Answers to Common Hand and Wrist Health Questions

Premier Physician Network’s doctors answer frequently asked questions about hand and wrist health.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Dr. Michael Rymer discusses carpal tunnel syndrome. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a disorder of the wrist and hand that happens when a nerve is pinched in the wrist in an area called the carpal tunnel.

The carpal tunnel is a narrow tunnel formed by bones and tissues in the wrist. It protects your median nerve, which provides feeling to the thumb, index and middle fingers, and controls muscles that move the thumb.

Most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome do not have a definable cause. When swelling occurs in the carpal tunnel, such as during pregnancy or when a patient with arthritis has thickening of the tendons, the increased pressure causes pain and numbness in the wrist and hand, according to the AAFP.

Talk to your doctor for more information about carpal tunnel syndrome.

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How is carpal tunnel diagnosed?

Dr. Michael Rymer discusses how carpal tunnel syndrome is diagnosed. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Carpal tunnel syndrome is diagnosed after first discussing your symptoms with your doctor, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Your doctor likely will do two diagnostic tests, according to the NIH, each of which will test for carpal tunnel symptoms by trying to duplicate them:

  • Tapping or pressing on the median nerve on the inside of the wrist. Your fingers will start to tingle or feel a shock sensation.
  • Having you bend your wrist down for a minute to see if tingling or numbness starts.

Often, the diagnosis is confirmed by using a nerve conduction test or an electromyography (EMG) test, according to the American Academy of PediatricsOff Site Icon (AAFP). The test determines if the nerves and muscles in your arm and hand show reactions typical of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Talk to your doctor for more information about diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome.

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What puts someone at greater risk for carpal tunnel syndrome?

Dr. Michael Rymer discusses what puts someone at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Women are at three times greater risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome than men, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). It’s possible this is because a woman’s carpal tunnel is smaller than a man’s.

The disorder usually occurs only in adults, and it typically occurs in the dominant hand first, according to the NIH. Diabetes and other metabolic disorders increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

While there is no specific job that causes people to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, people who do assembly line work are most likely to suffer from the disorder, according to the NIH.

Some hobbies, such as needlework and canoeing, also can cause symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, according to the American Academy of PediatricsOff Site Icon (AAFP).

For more information about what puts someone at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, talk with your physician.

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What is the treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome?

Dr. Michael Rymer discusses the treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

To treat carpal tunnel, your doctor will probably ask you to rest your wrist and make an effort to change the way you are doing the movements you suspect are causing the issue, according to the American Academy of PediatricsOff Site Icon (AAFP).

The AAFP recommends the following to help relieve carpal tunnel symptoms:

  • Avoid overusing your wrist and hand
  • Do stretching exercises (ask your doctor for some)
  • Massage the wrist and arm area
  • Prop your arm up with a pillow, with the elbow at a gentle bend, when you lie down
  • Try not to hold your wrist in a way that it is bent downward for long

If the carpal tunnel syndrome is mild, your doctor might give you an injection of a corticosteroid in your wrist to help reduce inflammation and pain, according to the AAFP. In more severe cases, surgery might be necessary.

For more information about carpal tunnel syndrome treatment, talk with your doctor.

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What is wrist tendinosis?

Wrist tendinosis – called DeQuervain’s tendinosis – is when the tendons at the base of the thumb are irritated, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic SurgeonsOff Site Icon (AAOS).

With this condition, the tendons and their covering layers are swollen and can cause pain and soreness along the side of the thumb and the wrist, according to the AAOS.

For more information about wrist tendinosis, talk with your doctor.

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What are the symptoms of wrist tendinosis?

If you have wrist tendinosis, you will notice symptoms along your thumb and wrist, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic SurgeonsOff Site Icon(AAOS).

Wrist tendinosis symptoms, according to the AAOS, include:

  • difficulty moving the thumb and wrist because of pain and swelling
  • pain in the side of the thumb and wrist that appears either gradually or suddenly. This pain can travel to the wrist and forearm, and gets worse when the thumb and hand are in use, especially when gripping something tightly or twisting the wrist
  • snapping sensation felt when moving the thumb
  • visible swelling on the side of the thumb and the wrist, which could also include a fluid filled cyst

Talk to your doctor for more information about wrist tendinosis symptoms.

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How is wrist tendinosis diagnosed?

To diagnose wrist tendinosis, your doctor will have you do a test that stretches your wrist, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic SurgeonsOff Site Icon (AAOS).

The test – called the Finkelstein test – is done by putting your thumb against the palm of your hand and making a fist around it with your fingers closed over your thumb, according to the AAOS. You then bend your wrist forward toward your little finger.

If you have wrist tendinosis, this test can be painful to the tendon on the thumb side of your wrist.

For more information about diagnosing wrist tendinosis, talk with your doctor.

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How is wrist tendinosis treated?

A doctor can recommend treating wrist tendinosis with either surgical or non-surgical options, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic SurgeonsOff Site Icon (AAOS).

Nonsurgical treatment options, according to the AAOS, include:

  • anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) – this medication can be taken orally or injected to help reduce swelling and relieve pain
  • avoiding activities that cause pain – don’t do the things that make your wrist hurt in hopes the symptoms will go away on their own
  • corticosteroids – having a corticosteroid injection into the tendon sheath can help reduce swelling and pain
  • hand therapy
  • splints – wearing splints can help the wrist and the thumb rest

The surgical treatment option is usually recommended if the non-surgical treatments for wrist tendinosis did not help it improve, according to the AAOS. With surgery, the sheath that covers the tendons in the wrist is cut to make more room for the inflamed tendon.

Talk with your doctor for more information about treating wrist tendinosis.

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What does arthritis in the hand and wrist feel like? What causes it?

Dr. Cavo discusses what arthritis of the hand and wrist feels like and what causes it. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Arthritis of the hand and wrist cause pain and stiffness. It can make activities such as opening a jar or typing on a keyboard painful and difficult.

Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians describe the symptoms as a dull, deep, aching kind of pain.

Arthritis in the hand and in the wrist is caused by a breakdown of cartilage that protects joint surfaces.

When the cartilage wears away, your bones rub against each other, which causes the pain.

Talk to your doctor to learn more about what hand and wrist arthritis feels like and how it is caused.

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Are there activities that can put you at higher risk for developing hand and wrist arthritis?

Dr. Cavo discusses activities that can put you at higher risk for hand and wrist arthritis. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Though there aren’t specific things you can do that increase your risk for hand and wrist arthritis, injuries can increase your chances of wrist arthritis, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

If you fracture a wrist bone and it doesn’t heal well, it can lead to early arthritis.

A torn wrist ligament that isn’t treated correctly also can lead to wrist arthritis. The tear can cause you to change how you move your wrist, causing the cartilage to wear down, leading to arthritis.

Talk to your doctor for more information about what activities can put you at higher risk for developing hand and wrist arthritis.

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What are the treatment options for hand and wrist arthritis?

Dr. Cavo discusses treatment options for hand and wrist arthritis. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Both surgical and non-surgical treatment options are available if you have hand and wrist arthritis.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic SurgeonsOff Site Icon (AAOS), those options include:

Non-surgical treatments – These are typically tried first before moving on to a surgical option.

  • Activity modification – Limit or stop the activity making your pain worse
  • Exercise – Use special exercises from your doctor or physical therapist to help with range of motion
  • Immobilization – Wear a wrist splint for a short time to help support the joint and ease pain during some activities
  • Medications – Take medicine, such as acetaminophen, naproxen, and ibuprofen to help reduce pain and swelling
  • Steroid injections – Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can be injected into a joint affected by arthritis

Surgical treatments – These are last resort options if non-surgical treatments are no longer helping with pain.

  • Proximal row carpectomy – The doctor removes three carpal bones to help reduce pain but keep some wrist motion.
  • Fusion – Your bones of the wrist or finger joint are “welded” together into one solid bone. You will lose motion in your wrist or finger, but the surgery also should stop the pain caused by wrist motion.
  • Total wrist replacement – Damaged cartilage and bone are removed and replaced with a new plastic or metal joint to help you regain wrist function.
  • Joint replacement – This procedure will help ease pain and restore function in the hand, as worn cartilage and bone are removed and replaced with plastic or metal parts.

For more information about treatment options for hand and wrist arthritis, talk with your doctor.

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What is ring avulsion?

Dr. Cavo discusses ring avulsion. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Most times, a ring avulsion injury happens when your ring gets caught on a fast-moving object, such as a piece of machinery. Or, you can have a ring avulsion injury around your house if your hand gets stuck on something when you, for example, fell from a ladder or roof.

This type of injury can be devastating to your hand, leaving long-term damage to the skin, blood vessels, tendons, bones and soft tissue.

Talk to your doctor to learn more about ring avulsions

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How is ring avulsion treated?

Dr. Matthew Cavo discusses how to treat ring avulsion. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Treating a ring avulsion can be difficult because of the amount of damage the injury can do to your finger’s tendons, bone, blood vessels, and soft tissue, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

When a ring you’re wearing gets caught on something and pulled quickly and forcefully, it can cause a ring avulsion. This kind of injury can peel the skin from where the ring would be worn toward the top of your finger.

Doctors can try to repair and reconnect tendons, blood vessels and skin, but many times the injury is too severe to repair. In many cases, a ring avulsion leads to surgical amputation of your injured finger.

To learn more about how a ring avulsion is treated, talk with your doctor.

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How can I reduce my risk for a ring avulsion injury?

Dr. Matthew Cavo discusses how to reduce your risk for a ring avulsion injury. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The best way to reduce your risk of a ring avulsion injury is to take off your rings when you’re doing something that they could get caught on.

Whether your job requires you to work with heavy machinery or you’re doing yard work, it’s quick and simple to plan ahead and remove your rings to prevent this kind of injury.

Learn more about reducing your risk for a ring avulsion injury by talking with your doctor.

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Who is at high risk for a ring avulsion injury?

Dr. Matthew Cavo discusses who is at high risk of a ring avulsion injury. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

If you have an industrial or manufacturing job where you work with high-speed moving parts, you are at high risk of a ring avulsion injury, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

Wearing a ring increases your risk of it getting caught on the machinery and causing ring avulsion.

Having a job where you spend a lot of time on a ladder and you can fall and catch your ring on something can also increase your risk of a ring avulsion injury.

Talk to your doctor for more information about who is at high risk of a ring avulsion injury.

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Thanks to these Premier Physician Network’s doctors for answering these common questions about wrist and hand health:

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.

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