Winter is Coming: A Comprehensive Guide to Hand Pain
As one of the most versatile structures of the human body, hands help us to accomplish almost everything. From performing essential functions like eating and drinking, to intellectual pursuits like writing, to recreational sports and exercises, our hands help us push the boundaries of our lifestyles as humans. Unfortunately, though, human hands can also be fairly fragile. There are a number of different conditions and specific hand injuries that can lead to significant pain. With wintertime approaching, the risk for these injuries is especially high. With Westbury hand surgeons on staff, our office is particularly concerned with hand pain prevention. Read on to learn why hand pain occurs, and how you can take steps to prevent it.
Why Is Hand Pain Such a Common Problem?
The hand is a complex network of bones, ligaments, nerves, muscles and joints. Powerful muscles in the forearms control the fingers. All of these parts of the body work together to gracefully accomplish simple and complicated tasks each day.
The sheer quantity of these moving parts, though, can be a limiting factor as well. When one of these muscles or tendons grows strained, then it becomes difficult for the others to correctly perform their function. To regain full operation of both hands, a quick recovery is imperative. Our Westbury hand surgeons and physical therapists can help.
Common Hand Injuries
Whether you live an active or sedentary lifestyle, there are numerous ways that you can injure your hands. These are a few of the most common hand injuries that people suffer from.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome– Simple daily tasks such as tying your shoes or typing during work can be repetitive, and taxing on your fingers. These motions cause friction to build up inside of the wrist, resulting in a swollen nerve. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include frequent numbness and “pins and needles” sensations.
- Guyon’s Canal Syndrome– Guyon’s canal syndrome is similar in sensation and nature to carpal tunnel syndrome. By having extended tight grips on either weights, machinery, or other objects, the ulnar nerve can become entrapped.
- Trigger Finger– Nodules that result from tendon overuse can prevent full use of the finger, resulting in “trigger finger.” Trigger finger prevents people from being able to fully straighten their fingers, resulting instead in a hooked or bent shape.
- Finger Arthritis– Like other forms of degenerative arthritis, hand arthritis occurs due to overuse throughout many years. As the cartilage wears away, there is no longer cushioning between the bones.
- Ganglion Cysts- Ganglion cysts are lumps that develop along joints and tendons in the hand. They can range from being the size of a bean to being an inch in diameter. While there are no confirmed causes of ganglion cysts, people are at a higher risk if they have existing osteoarthritis, suffer from a join/tendon injury, or are female.
- Sprained Ligaments- Joints are connected by ligaments, which are thick connective tissues. Sprains can occur because of falling, tripping or one of several other injuries. Our Westbury hand surgeons are highly skilled in detecting and treating sprained ligaments.
- Fractures (Hand and Finger)- Like sprains, fractures often frequently result from impact during trips and falls. Unlike sprains, though, fractures occur when the bone is misshapen. Fractures are generally obvious, with visibly affected bones.
- Mallet Finger Injury– Aptly named for the way that the injury occurs, people receive mallet finger injuries during sports like basketball and volleyball when the DIP (distal interphalangeal) joint bends after being struck by the ball. If left untreated, then this can restrict the finger from fully straightening.
How Do We Cure Hand Pain/Injuries?
There are as many treatments for injured hands as there are potential treatments. These surgeries are only some of the treatments performed by our Westbury hand surgeons.
- Artificial Joint Replacement– This surgery is treated as a last resort for arthritis patients who do not successfully recover from nonsurgical treatments. During the surgery, the surgeon removes the ends of the bones that form the joint, creating a hollow area. Then, the surgeon places the prosthetic piece inside of the bone, wrapping it with the nearby ligament. This procedure gives new life to the fingers, improving flexibility and eliminating pain. This procedure is common for both the thumb and fingers.
- Finger/Thumb Fusion Surgery– As the articular cartilage fades away, the CMC (thumb) or MCP (finger) joint slowly grows arthritic. This causes pain when clenching, gripping or pinching anything with the thumb. In this surgery, the surgeon will remove articular cartilage from the two joints that connect the thumb. Then, a metal pin is inserted through both bones, which connects the cone and socket together. This metal pin allows the two bones to fuse as soft tissues are sewn back together.
- Steroid Injections- The pain that results from tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and other conditions can be mitigated with steroid injections. These cortisone injections seek to reduce inflammation, reducing pain and allowing for unrestricted movement.
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications- Often taking the form of a pill, these medications are helpful in reducing the inflammation that makes joint movement painful (or impossible) for arthritis patients. Many of these medications are available over the counter.
- Carpal Tunnel Surgery- There are two common surgeries used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Open Release- In open release carpal tunnel syndrome surgery, the surgeon will make a large wrist incision to release the carpal ligament.By releasing the carpal ligament, the goal of this surgery is to remove pressure from the median nerve.
- Endoscopic Release– Endoscopic release surgery is a less common and newer alternative to open release surgery. Rather than creating a large incision at the wrist, the endoscopic release technique requires only a small opening at the wrist. Some surgeons choose to also make a small incision in the palm of the hand. With access to the carpal tunnel, the surgeon then inserts a metal tube, into which the surgeon can insert an endoscope to find nerves and arteries. Finally, the surgeon will use a knife with a hook to free the median nerve from compression.
- Trigger Finger Surgery- To cure the rigidness and pain of a trigger finger (or thumb), surgeons perform trigger finger surgery. After cutting an incision in the designated finger or thumb, the surgeon will restore full movement capability by cutting the tendon sheath.
- Arthroscopic Surgery– In situations that require an extremely precise and small incision, arthroscopic surgery is the ideal path to take. By inserting an extremely small camera, the surgeon can identify exactly where the cartilage should be cut, and make the incision, even with limited access. Our Westbury hand surgeons are skilled in this practice, and can utilize this technique to provide the proper treatment.