We live in a hands-on world – literally. We type and text to communicate, we lift our kids to show them how much we care and we work out to relieve tension from our busy lives. Unfortunately, these activities increase the rate of hand problems, and neglecting even simple soreness and pain can cause major consequences.
“Minor hand issues can lead to big problems when they are ignored,” says Paul Prinz, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital. “In the case of carpal tunnel for example, occasional numbness can lead to muscle weakness and loss of function if left untreated.” Other common causes for hand pain include:
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when too much pressure is put on the median nerve, causing numbness and tingling in the wrist and fingers. Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and repetitive movements can cause the condition.
Splinting is often the first line of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome “A splint puts the wrist in a position where less pressure is on the median nerve,” Dr. Prinz says.
Trigger digits is a condition that affects the tendons in the fingers and thumb and is often caused by diabetes and repetitive finger movements. If someone has this condition and tries to straighten their finger, it will lock or catch. “Normally, the tendons glide through these bands of tissue but because of inflammation, the tendon gets caught,” Dr. Prinz says. If left untreated, sufferers can lose motion in their fingers and thumb.
To relieve the pain and inflammation of trigger digits, doctors often turn to injections with cortisone. This is often very effective for long-term relief because the pain starts in the joint.
- Basilar thumb arthritis occurs when the base of the thumb develops osteoarthritis – a condition where joint cartilage wears away. This is sometimes caused from repetitive hand movements. “Oftentimes, patients will experience significant limitations because of the pain,” Dr. Prinz says. Most often, injections and splints are used to treat basilar thumb arthritis.
Tennis elbow may not sound like a hand condition, but according to Dr. Prinz, overusing the forearm muscles can make it difficult – or even impossible – to grip and lift objects. However, this condition doesn’t just affect tennis players. Anyone who performs repetitive arm, elbow and wrist movements (such as gardeners) are also at risk.
“Limiting your activity is the best way to prevent and treat many hand conditions,” Dr. Prinz says. This is especially true with tennis elbow because resting decreases inflammation of the tendon.
Your doctor can help you decide which treatments are best for your injury. Dr. Prinz says it is important to seek professional treatment if symptoms don’t improve within two weeks. For more comprehensive treatments, patients can benefit from experienced occupational and hand therapists at Adventist Midwest Health’s Paulson Rehabilitation Center.
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