Our hands are exposed to stress every day. We use our hands to perform everyday tasks such as turning a doorknob, grabbing a pencil and typing on a keyboard. Constant stress causes the tendons and joints in our hands to be at risk for injury.
Hand pain can derive from various sources. The following guide will help you identify symptoms of hand pain that need medical attention and the resources available at Iowa Ortho.
“Symptoms of hand pain vary by patient but the most common complaints I see are pain and numbness/tingling focusing in the fingers.”– Michael Gainer, MD
Although there are a variety of symptoms of hand pain, the ones that require medical attention are generally persistent and can cause a decline in hand strength. Common symptoms of hand pain that have underlying medical issues are:
- Reduced strength
- Unable to put pressure on the palm
- Bruising or discoloration
- Misalignment of fingers
With these symptoms, the one consistent variable is that they will cause either a gradual or instant decrease in hand strength.
“Performing a single test or multiple tests allows us to see where the source of the pain is coming from. We’re also able to see details of each patient’s condition to ensure our treatment can prevent future hand injuries.” – Scott Shumway, MD
The hand is comprised of 27 bones along with different muscles and ligaments to allow for movement and flexibility. Before discussing treatment options, a provider will recommend tests to help with diagnoses. The most common tests recommended are:
- X-ray/CT Scan – Can show if you have arthritis or a broken bone
- Ultrasound Scan/MRI – Can show if you have a swollen or compressed nerve
- Nerve conduction test – Measures how well the muscle around your median nerve works
These tests will also allow your provider to see if you have any hand disorders that are causing you discomfort.
Common Sources of Chronic Hand Pain
“Although pain tolerance varies for each individual it is important to seek medical attention if pain is preventing you from performing daily activities and tasks. Chronic pain can be often as every hour to every other day.” – Benjamin Paulson, MD
Hand pain can generate from personal injuries, natural aging and degenerative issues. Other sources of hand pain are medical disorders that need to be diagnosed by your provider.
Common disorders that cause hand pain are:
- Arthritis – Joint inflammation that can occur in multiple areas of the hand and wrist.
- Osteoarthritis – One of the most common forms of arthritis in the hands.
- Carpal Tunnel – Condition where the median nerve compresses as it travels through the wrist.
- Tendon disorders
- Lateral epicondylitis – Also known as ‘tennis elbow,’ is characterized as pain in the back side of the elbow and forearm that damages the tendons that bend the wrist backward away from the palm.
- Medial epicondylitis – Commonly known as ‘golfer’s elbow’ or ‘baseball elbow,’ this condition causes pain from the elbow to the wrist on the palm side of the forearm.
- DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis – A condition that affects the tendons around your thumb.
“Treatment plans vary by patient so I always ask how the hand injury has affected a patient’s daily routine. Everything is planned to your specific needs and with goals that are achievable.” – Ze-Hui Han, MD
Treatment options will always depend on the severity of the condition of your hand pain. Treatment plans focus on decreasing pain and improving and maintaining your mobility and function.
The most common treatment options are:
- Braces/splints: Support and protect the area where you are having pain while promoting proper joint alignment.
- Injections: Help reduce inflammation and relieve pain by targeting the affected area.
- Occupational therapy: Focuses on strengthening and stretching your hand to improve functionality and reduce symptoms.
- Surgery: In cases where nonsurgical treatments are not providing relief, your provider will discuss surgical options.
Providing you with options is one of our top priorities at Iowa Ortho. You can discuss further options or get an evaluation of your hand pain by contacting us at 515-247-8400 or requesting an appointment online.