Common Hand and Wrist Conditions

Common Hand and Wrist Conditions

We do so much with our hands. It’s what makes us stand out and why we have achieved so much as a species. We are able to make, catch, grab, build, hold, play, create, push, and pull, all thanks to our hands. We can communicate with others, type, write, and sign. It is part of our expression, how we interact with our food, how we are intimate with each other, how we show affection. They are by far the most useful tool we have at our disposal.

Twenty-seven of our body’s 206 bones are in the hands, with 14 in our fingers alone. We have an array of ligaments, tendons, and muscles to make them all move and then a list of nerves for them to communicate to the brain. We feel hot and cold — we feel the breeze and the current, the texture, and whether something is soft or hard. We use our hands to interact with the world.

A hand or wrist condition has a huge impact on anybody’s life. Experiencing pain, discomfort, or muscle limitation in this section of our body makes daily life challenging. This is where we here at the Hand Center of Louisiana come in. We want to relieve as much discomfort for patients as possible. We treat multiple hand conditions. This article looks at what some common hand problems are that patients experience.


Table of Contents

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The symptoms of carpal tunnel start slowly. You’ll get the odd burning sensation, tingling, or itching numbers in the palm of your hand and fingers. You could feel like your fingers are swollen even though they look fine. The reason for this is that the carpal tunnel is an increased pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. As a result, the communication from your hand to your brain is disjointed and confused. Imagine if you poured coffee on your keyboard, and then your document on your computer gets filled with nonsense letters as your keyboard sparked and fizzled.

What Is Carpal Tunnel?

There is a narrow channel constructed of ligament and bones where the hand joins the wrist. This is where the median nerve and tendons are. This nerve controls sensations on the palm side of the thumb and fingers, as well as the impulses to some of the smaller muscles in the hand. They are one of the more common hand injuries.

Carpal tunnel can be caused by several factors, and sometimes even a few combined could be at fault:

  • Anatomical factors: A fractured wrist or a location can be pressing on the nerve. Even the smallest of fractures, if in the wrong place, can alter the space and put pressure. It just takes a minor movement.
  • Repetitive hand use: We often hear of musicians who practice for long hours with continuous wrist movement, developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Any repetitive hand motion or activities over a prolonged period can aggravate the tendons and cause swelling.
  • Health conditions: There are a lot of other conditions that can cause swelling, a hormonal imbalance or fluid retention that can have an impact on your wrist. Conditions can include arthritis, diabetes, thyroid gland balance, pregnancy and menopause.
  • Workplace factors: If you work with equipment on a daily basis that vibrates or on an assembly line that needs you to do repetitive flexing, it can also cause pressure.

If you feel like you might have carpal tunnel syndrome, reach out to us. We will listen to your story of symptoms and take down your detailed history of medical conditions, family history and so on. To have a better look at what is going on under the skin, we will ask to take some imaging tests, such as an X-ray. Lab tests might be needed if we suspect other medical or nerve conditions to be the bigger culprit.

Ganglion Cysts

Ganglion Cysts

Finding a lump or noticing a bump developing under your skin might look disturbing and cause concern, but ganglion cysts are very common and are not cancerous. They usually won’t prevent you from daily activities. They develop along the tendons or where the joints are usually filled with a jelly-like fluid. Most are pea-sized, but you do get cases where they can be fairly large at about an inch or so in diameter. Sometimes, they take a long time to form, while others feel like they sprung up overnight.

Ganglion cysts were once called Bible bumps, as people used to try and flatten them with heavy books to get rid of them. We don’t recommend you do this, as it could cause tissue damage and even create additional pain and bruising.

What Causes Ganglion Cysts?

Unfortunately, the exact cause of the ganglion cysts is unknown. Anyone can get it, and they are very common. They account for 60%-70% of soft-tissue masses found in the hand and wrist. They develop in the tissue, called synovium, that lines the tendons and joints in the hands and write. The synovium tissue makes a thick fluid that acts as a lubricate of sorts for the joins and tendons to move freely. Occasionally, this fluid collects in a sac and creates a ganglion cyst.

They are usually painless, although if the fluid presses on a nerve, it could cause some discomfort.

Can They Be Removed?

The majority of ganglion cysts simply leave on their own. If you have one that seems to be taking over or lasting a long time, book an appointment with us. We’ll physically examine the area. If there doesn’t appear to be anything else going on other than a stubborn ganglion cyst, we will offer a few nonsurgical treatments first.

A gentle massage or aspirating the area are the first options we would try. If there is severe pressure and discomfort, then an anti-inflammatory medication might be recommended. If the cyst keeps reappearing even after being removed, then we may recommend some surgical options.

Hand Fractures

Hand Fractures

Hand fractures can include fractures in your finger bones, called the phalanges, or in the longer bones, called metacarpals. Because almost anything can cause them, they are incredibly common. They are the type of hand condition that causes sharp pain.

A lot of people assume that a fracture is different from a break, but they are the same. A fracture is caused when enough force is applied to the bone to cause it to break. Some fractures are hand conditions requiring surgery. There are different kinds of fractures:

  • Simple fractures: A simple fracture is when the bone has broken, but the tendons and muscles are still holding it in place. This allows the bones to still be perfectly aligned and is fairly easy to fix and heal.
  • Comminuted fractures: If a blunt object hits the hand, it could cause the bones to shatter into many pieces. Surgical invention is often needed for the challenge of a comminuted fracture.
  • Compound fracture: An open or compound fracture is when the bond is broken to the point that it pierces through the skin. Because of the exposure, there is an increased risk of infection.

Hand Fracture Treatment

Due to the variation and intensity of some hand fractures, the course of treatment could vary quite a bit from one patient to another. Here are a few common steps that are usually taken:

  • Immobilization: As soon as you feel the sharp pain that a bone has broken and the tendons and ligaments have been strained, you need to immobilize the area. You can use a splint or a cast to keep the hand in a fixed position until you get professional help.
  • Finger tapping: This is also called buddy taping, as you basically tape a smaller finger that is fractured to a larger one to stabilize it. Your larger finger provides support and will prevent it from bending or moving any further.
  • Pain management: A health care professional will give you pain relief medication to manage the pain. They will also give you ice or cold packs to reduce the swelling in the area. Ice packs should be used just for a few minutes for the first 24 hours.
  • Surgery: Surgery is usually reserved for more extensive hand fractures. If the bones were not pulled out of alignment, simply tapping and casting might be sufficient for the bones to feel correctly. If the bone is shattered or shifted out of position, surgery will be required to realign it. If the bones need to be held in position, then a series of pins, screws and plates could be implanted during surgery. A doctor will go through the personalized surgical plan for you.
  • Physical therapy: Depending on the extent of the damage, physical therapy might be needed to gain control of the muscles in the damaged area.

Golf Hand Injuries

Compared to football, wrestling and karate, golf seems like a lovely, laid-back sport. You get to drive a little mini cart around and swing a stick every now and then. But if you play golf, you’ll find the game is a lot more complex than what is seen by the eye. Part of that complexity is also the variety of hand injuries that you get from the repetitive and forceful motions involved.

Let us start at the most common and work our way to the least common:

  • Tendonitis: Overuse and repetitive motion inflames the tendons in the wrist. This leads to an increase in pain and swelling in the area. Tendonitis are the most common after a golfing weekend away or playing several games in a row. Rest, springing, and anti-inflammatory medication are usually the first lines of defense against it. If it still persists, consult with a health care professional.
  • Hook of the Hamate Fracture: The hamate is one of the smallest bones of the wrist. The force of the swing hitting the ground will cause the fracture and a sharp pain in the heel of the little finger. This will be followed by numbness and tingling in the ring around the small finger. If you experience anything similar to this, get in touch as if left untreated, the tendons can gradually fray and rupture.
  • Golfer elbow: You may have heard of tennis elbow — golfer elbow is very similar. The repetitive swing causes swelling in the tendons that are connected to the hand. This causes pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow and down the forearm.
  • Lateral epicondylitis: Also commonly known as tennis elbow, this is a condition that a lot of other sportspeople can get, including golfers. Instead of the tendons by your hand being affected as above, the lateral epicondylitis is inflamed and swelling in the tendons by the elbow.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Across the world, there are over 18 million people living with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the small joints in your hands and feet. What makes it different from osteoarthritis is that it affects the lining of your joints, causing swelling. Osteoarthritis causes wear and tear damage.

Because of the often painful swelling, the bones underneath start to erode and cause issues in the joints. The condition, if left untreated, can make it hard to move and perform daily activities. The afflicted often wake up and find it hard to get out of bed because they are stiff and have swollen joints. Other areas that rheumatoid arthritis can affect are the:

Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Knees
  • Ankles
  • Elbows
  • Hips
  • Shoulders

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis In the Hand?

Because of the vastness of the areas that can be affected, a patient might experience a combination of signs that could lead to rheumatoid arthritis. Here are some of the common ones you can look out for:

  • Joint pain and tenderness: This is one of the first symptoms that shows itself. It will normally begin somewhere where there is a small joint, like in the hands or feet. The pain often is symmetrical, so if you feel it in one thumb, you’ll feel it in the other.
  • Joint swelling: Inflammation and swelling will be visible clues that there is an issue at hand. You’ll notice the joints will appear larger and feel warm to the touch.
  • Joint stiffness: If you sit or are still for a prolonged time, like when you work or when you sleep, you’ll find that you’ll get stiff.
  • Fatigue: Often, patients feel fatigued, especially in the early onset of the condition.
  • Joint deformity: This symptom might come in time. The uncontrolled inflammation will cause the joint and bone to deform under the swelling.
  • Rheumatoid nodules: Firm bumps of tissue can form under the skin around the joint. They will be sensitive to the touch.

Trigger finger is another painful experience where your finger is bent and then snaps open. It causes constriction of the sheath. The sheath encases the tendon, which impacts the tendon in the affected finger. There are a number of reasons why a patient might have it, including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes or just repetitive motion.

Concerned about Your Hand? Reach Out to The Hand Center of Louisiana

Our pediatric hand specialists are highly trained physicians who have dealt with, diagnosed and treated a wide range of issues around hands and wrists. If you have any concerns due to pain, swelling, lump, or sensation in your hand or are wondering what hand condition you have, reach out to us and make an appointment. We’ll listen to your concerns and then diagnose the area to determine what the problem is.

Concerned about Your Hand? Reach Out to The Hand Center of Louisiana