|Our hands are our connection to the world. Typing an e-mail, playing a game with a child, work, sports, music – all require dexterity in our hands, wrists and arms. |
Still, we rarely think about our hands, until they begin to hurt, go numb, or stop moving so well.
Such hand trouble can have a number of causes, including arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. All can produce pain or numbness, although each has a very different cause and course of treatment.
Causes of hand pain
|Jerrold Buckaloo, M.D.|
“One of the most common causes of hand pain, especially in women, is arthritis,” says Jerrold Buckaloo, M.D., board-certified orthopaedic surgeon and hand specialist with South Carolina Orthopaedic Institute. Arthritis is a swelling of joints, with the most common forms caused by hereditary factors and aggravated by injury, obesity or age.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a nerve compression condition that occurs when the median nerve, which runs through a small tunnel in the wrist, becomes irritated.
Most of the time, the exact cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is unknown. It is, however, often associated with conditions such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. “While repetitive motion activities at work can aggravate the median nerve, we rarely know if these activities actually cause the condition or not,” explains Dr. Buckaloo.
Tendonitis is usually due to low-grade tendon injuries, whether in the hand, wrist or elbow. “Tendonitis pain is caused by inflammation around a tendon,” explains Dr. Buckaloo. “This pain is usually more severe after a period of
rest and improves after a period of activity.”
Tendonitis-causing injuries can happen when you’re lifting or pulling more than your body is accustomed to. “The chance of developing tendonitis depends on the person, their level of activity, the conditioning of their tendons and ligaments and their bone structure,” says Dr. Buckaloo. “If someone is well-conditioned and active, it typically doesn’t occur.”
When someone who’s easily described as a couch potato suddenly does something strenuous, the stress can set tendonitis processes in motion. This makes preventive conditioning especially important.
According to Dr. Buckaloo, the key to preventing tendonitis is to maintain a balance of different activities. “If you do one activity all the time, you could have a tendency to overwork certain tendons and not develop others,” he says. “You want to make sure that you’re doing enough different activities to balance the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder.”
For example, if you spend your days working at a computer keyboard, you’ll want to stretch those muscles by extending your fingers wide several times a day. If your job requires you to do a lot of pulling, you’ll want
to balance that with pushing exercises. This can help keep your hands and arms more flexible and stable.
If you’re not used to exercising, start slowly to avoid the sudden stress that can trigger tendonitis.
Unlike tendonitis, most arthritis is genetically predisposed. According to Dr. Buckaloo, you’re either likely to get it or you’re not. If you have a family history of arthritis, you’ll want to try to take especially good care of your joints, keeping them stretched and limber to avoid the injuries that can aggravate arthritis symptoms.
“Similarly, it’s hard to know how to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome because two people can do the exact same job, and one will develop symptoms while the other does not,” explains Dr. Buckaloo.
When symptoms begin, it is important to see your physician immediately.
Helping Your Hands
Treatment for all three conditions often begins with oral anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen), splinting and, in some cases, physical therapy. More severe cases could require cortisone injections, and the worst could require surgery.
When necessary, Dr. Buckaloo provides specialized orthopaedic hand surgery through the South Carolina Orthopaedic Institute in Orangeburg. If you, or someone you love, have hand or arm pain that isn’t responding to medication, talk to your doctor. You may be a candidate for specialized surgery at the Regional Medical Center.
To learn more, call the South Carolina Orthopaedic Institute at 803-531-0126.
| ||For arthritis sufferers, athletes who’ve developed joint pain, and anyone whose arms, hands or wrists chronically hurt, Jerrold Buckaloo, M.D., of the South Carolina Orthopaedic Institute provides specialized surgeries outside of the realm of general orthopaedics.|
Best of all, his skills bring advanced, specialized surgery to Orangeburg so you don’t have to travel to receive top
Peripheral Nerve Surgeries
Dr. Buckaloo decompresses nerves at the elbow or wrist to relieve carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel compression and restore function after traumatic injuries.
Fusion involves removing the ends of two bones and locking them together to form one rigid unit. This is most often used for smaller joints, such as those in the wrist, ankle and fingers.
When rheumatoid arthritis causes a joint’s lining (the synovium) to swell, removing that lining may slow joint deterioration.
When arthritis, traumatic injury or nerve damage causes a loss of hand or arm function, Dr. Buckaloo can relocate
tendons from one place in the hand or wrist to another.
Dr. Buckaloo regularly reconstructs the tendon that attaches the base of the thumb to the wrist. This can relieve certain arthritis symptoms. It has a very good success rate and is one of the most common arthritis hand surgeries.
Total Elbow Replacement
Total elbow replacement is performed to repair badly damaged, arthritic elbows. After removing the ends of the bones in your elbows, the joint is replaced by a special mechanical hinge.
Total Shoulder Replacement
To treat severe arthritis, completely torn rotator cuffs or other injuries, Dr. Buckaloo can partially or fully replace your shoulder joint through a procedure similar to a hip replacement. This can help restore motion and reduce pain after non-surgical options have been exhausted.