because of overuse or repetitive activities. Doctors typically prescribe medications and splints. If the pain does not subside, surgical options are available.
When skin on the palm gets too thick, restricting hand mobility, Dupuytren’s disease is the culprit. Though the condition tends to be painless, it can force the fingers to curl toward the palm. In an outpatient procedure, a surgeon removes the excess tissue to release the fingers.
These growths are liquid-filled sacs that appear as skin bumps, often on the top of the wrist. They can cause significant pain and become infected. The cysts sometimes go away on their own, but also can be removed surgically.
The fingers of those who suffer from this form of arthritis become deformed, which causes pain and loss of function. Knuckle-replacement surgery, in which artificial joints are implanted, reduces the pain and realigns the fingers.
Other diagnoses include Kienbock’s disease, which results in the collapse of a bone in the wrist due to inadequate blood supply; Raynaud’s disease, the constriction of blood vessels in the hand; repetitive motion syndrome; and writer’s cramp. Trigger finger gets its name from how a finger or thumb gets stuck in a curled position due to a swollen tendon.