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Got Hand or Wrist Pain?

This May Be Why

The hand and wrist regions are capable of a myriad of unique functions, including gross and fine motor movements. Our wrists are composed of numerous small bones and joints that enable our hand to rotate, bend forward and backward and move side to side.

The hands and wrists play essential roles in most sports, jobs and daily activities, making these areas of the body highly susceptible to a range of conditions.

Hand and Wrist Anatomy

Along with many ligaments, tendons, nerves and muscles, the hand and wrist are composed of the following bones: 

  • Radius and Ulna: bones in the forearm
  • Carpal bones: eight small bones, also called the carpus, which connect to the radius and ulna 
  • Metacarpal bones: five bones that compose of the middle section of the hand, connects the hand and the wrist
  • Phalanges: 14 bones found in our fingers

The wrist is made of three joints, which allows the wrist to be more stable and increases the hand’s range of motion. Our hands allow us the dexterity to complete fine motor movements, which are delicate tasks that usually require the use of our opposable thumb. 

Common Causes of Hand and Wrist Pain

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The carpal tunnel is a tight space in the wrist that cushions and protects the median nerve and the tendons that pass through it. When pressure on one end of this tunnel becomes too great, the nerves in the fingers may be affected, decreasing motor ability and leading to pain and stiffness. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may feel like: 

  • Tingling
  • Pain
  • Gradual numbness
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as buttoning clothes or holding a book

Since many people sleep with their wrists curled, symptoms can become exacerbated at night, sometimes even waking people from sleep. Carpal tunnel syndrome can develop due to swelling in the hand, which typically happens after an injury. The condition can also arise from repetitive stress in the wrist. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome can often be treated non-surgically through physical therapy, wearing a wrist splint at night, pain medications, or cortisone injections.

Sprained Wrist

A sprained wrist occurs when the ligaments in your wrist are overstretched or torn. This can happen if you twist or turn your hand or wrist too much, if it is hit by a ball, or if extreme pressure is exerted upon it. A sprained wrist causes: 

  • Pain 
  • Swelling
  • Weakness
  • Bruising
  • Decreased mobility

Recovery for a sprained wrist will vary depending on the severity of the sprain. Typically, treatment will entail: 

  • Rest 
  • Ice for 20-30 minute intervals
  • Compression to alleviate swelling
  • NSAIDs, like Advil or Aleve
  • Cast or splint
  • Physical therapy to regain strength

Thumb Pain

Involved in about 50% of all hand movements, the thumb is an essential part of the hand. Thumb pain can be brought about by several conditions, such as:

  • Thumb sprain: when the ligaments of your thumb have been overstretched or torn
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: when the median nerve in your hand is compressed
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: when cartilage in your joint wears away 
  • Overuse: when repetitive stress irritates the joint
  • Tendonitis: when the thumb’s tendons become inflamed

In most cases of thumb pain, rest, medications, protective splints and physical therapy are able to successfully treat the condition. 

Physical Therapy Treatments for Hand and Wrist Pain

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