Common hand problems and treatments
When our hands are in pain or don't function correctly, it affects our daily life. From tying shoes to typing on a keyboard, healthy hands and wrists are essential. This article discusses some of the most common hand problems, their symptoms, and treatment options. If you're experiencing pain or other issues in your hands, keep reading.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that occurs when the median nerve, running from the forearm into the palm, is compressed at the wrist. The median nerve plays a vital role in sensation and movement in parts of the hand, especially on the thumb side.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
Have you ever felt pins and needles in your hand, especially in the thumb, index, and middle fingers? Or perhaps experienced pain or numbness in these areas, especially at night? These are classic symptoms of CTS.
When it comes to addressing CTS, there are various approaches. Wrist splints can keep your hand in a neutral position, especially at night, to ease symptoms. Corticosteroid injections offer relief for some by reducing inflammation and swelling. If these methods aren't effective, surgery might be considered to relieve the pressure on the median nerve.
To keep carpal tunnel syndrome at bay, consider setting up an ergonomic workspace. Ensure your wrists aren't constantly bent while typing or doing repetitive tasks and take regular breaks. Doing wrist exercises can also help in preventing or easing symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis in hands
What is rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's joints. In the hands, RA primarily affects the small joints, leading to inflammation, pain, and potential deformities over time.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
If your fingers and hands often feel swollen, especially in the morning, and you experience a pain and stiffness that makes gripping objects difficult, you might be facing RA. Over time, joints can even deform, further affecting hand function.
Treatment for RA in the hands often starts with medications, ranging from pain relievers to more advanced drugs that can slow the condition’s progression. Physiotherapy can help maintain hand function and flexibility. Severe cases might benefit from surgery to repair or replace damaged joints.
Managing the symptoms
For day-to-day relief, applying heat to painful joints can help, while gentle hand exercises maintain flexibility and strength. Also, employing pain management strategies can help, such as over-the-counter pain relievers or topical treatments.
What is trigger finger?
Trigger finger, medically known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition where a finger gets stuck in a bent position. It happens when inflammation narrows the space within the sheath surrounding the tendon in the affected finger.
Symptoms of trigger finger
Common signs of trigger finger include finger stiffness, especially in the morning, a popping or clicking sensation when moving the finger, and sometimes, the finger might lock in a bent position, only to pop straight with a quick jerk.
Initial treatments can be non-invasive, such as splinting the affected finger to limit movement, or medications like pain relievers and corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. If these don't provide relief, surgery might be an option to open the constricted section of the tendon sheath.
Tips for trigger finger relief
Incorporate finger exercises to maintain mobility, avoid activities that require repetitive gripping, and consider using finger support or a splint for temporary relief.
What are ganglion cysts?
Ganglion cysts are non-cancerous lumps often seen on the hands, predominantly around the wrist. They are filled with a jelly-like fluid and are sometimes called ‘synovial cysts’. While their exact cause remains uncertain, they might arise due to joint or tendon irritation.
Symptoms of ganglion cysts
The primary symptom is a visible lump. While many cysts remain painless, some might cause a tingling or burning sensation if they press on a nerve. You might also experience a pain or ache, especially after using the hand or wrist.
Ganglion cyst treatment options
If the cyst isn't causing discomfort, treatment might not be necessary. Otherwise, options include immobilisation by using a brace or splint, aspiration (draining the fluid with a needle), or surgery to remove the cyst if it becomes painful or affects joint movement.
When to see a doctor for ganglion cysts
If the cyst grows in size, causes significant pain, or interferes with the movement of a joint, it's wise to seek medical advice.
What is Dupuytren’s contracture?
Dupuytren's contracture is a hand condition where the tissue beneath the skin of your palm thickens, leading to nodules and cords that pull one or more fingers towards the palm.
Symptoms of Dupuytren’s contracture
Early signs include small, tender nodules in the palm. As the condition progresses, the fingers (often the ring and pinkie) begin to curl inwards towards the palm, leading to a noticeable deformity and difficulty in stretching the hand flat.
Treatment for Dupuytren’s contracture
Treatments aim at easing the symptoms. Enzyme injections can help break down the thickened tissue, while needle aponeurotomy involves using a needle to weaken and break the tight cords. For severe cases, surgical intervention might be necessary.
Self-management and prevention tips
Engaging in hand therapy and daily stretching exercises can help maintain hand function. Avoiding repetitive strain or activities that cause prolonged gripping might reduce the risk of developing or worsening the condition.
Types of arthritis affecting the hands
This common form of arthritis results from wear-and-tear of the joints over time. Symptoms in the hands include pain, stiffness, and swelling, especially at the base of the thumb.
Common treatments include pain relievers, splints, and sometimes surgery.
This inflammatory arthritis can affect those with psoriasis. Hand symptoms include pain, swelling, and stiffness, accompanied by skin patches.
Treatment involves anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications to control skin symptoms.
Self-care for arthritic hands
Incorporate gentle hand exercises to keep joints flexible, apply warmth to soothe painful joints, and consider using supportive devices, such as splints, to reduce strain.
Hand and wrist pain: Other causes
Tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendons. Symptoms in the wrist and hand can include pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected area.
Tendonitis treatments focus on relieving pain and inflammation, often involving rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory drugs.
De Quervain's tenosynovitis
This condition affects the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. If you've experienced pain or swelling in this area, especially when forming a fist or grasping objects, you might be dealing with De Quervain's tenosynovitis.
Treatment includes rest, splints, anti-inflammatory medications, and possibly corticosteroid injections.
When to see a doctor for hand problems
Recognising severe symptoms
It's essential to listen to your body and not overlook symptoms that persist. If you experience chronic pain, sudden swelling, or have restricted movement in your hand, it's time to see a doctor. Additionally, symptoms like persistent numbness, tingling, or weakness can be indicators of more serious underlying conditions.
Importance of early diagnosis
Seeking medical attention at the onset of symptoms is crucial. An early diagnosis often leads to more effective treatments, possibly preventing further complications or long-term damage. By addressing hand problems promptly, you can ensure better hand function and quality of life in the long run.
Preventive measures and general care for hands
Daily exercises and stretches
Incorporating hand exercises and stretches into your daily routine can work wonders for maintaining flexibility and strength. Some beneficial exercises include:
- Finger stretch: Place your hand palm-up on a table and gently stretch each finger backward one at a time
- Fist-making: Open and close your hands, making a tight fist and then stretching your fingers out as wide as possible
- Thumb stretch: Hold your hand out with your fingers straight. Gently pull your thumb down and backward, stretching the base
An ergonomic workspace can significantly reduce the strain on your hands, especially if you spend several hours typing or performing repetitive tasks. Ensure that your keyboard and mouse are positioned comfortably, and consider wrist supports. Adjust your chair and monitor so that you're in a natural, relaxed posture.
Regular breaks and mindfulness
Remember the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on something 20 feet away. Also, during long tasks, make it a habit to shake out your hands and wrists periodically. Being mindful of your hand posture and grip during activities can also help prevent strain.
Take care of your hand problems today
Your hands play a pivotal role in virtually every daily task, from the mundane to the intricate. So, maintaining hand health should be a priority for everyone. It's easy to take them for granted, but once problems arise, it becomes evident just how crucial hands are.
So, nurture them, care for them, and seek help when something feels off. After all, they're the only pair you've got, and they deserve the best care.
Suffering from chronic or painful hand problems? It may be time to put your hand problems in the best hands – at Circle Health Group. Book an appointment online today, or give us a call directly, and we’ll help you find the right specialist for you
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