We use our hands for just about everything during the course of the day: reaching, grabbing, typing, holding and nearly every other physical activity. An injury to the hand or wrist can really slow you down. Yet, these injuries are also very common, given the prevalence of hand and wrist use in everyday life.
In this article, we look at some of the most common hand injuries. While some are minor, others may require the intervention of a doctor who specializes in hand surgery, such as Denver hand and wrist surgeon Dr. Frank Campanile.
Not all hand injuries are serious. In fact, the majority of injuries affect just the surface of the hand. These include cuts, scrapes and lacerations. Burns are very common hand injuries as well, although more severe burns may require significant medical treatment. Injuries to the nail bed, like the bruising that shows up after smashing your thumb with a hammer, are also very typical, and rarely require surgery.
Tendons & Ligaments
Other injuries to the hand and wrist area occur below the skin’s surface. The tendons and ligaments in the hand are prone to damage and inflammation.
Tendons are tough tissues that connect muscles to bones. Injuries to tendons can make moving your affected joints difficult or impossible. This can occur from a sudden trauma, like a cut or tear, or tendons may gradually weaken over time due to another condition like rheumatoid arthritis.
Ligaments connect bones to other bones, helping to form and stabilize your joints. Wrist ligaments are subject to a lot of wear and tear over the years; damage to wrist ligaments can occur after an injury like jamming or straining, or sharp trauma like a fall. Surgical treatment may be necessary to repair or reconstruct damaged wrist ligaments.
Fractures & Breaks
There are 27 bones in each hand and wrist: eight bones in the wrist, five in the palm of the hand and 14 bones in the fingers and thumbs (two per thumb and three per finger). Every one of these tiny bones is susceptible to breaks or fractures. Fractures are a break in the bone, with or without a separation at the break, and are particularly common for those active in sports. Since the bones in the hand are complex, precision is required to ensure proper healing, even with a simple fracture. It’s best to consult a hand and wrist surgeon if you suffer from a fracture or break, to minimize any potential complications.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is apparent from an intermittent numbness, tingling or pain in the hand and wrist, sometimes shooting up toward the elbow. This is caused by nerve inflammation within the carpal tunnel, the narrow channel that protects the nerves and tendons running from the wrist to the hand. Although nonsurgical treatments may be helpful, surgical intervention to sever the ligament that places pressure on the nerves may be necessary for further relief.
While not technically an injury, arthritis is a very common condition that often affects the hands. The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is inflammation around the joints that causes pain and stiffness. In the hands, this can be particularly troublesome, as normal everyday movements become quite painful. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease; the body’s own immune system attacks the joint membranes, causing swelling, pain and deformity. Reconstructive Surgical reconstruction of arthritic joints can repair damaged joints to improve the appearance and function of the hand and wrist area.