When you are experiencing pain in your hand or arm, a hand specialist specifically trained in areas of the hand, wrist, or forearm can determine the cause of your pain and create a treatment plan. There are a number of conditions and injuries that can occur in the hand. When non-surgical treatments are not possible or are unsuccessful, a hand specialist can skillfully perform the necessary surgical procedures to treat your condition.
What is a Hand Specialist?
A hand specialist is an orthopaedic surgeon who has received specialized training to diagnose and treat conditions of the hand, wrist, and forearm (including the elbow). They have undergone hours of clinical training, covering topics from arthritis surgery to congenital differences, and have passed a rigorous certification exam. Some hand specialists treat only adults, some treat only children, and some treat both.
Common Conditions Treated by Hand Specialists
The hand consists of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves – all of which work together to allow you to accomplish everything from performing everyday tasks to executing the precise movements associated with specialized activities. There are many injuries, diseases, and conditions that can affect your hand’s ability to function normally or efficiently. The most common are:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome—This is a potentially painful condition in which a nerve is compressed as it passes through a narrow space known as the carpal tunnel in the wrist. You may experience tingling, numbness, or weakness in your hand or fingers.
- Fractures of the Hand, Wrist, and Forearm—A break in one of the many small bones of the hand or the wrist or forearm can occur after a fall or as a result of a sports injury. The break can be stable (i.e., the bones have not moved out of place), or unstable -where the bones have shifted or may shift with time.
- Tendonitis—Pain and discomfort can occur when the tendons in your wrist become irritated or inflamed due to excessive, repetitive, or strenuous movements. Trigger finger is a particular form of tendonitis that develops in the tendons of the fingers caused by fluid build-up in the joints. Tennis elbow is a term for the elbow pain associated with overuse of muscles and irritation of the tendons in the forearm. While not exclusive to tennis players, it is a common complaint among them and other athletes who perform repetitive movements with their arm.
- Tumors—A tumor in your hand is a lump or mass that can be benign or malignant, though cancerous tumors of the hand are rare. The most common type of tumor found in the hand or wrist is called a ganglion cyst. They are benign, fluid-filled cysts and are commonly found on the top or bottom of the wrist, at the top of the end joint of the finger, or on the base of the finger on the palm side.
- Arthritis—Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can occur in the small bones of the hand. In both cases, pain is caused by inflammation and stiffness in the joints.
- Nerve and Tendon Injuries—There are two groups of tendons in the hand and forearm that can be injured by a cut or even by jamming your hand.
Treatment Options for Hands
Some hand conditions can be treated with rest, medication, therapy, or injections, but some require surgery by a qualified hand specialist. Some of the surgical procedures that hand specialists execute include:
- Carpal Tunnel Release—If non-surgical treatment does not relieve carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, a hand specialist can perform surgery. The procedure can be performed as traditional open surgery or via endoscopic surgery, which involves making tiny incisions and inserting a small camera and small surgical tools. Regardless of the type of surgery, the goal is to relieve the symptoms and prevent them from recurring.
- Fracture Repair—If a fracture is unstable or the bones are misaligned, surgery may be required to hold the broken bones together with pins, plates, or screws. If the bones are crushed, surgery can be used to create a bone graft.
- Tendon Repair—When a tendon of the hand or wrist ruptures, a hand specialist can fix the tear by repairing and reconnecting the torn pieces.
- Ganglion Cyst Removal—Sometimes ganglion cysts are painful or interfere with movement. If so, they can be treated by draining them with a needle or surgically removing them.
- Wrist and Elbow Arthroscopy—Arthroscopy allows a hand specialist to see the inside of your wrist or elbow to determine the type or extent of your injury, and how to best treat it. During the procedure, a tube fitted with a small camera is inserted into the joint via small incisions the surgeon makes.
Hand Specialists and You
Hand specialists are highly trained to assess and treat conditions and injuries to the hand, wrist, and forearm. Thanks to advanced education and training, they can diagnose the source of your injury or condition and create a treatment plan. When necessary, they perform surgery to repair, treat, or alleviate your symptoms.
If you are experiencing pain or are suffering from lack of movement, give us a call at Countryside Orthopaedics today. We have a knowledgeable, board-certified hand specialist on staff who can answer all your questions and treat the source of your pain. Get back to the activities you love in 2017!