Hand Pain

Photo of hands with arthritis
Arthritis hands

What are some common hand problems?

There are many common hand problems that can interfere with activities of daily living, including:

  • ganglion cysts
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • tendinitis of the wrist
  • arthritis of the hand
  • Dupuytren's contracture
  • trigger finger

What are ganglion cysts?

These non-cancerous, fluid-filled cysts are the common masses or lumps in the hand and usually found on the back of the wrist. They arise from irritated or inflamed ligaments, joint linings, or tendon sheaths. They may appear, disappear, or change size quickly, and may not require treatment unless they are painful, interfere with activity, or have an undesirable appearance.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome often include:

  • numbness and tingling in the hand, especially at night
  • pain with prolonged gripping such as holding a steering wheel
  • clumsiness in handling objects

The symptoms are caused by pressure on the median nerve as it enters the hand through a tunnel in the wrist. Pain from carpal tunnel syndrome can radiate up the arm to the shoulder.

Carpal tunnel syndrome may be treated with:

  • brace or splint
  • oral medications
  • cortisone injection
  • surgery

What is tendinitis of the wrist?

Wrist bandage

This condition is an irritation and swelling of the sheath or tunnel that surrounds the thumb tendons. It may be caused by overuse and is also seen in association with pregnancy or inflammatory arthritis.

Modification of the activity that initially caused the symptoms may be required, followed by treatment with a splint, injection with steroids, or taking anti-inflammatory medications. Some cases may require surgery.

Arthritis of the Hand:

Arthritis hands

Arthritis is very common at the base of the thumb, and can be treated with anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections into the joint, or splinting.

Heberden nodes are bumps that occur at the last joint of the finger or thumb due to arthritis. They are small bone spurs that form over the back of the joints and make them appear lumpy, but are not painful and seldom interfere with function. Treatment may or may not be necessary.

What is Dupuytren's contracture?

This is a hereditary thickening of the tough tissue, called fascia, that lies just below the skin of the palm. Small lumps or bands appear, which may eventually pull the fingers into the palm. Dupuytren's disease runs in families, but may also be associated with cigarette smoking, vascular disease, epilepsy, and diabetes.

The small nodules or lumps in the palm do not need treatment unless they become very large or interfere with hand function. Surgical treatment may be recommended if there is progressive drawing of the fingers into the hand. Bands may reappear or occur in other fingers.

What is trigger finger?

This is an irritation of the digital sheath that surrounds the flexor tendons. When the sheath surrounding the tendon becomes swollen, it pinches the tendon and prevents it from gliding smoothly. The tendon catches and then suddenly releases, an action similar to pulling and releasing a trigger.

Swelling in the tendon sheath can be treated with rest, activity modification, anti-inflammatories, or steroid injections. Some cases may require surgery to release the tendon.

For More Information

University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedics Institute formerly Kernan Hospital:
Hand and Upper Extremity Orthopaedic Services
University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedics Institute provides a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to care for the evaluation and treatment of hand and upper extremity disorders. More»

This page was last updated: September 17, 2013

         
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