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Give Yourself a Hand—Get Informed About Common Hand Injuries

In Brief

  • The most common causes of hand pain are arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, ganglion cysts and tendon problems.
  • Non-surgical treatments, usch as rest, splinting, anit-inflammatory medications, hot/cold application, cortisone or steroid injections, and physical therapy are usually tried before considering surgery.
  • Crozer-Keystone surgeons use the latest surgical treatment options for hand conditions. This includes wrist arthroscopy, small-joint replacement surgery and minimally invasive carpal tunnel surgery.

We use our hands in a variety of ways every day, so when we experience a problem or pain in these important, multi-functional extremities, it can be unsettling and inconvenient. If you experience hand pain, the skilled physicians of the Crozer-Keystone Health System offer a variety of solutions and therapies for common hand conditions such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, ganglion cysts and tendon problems.

Common causes for hand pain:

Arthritis

Among the most frequently occurring hand problems that our specialists see is arthritis, or the inflammation of joints, which can occur at multiple sites in the hand and wrist. The most prevalent type is osteoarthritis, the slow-progressing breakdown of cartilage that occurs as people age. This type of arthritis is most often genetic but it can be caused by injury, typically a fracture involving a joint surface. “Some ligament injuries can result in arthritis years later,” says David Zelouf, M.D., a hand surgeon at Taylor Hospital. Symptoms include a dull or burning sensation in the joints, swelling, changes in surrounding joints, warmth, a feeling of “looseness” in the affected joints or small cysts on the hand.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Like arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome is an uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating condition. In carpal tunnel syndrome, the median nerve of the hand is compressed, affecting the sensation of the thumb and index and middle fingers. “It can also affect the muscle function of the thumb,” Zelouf says.

Carpal tunnel symptoms can include difficulty holding onto objects with the hands, pain and/or numbness in the hands, “pins and needles” sensations, and swollen feelings, burning or tingling in the fingers.

It can be especially problematic at night. Gregory Tadduni, M.D., Taylor Hospital hand surgeon, finds that these symptoms are often mistaken for arthritis or poor circulation. “Patients don’t always seek out the proper treatment because they think no effective treatment is available,” Tadduni says. 

Because carpal tunnel syndrome can sometimes be caused by repetitive and forceful movements, treatment may include making ergonomic changes on the job or elsewhere to relieve discomfort. Other treatments include splints, injections and in some cases, surgery.

Tendonitis and Tenosynovitis

There are two major problems that patients experience with hand tendons: tendonitis and tenosynovitis. Tendonitis is inflammation that can affect any tendon, but is most typically seen in the wrist and fingers. Tenosynovitis occurs when the lining or sheath around the tendons becomes inflamed, usually from strain or injury, but sometimes from infection.  Both tendon conditions cause swelling, pain and discomfort.

Ganglion Cysts

Often visible to the naked eye, ganglion cysts are soft, fluid-filled cysts that develop from the joints on the front or back of the wrist. These benign soft-tissue “bumps” can cause irritation—including wrist pain aggravated with repeated use, slow-growing and localized swelling with mild aches, and weakness in the wrist. For small and painless cysts, treatment is not usually necessary. However, some cysts can grow and interfere with the functionality of the hands—in which case your hand specialist will recommend treatment. 

Treatment

“For all of these conditions there are treatments which may be considered before surgery,” Tadduni says. Treatments for the most common hand problems include the following:

  • Rest
  • Splinting to limit movement
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Aspiration
  • Heat and/or cold application
  • Cortisone or steroid injections
  • Therapy
  • Surgery

For all hand problems, Crozer-Keystone’s experienced hand surgeons draw from the latest techniques and research to relieve discomfort and help patients heal.

“We can treat all of these problems surgically and non-surgically—anything from a referral to occupational therapy and steroid injection to surgical treatment for carpal tunnel relief,” says Guy Nardella, M.D., chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

Though Crozer-Keystone’s specialists will try to resolve problems non-surgically, the surgical options are wide and varied. “At Crozer-Keystone we utilize the latest surgical treatment options for the above conditions. This includes wrist arthroscopy, small-joint replacement surgery and minimally invasive carpal tunnel surgery,” Zelouf says.

If you experience any of the above symptoms or suspect you have a hand problem, call 1-877-CK-MOTION (1-877-256-6846) for a prompt appointment with one of Crozer-Keystone’s orthopedic specialists, or visit us online at http://ckhshmi.crozer.org. For a referral to a Crozer-Keystone hand/plastic surgeon, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258).

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