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Hands and wrist injuries

Thanks to the combined mobility of wrists and hands, there are infinite functions that we can develop with them. They allow us to play, grip, caress, feel and exert pressure with strength and precision. It is a sign of the evolution we have undergone as human beings.

There is a complex joint system in them, both are sensitive to pain and discomfort. Here are the possible injuries you may have to your hands, fingers and wrists, the symptoms you should look out for, the risk factors and how to apply the PRICE therapy as a form of first aid for pain relief.

What types of hand and wrist injuries can we suffer from?

What types of hand and wrist injuries can we suffer from?

Between accidents, stress overloads and degenerative bone and joint diseases, hands and wrists are likely to be injured at some point. Some of the most common are listed below.

Scaphoid fracture

This is a serious and fairly common injury that usually occurs when people fall and try to break their fall with an outstretched hand. The scaphoid is a small bone located near the wrist, at the base of the thumb. It is a rather fragile bone, which is why falls are the main cause of its breakage. It is even quite common for the fracture to be in the form of a crack and the pain may appear about 10 days after the fall.

Tendonitis

This is a common injury to the forearm, wrist, hand and fingers. Wherever tendonitis occurs, it is caused by overwork on the tendons, which are highly resilient but not exempt from injury. In the wrist, the most commonly inflamed tendons are the abductor pollicis longus tendon and the extensor pollicis brevis of the thumb, which causes discomfort when trying to move the thumb.

However, tendonitis can affect one or more fingers. The condition must be treated early to avoid tendinosis, which is a complete rupture of the tendon that can only be repaired by outpatient surgery.

Gangliomas

These are small, soft cysts located very close to tissues such as tendons and ligaments. Although they are not serious lesions, they can cause considerable discomfort when trying to move the hand.

These cysts are filled with fluid and the only way to make them disappear, when they are several weeks old, is by drainage to expel the excess fluid in them. If the ganglion is very large, then it is surgically removed.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

This is also a common pathology in the field of work and sports. It is caused by overwork in the hand, wrist and forearm, affecting the median nerve that provides sensation to the thumb, index and middle fingers.

The pathology starts with tingling and constant cramps in the hand, then it becomes difficult to flex the fingers and finally any movement triggers shooting pains, making it impossible to perform functions such as closing the hand. Once the damage is advanced, only surgery to release tension on the transverse ligament that puts pressure on the nerve will provide relief.

Wrist sprain

Usually occurs when cushioning a fall with the hand extended, causing the hand to exceed its natural range of motion or be forced to perform a movement for which it is not designed. In either case, this sprain will cause damage to muscles and ligaments in the joint.

The ligaments most commonly involved are the ulnar-pyramidal ligament, the ulnar-ulnar ligament, and the inner and outer lateral ligaments of the wrist. The damage can range from a simple micro-tear to a complete tear, so a specialist should always be consulted after such an accident.

Dislocations

Both in the wrist and in the bones of the fingers there can be a dislocation that pulls the bone out of its usual place, which can be the heads of the ulna or radius, or phalanges of the fingers. When this happens you notice a deformation of the joint, swelling and pain when trying to move the affected part.

A dislocation can be partial or total. If the bone moves completely out of place and affects soft tissue function, then it is a total dislocation. The safest way to relieve pain is to mechanically set the bone in its original place, and then apply cryotherapy to control inflammation.

Osteoarthritis

This is the wearing away of cartilage in the joints, in this case the wrist. As the hand can perform many functions, repetition of the hand will cause more wear and tear. The symptoms of osteoarthritis do not come out of the blue, they start with discomfort, then a mild ache until the person feels a weakening of the joints, severe pain and a sound when moving the wrist.

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What are the causes of pain in the wrists and hands?

What are the causes of pain in the wrists and hands?

The hands and wrists contain about 30 bones and dozens of tissues including muscles, ligaments and tendons. Whenever you do the same activity for months and years, it is likely that in the long term there will be aches and pains like the ones mentioned above.

Repetition of movements

Doing the same action over and over again will put a lot of wear and tear on the muscle groups that make up the hand and wrist. When the muscles weaken, then the strain of the movements falls on the ligaments and tendons. Cartilage begins to be affected, and cartilage does not have a chance to recover on its own.

If you do the same movement for work or sport, rest will be important to avoid aches and pains. You should also find a way to alternate the functions you always perform with your hand.

Not resting properly

Good rest is as important as the physical activity itself. This rest will allow damaged cells to begin to regenerate and be ready for the next physical activity. In fact, for every hour of work in the office you should take 10-15 minutes of active breaks, a concept created to prevent muscle atrophy during working hours and avoid discomfort related to repetitive movements.

Overuse of the thumb

By now you can imagine that the use of smartphones has led to an increase in finger injuries, especially the thumb, which is a favourite for touching the screen. Remember that the tissues and bones in the fingers are not as strong as those in the rest of the body, which is why they are referred to as phalanges. Overuse of the fingers will lead to tendonitis and inflammation of the ligaments, so it is advisable to manage the use of technological devices that make the thumbs work harder and cause wear and tear on their structure.

Poor nutrition and hydration

Water and food are our first medicines, so having a balanced diet and being well hydrated is essential to be healthy, as these foods nourish the bones, muscles and all the body’s tissues. If this rule is not met, it is possible to suffer endless injuries due to malnutrition, as these parts of our body will be more fragile and prone to injury.

Muscle overload

It is associated with excessive sporting activity that forces the hands and fingers to work without rest, and with a high intensity. Every muscle is prone to tearing and breaking fibres. Each person should be aware and know their limitations, and to warm up and cool down correctly if you do sports. These simple steps will prevent you from sustaining a hand injury that will cause you to be off work for several weeks.

Degenerative diseases

Ailments such as osteoporosis and arthritis will cause significant weakening of joints and bones. To these causes can be added the age of the patient, which will increase the likelihood of a bone fracture in the event of a fall.

When diseases like this are present in the body, it is only possible to take some measures such as physiotherapy exercises to try to stop the accelerated pace of these ailments. Bad lifestyle habits such as smoking or alcohol consumption aggravate these chronic diseases.

What are the symptoms of hand and wrist pain?

What are the symptoms of hand and wrist pain?

The body has many ways of warning that something is wrong with the hand and wrist. It is important that you pay attention to each of the symptoms detailed in this section, so that you can avoid injury complications.

  • Pain: It may be generalised in the hand or simply localised in the fingers. The type of ailment will give the specialist a signal to know what kind of injury it is. Osteoarthritis generates pain only in the joint, but tendonitis will cause pain from the hand to the forearm.
  • Tingling: This is a frequent sign due to problems in blood circulation, such as when you sleep and crush a hand, when you realise that the blood flow has been cut off you clear it and there is circulation again, the sensation is of tingling in the fingers.
  • Cramps: Excessive sporting activity causes small muscle contractions in the hand, especially in sports such as cycling and golf, where the strength and tension in each discipline falls more on the upper limbs.
  • Deformity: In cases of sprains and strains, the wrist and finger joints may be swollen and slightly deformed. Even if the phalanges are dislocated.
  • Numbness in the fingers: A very common symptom of neuropathies such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Inflammation: Whenever there is an injury to any part of the body it is very common for the painful area to become inflamed, this is due to the natural behaviour of our body acting to reduce and combat the injury.

How to apply the RICE therapy to treat wrist and hand injuries?

The PRICE therapy is very useful for relieving pain and reducing inflammation in the case of minor first aid complaints. The RICE therapy began to be used in the late 1970s in the sports world, and was recently updated to the five-step PRICE.

  • Protection: Cover the hand with a classic or elastic bandage when there is an injury. In the case of very painful sprains and fractures you should not do this, but only protect the injured area so that it does not get worse.
  • Rest: Keep in mind that only when the muscles, tendons and ligaments relax, the regeneration process of the damaged cells begins. A good rest for a minor injury can last up to three days.
  • Ice: You should apply cold to the skin with the support of a handkerchief or a heat pack to prevent burns. Ice is a much more powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory than any chemical.
  • Compression: The best compression you can give is with an elastic wrist brace, it has the pressure that the hand needs to reduce blood circulation and give support, which will reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Elevation: Raise your arm above the level of your heart, this will help gravity to help lower the swelling and severe pain in your hands by reducing blood pressure.

Common sports injuries to hands, fingers and wrists

If you practice sports professionally or as an amateur, it’s time to learn about the most common hand and wrist injuries. With this information you will know which are the most common and how to prevent them.

Most common wrist, finger and hand conditions

Check out this detailed list of the most common ailments you may have, both at home and at work. Identifying the signs can help prevent more serious complications and reduce the risk of hand and wrist disease

References

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