While wrist and hand pain are often temporary and not serious, there could be an underlying affliction causing the discomfort that needs to be addressed. What are the most common conditions you may experience in your wrists and hands and how are they treated?
Your hands can perform everything from lifting heavy objects to texting on a small screen. Wear and tear as well as injury can cause wrist and hand pain. Many times, the wear and tear results from years of overusing and failing to care for these delicate structures, so the tendons, joints, and other underlying structures inflame, resulting in aching pains and trouble doing our normal tasks.
Most hand pain is minor and can be alleviated with over-the-counter medications, ice, and rest. However, if the pain persists and you have other lasting symptoms there are several common conditions that may be causing the problem:
- Arthritis, which is a disease that attacks joint cartilage and the number one cause of hand pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome, one of the most common hand nerve disorders
- De Quervain’s tendinitis (or tendinosis), which creates pain in the thumb side of your wrist that can shoot up the forearm
- Fractures of any of the tiny bones in the wrist and hand
- Ganglion cysts, which are (usually benign) fluid masses that grown on the back of your wrist
- Trigger finger, or stenosing tenosynovitis, a condition that locks the fingers or thumb in the bent position because the underlying flexor tendons become irritated
Most of these conditions benefit from skilled physical or occupational therapy. Arthritis can be a stubborn affliction that can worsen as we age. Treatment for this illness includes anti-inflammatories, heat, and skilled therapy.
Treatment for the other conditions can vary. For instance, treating De Quervain’s can include a wrist and thumb splint along with anti-inflammatory medications. The treatment can be similar for carpal tunnel, along with skilled therapy, rest, and ice.
Treating fractures can be quite complex up to and including surgery to repair the delicate bones. Trigger finger may also eventually lead to surgery. A ganglion cyst can grow and become very painful so your doctor may recommend draining the fluid to alleviate the pressure.
A high incidence of wrist and hand disorders are caused by repetition and strain from your job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the highest number of days away from work are most often caused by carpal tunnel syndrome caused by repetitive motions. Any activity that causes you to move your wrists and hands in a repetitive way will eventually cause enough wear and tear to break down the connective tissues, joints, or nerves.
It’s not just manual labor that causes these types of repetitive injuries; computer jobs are a leading cause of chronic wrist and hand pain. Even the way you hold your wrist over the keyboard or how your fingers type the keys can eventually cause problems.
When the wrist or hand condition is caused by repetition and strain at work, or by some other cause, there is a specialized area of medicine, called Occupational Therapy, or Hand Therapy, that can help.
Occupational therapy for the wrist and hand is specialized skilled rehab focused on restoring functional use of the upper extremity, from the hand to the shoulder.. Occupational therapy teaches you to adapt to your physical problem, sometimes by using assisted devices, but other times through the use of preventative techniques to help you cope.
An occupational therapist can help you come up with exercises to strengthen the body or ways to get your work or daily tasks done without causing more harm to your wrists and hands.
When it comes to your wrists and hands, any pain that lasts over several weeks or that recurs, should be checked out by your doctor. Ability Rehabilitation offers occupational and physical therapy.
Our occupational therapy practice focuses on the hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder and we offer a variety of therapeutic treatments to compliment your doctor’s treatment of the ailments that are causing you pain.