A mild, short-term ache in the hand or wrist every once in a blue moon is often not much cause for concern. We might sometimes sleep on our wrist wrong, or just overworked ourselves for a day on an activity our hands or wrists aren’t used to.
That said, there are cases of pain that should not be ignored and should receive professional attention! Never hesitate to contact us if your hand or wrist pain:
- doesn’t go away after a couple of days of rest and home care
- Is severe
- Is accompanied by numbness
- keeps regularly occurring
- makes it difficult or impossible to move within your full range of motion
- is accompanied by bumps, stiffness, swelling, or any misshapen appearance
There are many potential causes for hand and wrist pain, each requiring a different approach to proper care and management. The key to providing the best treatment for any case is taking the time to determine and fully understand all the underlying causes and addressing each one directly.
Let’s review 4 of the potential causes of hand and wrist pain, and see what types of factors can be responsible for them.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome has become one of the more commonly known and discussed causes of pain, largely thanks to our office- and manufacturing-heavy world.
This condition concerns the median nerve, which travels the length of the arm. Along the palm side of the wrist, the median nerve travels through a narrow passageway between bones and ligaments known as the carpal tunnel.
Should something compress against or irritate the median nerve within the carpal tunnel, it can lead to an “electric” feeling of pain, as well as tingling and numbness from the wrist to the fingers. Sensations can move up the length of the arm as well.
There is still ongoing medical discussion as to whether the repetitive motions of keyboard and mouse use are a direct cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. However, it is more solidly established that repetitive flexing in other work, extended use of vibrating tools (like jackhammers), and conditions such as past fractures or arthritis that can change the shape of the carpal tunnel can play roles in the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and one very often associated with the hands and wrists. It develops due to the mechanical “wear and tear” of the joints in the hand over time, reducing the cartilage that serves to protect the bones of the joint from rubbing directly against each other.
Osteoarthritis can occur at many different joints. In the area we are discussing here, though. It tends to most commonly occur in the wrist, base of the thumb, and the middle and top joints (closest to the tips) of your fingers.
Osteoarthritis typically develops gradually over time. Early symptoms may include stiffness and pain in the hands in the morning, swollen joints, and a dull or burning pain in the joints after times when you use your hands more.
As the condition progresses, the pain may transition from a dull ache to a sharp sensation. The areas surrounding the joints can start to look red and become more tender, and small bony nodules can form along the joints.
Osteoarthritis tends to occur more frequently in those who have had previous injuries to the bones and joints of the hand, such as sprains and fractures.
Much like within the feet and ankles, tendons play major roles in the effective movement. These strong bands of tissue connect muscles to bones, but can, unfortunately, become inflamed or damaged due to excessive strain or repetitive stress.
One type of tendon injury that can occur within the hand is De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. This condition affects the tendons around the thumb and wrist.
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis can cause pain and swelling near the base of the thumb. Pain typically intensifies when you try to pinch or grasp objects, turn the wrist, or clench your fist. In some cases, there may also be a strange feeling of “resistance” in the thumb when moving it, as if it gets a bit stuck.
De Quervain’s is often believed to be the result of chronic, repetitive overuse of the wrist. Repeating the same motions with the wrist consistently every day can irritate the sheath around the tendons, causing them to thicken, swell, and prohibit the tendons’ movement. However, scar tissue from past traumas to the area and certain inflammatory conditions can also have similar effects.
A ganglion cyst is a lump that commonly develops along the joints of the wrist or hand. These cysts are benign and tend not to be painful in themselves, but may cause pain if they are putting pressure on a nerve or interfering with joint movement.
A ganglion cyst can range in size – from too small to even be noticed to an inch or more in diameter. They distend from a joint or tendon lining and are filled with a jelly-like fluid that is used to lubricate those areas.
There is no clear consensus on why these cysts happen, but they are more common in patients with a history of joint injury or arthritis.
Ganglion cysts may be drained if they are causing pain or other problems. If they are not causing any trouble, however, they can be left alone and tend to gradually disappear on their own.
Find the Relief You Need for Hand and Wrist Pain
The conditions above only scratch the surface on potential causes of hand and wrist problems we have seen and treated.
Whenever you come to us with a problem, we will always make sure to provide a full examination (ordering imaging tests, if necessary) and to fully discuss with you all the factors surrounding your case before we make any treatment recommendations. Knowing how your condition is affecting your daily life can help us tailor the best course of treatment for your particular needs.
Many cases of hand and wrist pain can be successfully treated and managed through conservative methods, including physical therapy, orthotic devices, and medication. Surgery might be considered if other forms of treatment prove ineffective, and we will comprehensively discuss all surgical options with you should the need arise.
Do you have a hand or wrist problem in need of expert attention? Schedule an appointment by giving us a call or filling out our online contact form.