Hand joint injuries and conditions impact the muscles, tendons, bones, and other tissues that comprise the hand. Common hand conditions typically develop through sudden trauma or overuse, although some may be congenital. Because the hand is so essential to perform a variety of everyday tasks, hand conditions that cause pain and limit motion can severely impact a patient’s quality of life.

Hand Anatomy

The hand is made up of various muscles, ligaments, and bones that allow it to be such a dexterous part of the body. There are three main bone types in the hand:

  1. Phalanges are the 14 bones located in the fingers. There are two joints and three bones for each finger, while the thumb only has one joint and two bones.
  2. Metacarpal bones are the five bones found in the middle of the hand.
  3. Carpal bones are the two rows of small bones that make up the wrist and are connected to bones in the arm (radius and ulna).

Muscles in the hand contract to allow the fingers to move, while the ligaments help bind together each joint. There are tubular sheaths that surround each finger and tendons the connect the muscles and bones.

Symptoms of Hand Conditions

Common symptoms of hand conditions include:

  • Pain, swelling, and numbness in one or multiple parts of the hand.
  • Tingling, burning or “pins and needles” sensations in the fingers.
  • Fingers that feel stiff or swollen.
  • Difficulty gripping objects and performing everyday tasks.

Common Hand Conditions

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome results from compression of the hand’s median nerve. This issue typically occurs in the wrist, although the nerve can be compressed at any point between the hand and wrist.

This condition often occurs due to age, pregnancy, hereditary predisposition, or an injury. It can also be caused by repetitive motion (such as using a computer mouse or keyboard for extended periods without rest).

Because carpal tunnel syndrome worsens over time, it’s essential to get it diagnosed and treated as early as possible. If left untreated, this condition can cause severe nerve damage accompanied by worsening symptoms.

Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • Tingling, burning, numbness, and pain felt in the thumb and fingers.
  • A ‘shock’ type sensation that radiates across the hand from the wrist.
  • Pain or tingling that moves up the forearm.
  • Weakness of the hand, reducing grip strength and making it difficult to perform precise movements.

Depending on your situation, your Melbourne Arm Clinic orthopaedic surgeon can perform carpal tunnel surgery to help alleviate symptoms and return joint function.

<h3>Dupuytren’s Contracture</h3>

Dupuytren’s contracture is a hand condition where there is an unusual thickening of the fascia – a fibrous tissue that sits underneath the skin of the palm and fingers. When the fascia thickens and tightens, it causes fingers to be pulled towards the palm, known as a contracture.

This condition typically develops very slowly and may not require any intervention if it remains mild. For some, Dupuytren’s contracture can worsen to the point that it interferes with hand function, and treatments including surgery can limit the progression of the condition and restore motion.

There are three main symptoms of this condition:

  1. Nodules (small lumps) develop in the palm and are fixed to the skin. These nodules can feel tender at first, but this sensitivity usually diminishes with time.
  2. Cords that develop due to the thickening of nodules in the palm. These cords pull on the fingers and thumb, preventing them from fully extending or spreading apart.
  3. Contracture occurs as the tissue beneath the skin tightens, resulting in one or several fingers being pulled and restricted. Contractures occur most often in the ring and little fingers, but all fingers are susceptible, including the thumb.

Depending on your situation, your Melbourne Arm Clinic orthopaedic surgeon can perform Dupuytren’s contracture treatment to help alleviate symptoms and return joint function.

Hand Tendonitis

Hand tendonitis occurs when the tendons in the hand become irritated or inflamed, which causes swelling that is often painful and restricts motion. Pain becomes particularly noticeable when trying to form a fist or grip objects, which severely limits the function of the hand.

Overuse and injury are common causes of hand tendonitis, although the issue can also be caused by other factors like pregnancy and the presence of arthritis. There are various surgical and non-surgical treatments for this condition, and the appropriate intervention will depend on its severity.

The common symptoms of hand tendonitis include:

  • Gradual or sudden pain that can travel around the hand, wrist, and forearm.
  • Catching or snapping sensation experienced when moving fingers, wrist, or entire hand.
  • Restricted movement due to pain and swelling.
  • Weakness in the hand, reducing grip strength.

Trigger Finger

Trigger finger (stenosing tenosynovitis) occurs when the space within the sheath that surrounds a finger tendon is narrowed due to inflammation. This can cause the finger to become stuck in a bent position, which can be intensely painful. It can also occur in the thumb (trigger thumb).

Trigger finger frequently occurs in people with professions or hobbies that entail repetitive gripping. The ring finger and thumb are the most frequently affected by this condition.

Symptoms of trigger finger include:

  • Finger catching or becoming locked in a bent position, which may suddenly pop straight or cannot be straightened.
  • Numbness and pain in the affected finger.
  • A tender nodule in the palm beneath the affected finger.
  • A feeling of stiffness in the finger, which may be worse in the morning.
  • If infected, the joint can become hot and inflamed.

Depending on your situation, your Melbourne Arm Clinic orthopaedic surgeon can perform trigger finger release surgery to help alleviate symptoms and return joint function.

Finger Fracture

A finger fracture is a common hand injury where finger bone has broken due to sudden trauma. These fractures typically occur due to a fall onto an outsrteched hand where the a finger is bent on impact, or another type of impact to the finger.

Symptoms of a finger fracture include:

  • Pain and swelling at the site of the fracture
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Deformity of the finger
  • Inability to move the finger

Depending on your situation, your Melbourne Arm Clinic orthopaedic surgeon can perform finger fracture surgery to help alleviate symptoms and return joint function.

Hand Arthritis

Hand arthritis, or more specifically finger arthritis and thumb arthritis, occurs when the cartilage that separates bones in the hand becomes diseased and starts breaking down, causing the bones to rub together. Arthritis can manifest anywhere in the hand or wrist and cause severe pain that makes performing daily activities difficult or impossible in severe cases. This condition can result from both main types of arthritis (osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis) and injuries like fractures.

Symptoms of hand arthritis include:

  • Pain and swelling in the hand that worsens with activity.
  • Stiffness that makes it difficult to move the hand and fingers.
  • Weakened grip strength that restricts the ability to perform everyday tasks.

Depending on your situation, your Melbourne Arm Clinic orthopaedic surgeon can perform finger arthritis surgery and thumb arthritis surgery to help alleviate symptoms and return joint function.

Experiencing Hand and Wrist Pain?

If you are suffering from any of the hand conditions listed above, you should seek medical diagnosis and treatment from an orthopaedic specialist. Contact Melbourne Arm Clinic to book an appointment or ask any questions about your issue and the treatment options available.

Matthan Mammen
ELBOW, WRIST AND HAND SPECIALIST

Mr. Matthan Mammen

MS, FRACS (Orth)

Matthan is an internationally qualified orthopaedic surgeon, who is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Australian Orthopaedic Association.

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