In this day and age of smartphone texting, video game controllers, computers - the keyboard, mouse and even the mousing surface on our laptops - it’s no wonder so many people have pain in their hands and wrists.
Made of dozens of small bones, our hands and wrists can easily get sore. The wrist alone has eight bones lined up, four on top, four below. All eight bones are connected by ligaments that keep the joints together, while giving a wide range of motion for our hands. There are also many tendons that pass the wrist. These control the motion of our wrist, fingers, and thumb. Because each of those parts serves a purpose in movement, if even one area in the wrist gets inflamed or injured, you’re going to feel it.
Injuries or conditions affecting the hands can make tasks that were once simple “no-brainers” painful and difficult. Something as mundane as lifting a coffee cup or brushing your teeth can shoot pain through your arm. The pain may even cause you to change the way you do things, such as buttoning a shirt, tying a shoelace and even signing your name.
Arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, ganglion cysts and injuries are some of the most common conditions affecting the wrist and hand. Developing any of these conditions, especially carpal tunnel syndrome, is possible for almost anyone.
Treatment for injuries can vary from icing it at home to a visit to the emergency center.
When to see a doctor
A common myth about hand and wrist injuries is that if you can move it, it’s not broken. That’s simply not true. Often, fractures feel tender right at the bone. If you have an obvious deformity or your skin is cut, you should get medical attention as soon as you can. If you have swelling, bruising and/or pain that lasts more than a day or two, it is worth seeing a physician to check it.
Preventing hand and wrist pain
There are things you can do to ward off hand and wrist pain, though. Try to keep your bones strong by getting enough calcium and vitamin D, which your body needs to use that calcium. Your doctor will have a recommendation on how much and the best way for you to work calcium and vitamin D into your diet.
Next, look at the ergonomics of how you work and live. If you're straining, re-organize until you're more comfortable.
Finally, make sure you’re protected. Whether you’re in your own home or playing your favorite sport, it’s important to think about safety. Make sure your shoes fit properly, there are no tripping hazards and you’re wearing the appropriate protective sporting gear.
Treating hand and wrist pain
If the pain is creeping in, you can help relieve the pain at home. Applying heat or ice to the sore area can help reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and improve movement. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or pain relievers might help if needed. Try modifying your activities to give your achy hands or wrists a rest.
Worsening pain means making an appointment with your physician. They can offer you other treatments to help. Those treatments can range from splinting to various surgical techniques.
At Beaumont, our orthopedic hand and wrist surgeons use the most advanced and proven techniques to improve the lives of patients. We work closely with specialized hand therapists and other team members to relieve your pain, regain your function and get you back to activities.
Information provided by Rachel Rohde, M.D., Beaumont orthopedic surgeon.