Arthritis and a range of other conditions can cause pain in the hands or wrists and even limit functionality. Learn more about some of the causes of hand and wrist pain, as well as options for treatment.
Wrist and hand injuries are fairly common. After all, we use our hands a lot, putting them at risk for repetitive motion injuries. Arthritis and other conditions can also cause pain in the hands or wrists or limit the functionality of joints in those areas.
Find out more about wrist and hand pain, what might cause it and options for treating these conditions below.
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis causes swelling in the sheath or lining around the tendons near your thumb. The condition compresses the tendons and can restrict their movement. This causes pain in your hand and wrist when you pinch, grasp or rotate your wrist. Other symptoms include swelling near the base of the thumb and problems moving the thumb smoothly. The forearm may also be affected if de Quervain’s is left untreated.
The cause of de Quervain’s isn’t always known, but it’s often associated with repetitive hand and wrist movement. Injuries and inflammatory arthritis can also lead to de Quervain’s.
De Quervain’s is a relatively common cause of swelling in tendon lining. It impacts women more than men. The condition is most common among women between 30 and 50 years old. It’s sometimes seen in new mothers and women who lift infants regularly, people who have sustained an injury to the wrist and people with inflammatory arthritis.
Early treatment for de Quervain’s is often a splint to reduce painful thumb movements. Avoiding activities that can worsen the condition may also be recommended. A doctor can administer steroid injections that reduce symptoms, but this may only provide temporary relief. Physical Therapy has shown to improve joint movement in the hand and decrease the burden of excess movement at the thumb/wrist joint creating pain.
For cases that don’t improve with physical therapy or other treatments, surgery can prevent pain from spreading up the arm and even provide permanent relief. De Quervain’s surgery creates more room for the compressed tendons. The surgery is usually an outpatient procedure.
Trigger finger develops when the tendon sheath in your finger becomes inflamed and constricted, causing it to assume a bent position. You might hear a cracking sound when you try to straighten the digit. In severe cases, you may be completely unable to straighten your finger.
Some patients experience trigger finger in more than one digit simultaneously, and it can also occur in the thumb. Symptoms include a sore, raised nodule where the finger meets the palm and finger stiffness.
The likelihood of developing trigger finger in your lifetime is between 2 and 3%, and women are about six times more likely to get it than men. Your risk of trigger finger rises to around 10% if you also have diabetes, and your chances get gradually higher the longer you’ve been diagnosed.
Certain other conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis, are also associated with a greater risk of trigger finger. Injuring your hand or performing forceful, repetitive finger movements can also increase your individual risk.
NSAIDs can provide effective pain relief for trigger finger, but they won’t tackle the root cause. Conservative treatments such as resting the affected hand, splinting the affected finger, and stretching the tendon can sometimes resolve the situation, especially if your condition is relatively mild.
If conservative treatments don’t work, a physician may recommend injecting steroids into the tendon or a percutaneous release procedure. This procedure is performed under local anesthetic and involves inserting a needle into the affected tendon and manipulating it to loosen constriction.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary. A surgeon makes an incision around the tendon and cuts away the constricted sheath to enable normal movement.
Arthritis is a group of diseases that can cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. Although there are several types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common. In people with osteoarthritis, the cartilage starts to break down, increasing the amount of friction between the bones. The increased friction causes bone changes that can lead to osteoarthritis.
When arthritis develops within the hand or wrist, typing, grasping objects and performing other activities may become difficult due to a reduced range of motion. In some people, osteoarthritis leads to the formation of bone spurs, hard bumps caused by a buildup of extra bone around the joints. Although osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the hand, it primarily occurs in three areas: the middle joints of the fingers, the joints near the fingertips and the base of the thumbs.
In the United States, more than 32.5 million adults have osteoarthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Osteoarthritis is more common in women than men, and it’s more likely to develop in obese people.
Medications, therapy and surgery are used to treat osteoarthritis of the wrist and hand. Some patients respond well to acetaminophen or NSAIDs, which can be purchased without a prescription. If over-the-counter medications aren’t effective, a doctor may recommend cortisone or hyaluronic acid injections.
Physical therapy helps people with arthritis strengthen their joints and muscles, relieve pain and reduce the flexibility of their hands and wrists. Some people also receive occupational therapy to help them learn how to perform daily activities without putting extra stress on their arthritic joints. If medications and therapy don’t work, a surgeon may recommend replacing the affected joint or performing a procedure to realign the bones.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition that develops when the median nerve of the wrist becomes pinched as it passes through a tunnel-like structure made of small bones and ligaments at the base of the hand. This can happen when the tissues in the wrist become swollen and press on the nerve.
For some people, the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are limited to numbness and tingling in the thumb and fingers. Over time, it can cause loss of nerve sensations in the hand and a loss of hand function that makes it difficult to pick up or hold objects.
Carpal tunnel syndrome affects between 4 and 10 million Americans, according to the American College of Rheumatology. It typically only develops in adults, and middle aged individuals are more susceptible than younger people. Women get carpal tunnel syndrome more often than men at a rate of 3 to 1. Individuals with metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, may be at a higher risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. Most people who get carpal tunnel syndrome only experience it in one hand, but it can affect both hands.
Mild cases of carpal tunnel syndrome may subside on their own, and pain medication can ease symptoms in the meantime. Wearing a wrist splint that relieves pressure on the hand and arm can also help.
Acupuncture may be an effective method for relieving wrist pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. Weekly or monthly cortisone injections are another treatment option.
In some cases, surgery to open up the carpal tunnel may be required. If an underlying condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, is affecting the area, treating that problem may also ease the symptoms.
Contact us online or use the buttons at the top of the page to make an appointment. Wrist pain may simply indicate a mild sprain, but you don’t know until you get checked out. Once our doctors examine your hand, we can provide a treatment plan to reduce your discomfort and help bring functionality back to your hand.