The hand and wrist are an intricate and interconnected system of tendon, muscle, bone, and cartilage. Due to the small size of its components and how frequently it is exposed to risk, the hand can be injured rather easily. Hand injuries can drastically change daily life and cause massive inconvenience, especially if the injury occurs on a person’s dominant hand. We’ll discuss some of the typical hand and wrist conditions and injuries below.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome & Nerve Problems
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common nerve problems to affect the hand. It gets its name from the small passageway your median nerve takes down the forearm and into the hand. Several tendons also make use of this passageway. The median nerve is responsible for the movement and sensation in the thumb and three principal fingers. When the nerve becomes pinched or jammed people experience pain, weakness, and tingling in the fingers.
Trigger finger is a condition that causes pain, stiffness, and a sensation of locking or catching when you bend and straighten your finger. The ring finger and thumb are most often affected by trigger finger, but it can occur in the other fingers, as well. When the thumb is involved, the condition is called “trigger thumb.”
Ganglion cysts are the most common mass or lump in the hand. They are not cancerous and, in most cases, are harmless. They occur in various locations, but most frequently develop on the back of the wrist. These fluid-filled cysts can quickly appear, disappear, and change size. Many ganglion cysts do not require treatment. However, if the cyst is painful, interferes with function, or has an unacceptable appearance, there are several treatment options available.
Tendon pain is actually a symptom of tendinosis, a series of very small tears (microtears) in the tissue in or around the tendon. In addition to pain and tenderness, common symptoms of tendon injury include decreased strength and movement in the affected area.
Osteoarthritis is the progressive breakdown of the tissue that protects and cushions joints (cartilage). It may cause stiffness and pain with movement.
Rheumatoid arthritis may cause stiffness and pain with movement. Over time, deformity of the fingers may occur.
The risk of finger, hand, or wrist injury is higher in contact sports, such as wrestling, football, or soccer, and in high-speed sports, such as biking, in-line skating, skiing, snowboarding, and skateboarding. Sports that require weight-bearing on the hands and arms, such as gymnastics, can increase the risk for injury. Sports that use hand equipment such as ski poles, hockey or lacrosse sticks, or racquets also increase the risk of injury.
In children, most finger, hand, or wrist injuries occur during sports or play or from accidental falls. Any injury occurring at the end of a long bone near a joint may injure the growth plate (physis) and needs to be evaluated.
Older adults are at higher risk for injuries and fractures because they lose muscle mass and bone strength (osteopenia) as they age. They also have more problems with vision and balance, which increases their risk of accidental injury.
Hand/Wrist Sprain or Strain
A wrist/hand sprain or strain involves an injury to the soft tissues of the wrist, hand or fingers. Sprains involve injury to ligaments (the bands of tissue that connect bones together) within the joint and commonly occur in the wrist or fingers. Strains refer to injuries of muscles and tendons and are less likely to occur than sprains in this region.
Most wrist or hand sprains occur from an accident or traumatic impact, such as a fall or direct and forceful contact, causing the hand or wrist to twist sharply or bend in an unnatural motion. Wrist and finger sprains are common injuries due to the fact that when an individual slips or falls, the natural reaction is to put a hand out to stop the fall and when this occurs, the force of the impact can bend the wrist or finger in such a way that the ligaments stretch or tear. Strains can also occur from a sudden impact such as a fall, but are also likely to occur due to repetitive overuse, such as in the case of sports or occupations that require constant gripping of objects or a repeated hand or wrist motion.
Hand/ Wrist Fracture
A broken wrist or broken hand is a break or crack in one or more of the bones of your wrist or hand. The most common of these injuries occurs in the wrist when people try to catch themselves during a fall and land hard on an outstretched hand.
Risk factors for a broken wrist or broken hand range from participation in certain sports — such as in-line skating or snowboarding — to having a condition in which bones become thinner and more fragile (osteoporosis).
It’s important to treat a broken (fractured) wrist or hand as soon as possible. Otherwise, the bones might not heal in proper alignment, which might affect your ability to do everyday activities, such as writing or buttoning a shirt. Early treatment will also help minimize pain and stiffness.