Wrist and Hand Pain

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The wrist and hand are complex structures consisting of numerous bones, the joints between them, the ligaments that keep them stable and the muscles that generate your strength and motion. You demand a lot of your wrist, hand, and fingers in a given day from getting ready in the morning, to feeding yourself or typing and writing. The muscles that move your fingers are within the hand and travel up into the wrist making a very complex network. Wrist and hand problems can be caused by overuse, traumatic injury, or changes that occur naturally in your body.

Suffering from wrist and hand pain? Contact us to learn about treatment options.

How Your Hand and Wrist Works

Shoulder pain anatomy

This structure can be broken down into three parts: the fingers, the hand, and the wrist. Each finger is made up of three bones, except our thumb, which has two bones. Five metacarpal bones make up the hand. The wrist consists of eight small bones collectively called the carpal bones. The forearm bones, radius and ulna connect to the carpals creating what we consider the true wrist joint. 

The wrist has multiple ligaments, connecting each of the carpal bones to each other and to the forearm and fingers. Bones are connected to other bones by ligaments which help provide stability. There are many ligaments that go between each of the bones in the wrist and hand. An injury to any of these can cause pain and instability in the hand or wrist.

Within the hand, there are many muscles that help move each of the fingers. Some of these muscles have tendons that travel across the wrist and run through a bony tunnel called the carpal tunnel. This tunnel is covered by soft tissue which can trap inflammation over the tendons. Inflammation in this area can cause pain, weakness and even numbness in the hand and fingers. 

Evaluating Hand and Wrist Pain

Evaluation for wrist, hand, and finger pain starts with you giving us a history of your problem: when and how it started, how it currently feels, and which treatments you have tried so far. We also ask you about other medical conditions that may contribute to your pain. We do a physical exam to test the structures of your wrist and hand. We also check your range of motion, strength, and do special tests that can uncover specific problems of your wrist or hand.

Based on the findings of your physical exam, we may recommend a cortisone injection as both a clinical test and treatment for your pain. The numbing medicine mixed in the injection helps us determine the source of your pain, whereas the cortisone medication of the injection can provide pain relief. Sometimes we order tests such as x-rays or MRIs to visualize your bones and soft tissues. X-rays can show us things like fractures, spurs, and changes from arthritis. MRIs can show us more detail of the bones, as well as soft tissue damage like tears of the ligaments or muscles. 

Whatever the cause of your hand and wrist pain, we are dedicated to helping you find the best treatment. Request an appointment today.

Causes of Hand and Wrist Pain

  • Arthritis
  • Fractures
  • Instability
  • Weakness
  • Inflammation
  • Nerve Problems
  • Less common causes– infection or tumors

Treating Hand and Wrist Pain

Treatment of wrist, hand, and finger pain is very specific to the diagnosis and severity of your symptoms.

Lifestyle modifications include: resting your wrist, hand, or fingers, changing your daily activities to avoid painful situations, gentle motion exercises and doing exercises to strengthen weak muscles. 

Medications can help with some conditions. Non-steroidal medications (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can relieve inflammation. If the inflammation is severe, then a short burst of a steroid medication may be an option. Medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help to control your pain.

Cortisone injections are used to target a specific location using a powerful anti-inflammatory medication. Numbing medications mixed in the injection helps us know if the spot injected is the source of your pain.

Physical or Occupational therapy is a form of treatment that focuses on getting your wrist, hand, or finger muscles and joints to properly work together as you grip and use your hands. Physical Therapists can identify and address muscle imbalances through corrective exercises. They may give you a series of take-home exercises to help return you to regular activities pain-free.

Braces are available to help with a variety of conditions including ones to help stabilize the wrist or thumb.

Surgery may be an option for certain wrist, hand, or finger conditions if all other treatment options have been exhausted. Although many surgeries require traditional open surgery, some conditions may be treated with small incisions using a special camera to see inside the body (arthroscopy).

More About Hand and Wrist Surgery »

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