Hand & Wrist
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If a person feels weakness or tingling and numbness in his or her hands, they may have developed “carpal tunnel syndrome,” a condition that results from pressure applied to the median nerve. The “median nerve” runs through then length of the arm and controls how the fingers (save for the pinky) move and feel. In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, carpal tunnel syndrome can involve having less strength, feeling, and coordination in the fingers. Frequent sufferers of this condition include anyone who types at a keyboard, as the repeated motion and wrist movements place the added pressure on the median nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be diagnosed through ultrasounds, MRI scans, or electromyograms. Treatment options may include exercises, medication, or possible surgery if the case is more serious. Additionally, change in routine (such as taking brief breaks at the keyboard) can be helpful.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
The “ulnar nerve” is located on the inside of the elbow. Its purpose is to send electrical signals to the muscles in the forearm and the hand. If the ulnar nerve becomes agitated or irritated, the result is “cubital tunnel syndrome.” This condition can develop if the elbows get a lot of usage, either from being bent or leaned on. Symptoms can include a feeling of numbness, tingling, and pain in the fourth and fifth fingers (or, respectively, ring finger and little finger). Treatment options may include exercises, medication, or possible surgery if the case is more serious.
Similar to “cubital tunnel syndrome,” the condition known as “dupuytren’s contracture” tends to affect the fourth and fifth fingers (or, respectively, ring finger and little finger). Dupuytren’s contracture is a deformity that evolves over time, affecting the layer of tissue located under the skin of the palm. Symptoms of this condition include a bending of the fourth and fifth fingers toward the palm, resulting in the hand being unable to function properly. Treatment options may include steroid shots or surgery if the diagnosis is more serious. Additionally, alternative treatments to dupuytren’s contracture include radiation therapy, enzyme injections, or needle aponeurotomy.
Sometimes, a round-shaped lump may form and become visible on the wrist. This is known as a “ganglion cyst.” This condition is not life threatening, as these lumps, which are formed by jellylike fluid, are noncancerous and for the most part painless. In some cases, however, a ganglion cyst may cause pain if it presses on a nearby nerve, and may also impede joint movement, depending on where it forms. Medical attention is necessary in the event the lump becomes painful or there is difficulty in moving the wrist. Treatment options include either having the ganglion cyst drained with a needle by a medical professional or surgery. It should be noted that ganglion cysts often heal without treatment.
Hand/Wrist and Finger Fracture
When one part of the hand suffers a fracture, the rest of the hand can feel out of commission. A fracture can occur in either the shorter bones of the fingers or the larger bones that make up the palm of the hand and wrist. Symptoms include the inability to move one (or more) fingers, and bruising or swelling. A hand/wrist and finger fracture can be diagnosed through a physical exam and X-rays. These injuries can frequently be treated without the need for surgery. In what is known as a “closed reduction,” a doctor can realign the bone fragments of the hand or fingers, and then apply a cast, brace or splint in order to keep the bones in place until they fully heal. In the event the injuries are more serious, surgery may be necessary.
This is more than a phrase that is used in Westerns or gangster movies. When a person’s finger becomes stuck in a bent position, he or she is experiencing a “trigger finger.” This condition develops as a result of inflammation of the tendon in the finger. The symptoms associated with a trigger finger include stiffness, and a “pop” or “click” sound or sensation in the injured finger. A physical exam can determine a diagnosis of a trigger finger, and while it is not as serious as other conditions, it should be treated in order that it does not become permanent. A trigger finger may be treated through rest, application of a splint, and certain stretching exercises.