Hand and wrist pain can be terribly frustrating – especially when you consider all of the activities these valuable appendages allow you to do.
Sure, exercising and sporting activities are usually rather difficult when your hand or wrist is in pain, but so too is doing things like tying your shoelaces, putting away the dishes, or even holding a book and turning the pages!
If hand or wrist pain is interfering with your daily activities, our orthopedic specialists at McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group are ready to help. At our Sacramento practice, you will find medical professionals who are skilled, experienced, and utilize the latest in orthopedic techniques and equipment to help you overcome these kinds of problems.
Fortunately, our orthopedic team is able to treat many patients with conservative (nonsurgical) care. And when surgery is necessary, we use the best possible procedures to produce the results you should expect to see – regained function and no more pain in your hands and wrists!
Why Hand and Wrist Pain Develops
Human hands are complex structures containing 27 bones (along with various muscles, connective tissues, and nerves). Further, these appendages are actually somewhat delicate in relationship to the activities for which we rely on them. While our hands and wrists give us the ability to perform precise, dexterous movements, they are vulnerable to injury.
Further, injuries and conditions responsible for hand and wrist pain can be related to any of the body’s skeletal, muscular, or nervous systems. Accordingly, all of the respective anatomical components and countless ways we use our hands combine to create the potential for a wide range of injuries and conditions. These can cause tremendous pain, discomfort, and restrict normal movement.
As is the case with a majority of musculoskeletal injuries, wrist pain can be either acute or chronic in nature (from a general perspective). Sometimes, wrist injuries are sudden. Such is the case with fractures and sprains, both of which are fairly common. In other cases, the pain stems from a chronic long-term problem, like arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or arthritis.
Here is a more in-depth look at specific injuries and conditions resulting in wrist and hand pain:
Osteoarthritis. It isn’t necessarily widely known or considered, but there are over 100 different types of arthritic conditions. Osteoarthritis happens to be the most common of the lot (and is the one people usually associate with arthritis). This “wear and tear” variety happens when the protective cartilage covering the ends of bones deteriorates over time. Without the cushioning normally provided by the cartilage, joints become pained and swollen. The risk of osteoarthritis—particularly in the wrist—tends to be greater for individuals who has previously injured their wrist.
Rheumatoid arthritis. Whereas osteoarthritis develops over time in response to normal wear and tear, rheumatoid arthritis is a disorder wherein the body’s immune system starts to attack tissues meant to protect our joints. At this time, the medical community has not established a firm reason for this arthritic condition, but the disorder commonly affects wrists. In this instance, both wrists are often affected concurrently.
Acute injuries. A common scenario leading to wrist injury is when someone falls forward and attempts to cushion the fall with an outstretched hand. This may protect other body parts, but it can cause the wrist to sprain or fracture. If the bone on the thumb-side of the wrist is fractured—an injury that might not show up immediately on X-rays—it is known as a scaphoid fracture.
Repetitive stress. Essentially, any activity involving repetitive wrist motion can ultimately lead to inflammation in the tissues that support and surround the joints. Rarer still, yet something that still happens, is the development of stress fractures.
Other diseases and conditions:
Carpal tunnel syndrome. This particular ailment has been sustained by humans throughout history, but really gained prominence over the past century with increases in assembly line production (which usually entails repetitive motion for employees) and computer keyboard typing. With carpal tunnel syndrome, increased pressure on the median nerve where it passes through the carpal tunnel—an anatomical passageway (“tunnel”) found on the palm side of the wrist—and causes nerve pain or numbness.
Ganglion cysts. These soft tissue cysts are usually benign (noncancerous), yet they can be rather painful. Different ganglion cyst cases present symptoms in different manners – with pain either improving or worsening in physical activity. Most often, a ganglion cyst will be found on the wrist in the area opposite your palm.
Kienbock's disease. When blood supply to the small wrist bones is compromised, it can lead to a progressive structural collapse. The disorder is more common in young adults.
Since there are many different factors relating to wrist pain, it is important to make sure the injury or condition is properly diagnosed. Once we have determined exactly what happened and why you’re experiencing pain, we can begin to develop a treatment plan to effectively address it for you.
When it comes to diagnosing hand and wrist injuries, we start with a visual examination of the affected area. In doing so, we are looking for signs and symptoms—like swelling, numbness, weakness, discoloration, and bleeding—that will give greater insight into the problem. If possible, we may need to assess the available range of motion in the affected hand and wrist.
As you might expect, there is a strong possibility we will use diagnostic tools (X-rays, MRI scans) to evaluate internal tissues and assess potential damage within the body – including problems like torn ligaments and broken bones. To this end, you will find that McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group has state-of-the-art equipment to ensure your diagnosis is accurate.
Hand and Wrist Pain Risk Factors
While hand and wrist pain are problems that can happen to virtually anyone who has hands and wrists, there are some risk factors that make them more likely for some people than others. These include things like:
Athletic participation. Active living is always the best practice, but you should be aware there’s always a certain degree of injury risk. (Definitely not enough to avoid exercising, though!) Many sports and physical activities come with increased risk for wrist injuries, and particularly those involving repetitive stress. Some examples include bowling, golf, football, tennis, and gymnastics.
Repetitive work. If an activity or movement is performed on a frequent basis—and especially, although not necessarily, ones that are forceful—it can be enough to cause disabling hand or wrist pain. Even activities like knitting or cutting hair can eventually lead to problems.
Certain diseases or conditions. Carpal tunnel syndrome is certainly caused by activities, but sometimes there are other situations that contribute. Gout, diabetes, and obesity are a few risk factors for hand and wrist pain and difficulty.
Orthopedic Treatment for Hand and Wrist Injuries
Damage to any part of a wrist or hand may cause painful symptoms and restrict your ability to perform normal activities. We want you to have every opportunity and be able to lead an active life – and you probably do as well!
This means you should come see us if you are experiencing hand or wrist pain that is not going away after a couple of days of appropriate home care measures (rest, ice, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). You also should seek professional treatment at our Carmichael office if you have severe pain or symptoms like obvious deformity, unusual bumps, stiffness, swelling, restricted range of motion, or numbness.
When you come in for your appointment, we start with diagnosing the problem (using methods we mentioned earlier).
Once we have established the core issue, we will begin creating your customized treatment plan. In doing so, our goal is to relieve existing symptoms, restore any loss of mobility, and resolve the problem responsible for your pain and difficulty.
Patients from across the greater Sacramento community seek orthopedic care from McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group because we offer a variety of treatment options to treat hand and wrist injuries and conditions.
In some cases, conservative (nonsurgical) measures are able to provide relief from pain and allow you to get back to health. These measures can include activity modification, medication, corticosteroid injections, physical therapy, and splints or other orthotic fabrications.
If surgical intervention is the recommended course of treatment, you will be relieved to know we perform advanced procedures that typically provide outstanding results for our patients. These can include wrist arthroscopy, tendon repair, fracture repair, cyst excision, and carpal tendon release.
Our team is here to provide effective treatment when you need it. Even better, though, is when we know you are able to avoid a problem from developing in the first place.
Now, it isn’t always possible to prevent hand and wrist pain—especially because so many cases are caused by unavoidable accidents or medical conditions—but you can at least lower your risk by doing things like:
Building bone strength. Stronger bones are more resistant to fractures, so make sure you consume an adequate amount of calcium (1,000 mg/day for most adults, 1,200 mg/day for women over 50 and men over 70) and vitamin D (400-800 IU/day for those under 50, 800-1,000 IU/day for those over 50).
Preventing falls. As noted earlier, many wrist injuries happen when we try to brace ourselves during a fall, so make sure you remove hazards in walkways, wear shoes with good grip, keep living spaces well-lit, use nightlights, and install handles in your bathrooms (especially bath tubs).
Wearing protective gear. Wrist guards worn during high-risk athletic activities (snowboarding, football, rollerblading, etc.) can reduce your odds of sustaining a painful injury.
Mind your ergonomics. If your occupation or pastime hobby entails frequent keyboard use, make sure you’re typing with wrists that are in a neutral position. You may need to take regular breaks and use an ergonomic keyboard and/or a foam or gel wrist support.
Schedule an Appointment at McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group
Some hand and wrist pain can be successfully addressed at home. Even with that being the case, it’s still a smart decision to come in for professional diagnosis. Sure, you might have found relief from symptoms, but it is possible you are applying the proverbial band-aid that only covers a bigger problem.
If you are having severe pain, discomfort, and/or reduced range of motion, our team will work diligently to create a solution that works for you. We can only do this, however, when you come see us!
Contact McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group today for more information—or to request an appointment—by calling (916) 961-3434 or taking advantage of our online form right now.