Why Hand & Wrist Pain Develops
Human hands are complex structures containing 27 bones (along with various muscles, connective tissues, and nerves). Further, these appendages are actually somewhat delicate in relationship to the activities for which we rely on them. While our hands and wrists give us the ability to perform precise, dexterous movements, they are vulnerable to injury.
Further, injuries and conditions responsible for hand and wrist pain can be related to any of the body’s skeletal, muscular, or nervous systems. Accordingly, all of the respective anatomical components and countless ways we use our hands combine to create the potential for a wide range of injuries and conditions. These can cause tremendous pain, discomfort, and restrict normal movement.
As is the case with a majority of musculoskeletal injuries, wrist pain can be either acute or chronic in nature (from a general perspective). Sometimes, wrist injuries are sudden. Such is the case with fractures and sprains, both of which are fairly common. In other cases, the pain stems from a chronic long-term problem, like arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or arthritis.
Here is a more in-depth look at specific injuries and conditions resulting in wrist and hand pain:
Osteoarthritis. It isn’t necessarily widely known or considered, but there are over 100 different types of arthritic conditions. Osteoarthritis happens to be the most common of the lot (and is the one people usually associate with arthritis). This “wear and tear” variety happens when the protective cartilage covering the ends of bones deteriorates over time. Without the cushioning normally provided by the cartilage, joints become pained and swollen. The risk of osteoarthritis—particularly in the wrist—tends to be greater for individuals who has previously injured their wrist.
Rheumatoid arthritis. Whereas osteoarthritis develops over time in response to normal wear and tear, rheumatoid arthritis is a disorder wherein the body’s immune system starts to attack tissues meant to protect our joints. At this time, the medical community has not established a firm reason for this arthritic condition, but the disorder commonly affects wrists. In this instance, both wrists are often affected concurrently.
Acute injuries. A common scenario leading to wrist injury is when someone falls forward and attempts to cushion the fall with an outstretched hand. This may protect other body parts, but it can cause the wrist to sprain or fracture. If the bone on the thumb-side of the wrist is fractured—an injury that might not show up immediately on X-rays—it is known as a scaphoid fracture.
Repetitive stress. Essentially, any activity involving repetitive wrist motion can ultimately lead to inflammation in the tissues that support and surround the joints. Rarer still, yet something that still happens, is the development of stress fractures.