You likely will never realize how dependent your day to day life is on the functional and pain-free use of your hands, wrists, and elbows until you experience an injury or other cause of chronic pain that impedes your ability to do tasks freely and without discomfort. Hand, wrist and elbow pain creates a huge complication in your life, preventing you from being able to engage in the simplest of tasks without discomfort. Depending on the severity of the pain, issues with your hands, wrists or elbows could prevent you from being able to drive, work on the computer, cook dinner, use your phone, do tasks around the house, and so much more.
Hand, Arm, and Wrist Injuries can be Complicated
What makes matters even more complicated is the interconnected nature of your hands and arms. Injury to one part of your hand or arm could cause pain throughout the entire area. Hurting your finger could cause pain in your hand, and a cramp in your palm could lead to discomfort through your wrist and arm.
Leaving hand pain, wrist pain or elbow pain to heal on its own is a bad idea. Regardless of how hard you try to rest these areas, chances are the constant need to complete even minor tasks will continue to aggravate the pain and may cause you enhanced discomfort. If you experience pain that lasts longer than a day or two, it is a good idea to contact your physical therapist to gain understanding about the reason for the pain and to explore different treatment and pain management options.
Because your hands and arms are so interconnected, a task or injury that involves one part, such as your lower arm, can end up causing everything from finger numbness to elbow pain. Don’t make any assumptions about when the pain will go away. In many situations, minor issues become major setbacks because immediate action wasn’t taken to resolve an injury. A physical therapist can help you sort through the best options for managing your hand, wrist and elbow pain.
There are many different issues that could cause pain to develop in the hands, elbows and wrists. Among them are:
- Joint pain
- Tennis/Golf Elbow
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
Hand Pain and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
One of the leading causes of hand and wrist pain is not prompted by an injury at all, but instead is a result of a chronic condition called carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a debilitating syndrome that causes severe pain in the hand and wrist area. The pain typically feels similar to a deep and intense hand cramp, but is not actually caused by any cramping and so it’s not as easily resolved.
Carpal tunnel syndrome develops as a result of heightened stress on the median nerve, often caused by highly repetitive movements with the hand and wrist. Some of the most common tasks in today’s society are among the leading causes of carpal tunnel syndrome, including typing, writing, playing video games, gardening, and anything else that requires repetitive lifting or other hand movements. The condition causes severe pain in the hand and wrists, and may often cause numbness or tingling to develop in the fingers. Those who are most at risk of developing CTS are those who work in a capacity that requires them to constantly engage in repetitive movements with their hands, but those who may be experiencing hormone fluctuations, are at a heightened risk of developing the syndrome.
There are many people who require surgery to overcome carpal tunnel syndrome, but in the majority of situations, surgery can actually be avoided by taking early intervention with targeted physical therapy. Wearing a brace, working with a physical therapist to counteract the repetitive motions and taking other steps to reduce stress on the median nerve can make dramatic improvements in the quality of life and experience of pain for an individual with carpal tunnel syndrome. While many of these strategies are something you can do at home once you are properly trained, it is important to not attempt to engage in these exercises without guidance from your physical therapist, as improper form or movement could lead to increased discomfort or further injury.
How are these conditions treated?
The first step in dealing with hand, wrist or elbow pain is evaluating the source of that pain. Often that’s done in conjunction with your primary care physician, but — especially when the pain isn’t connected to an obvious event such as a car accident — our evaluation helps further assess your current strength and flexibility capabilities. We also note the specific hand and arm positions at which you experience pain.
After your evaluation, the first priority is to use therapeutic techniques to get rid of the pain as soon as possible. After that, we’ll begin to focus on building up your range of motion, especially through stretching and other flexibility maneuvers. Finally, exercises for building strength will be added, so that after your physical therapy course of treatment is over, you can maintain your pain-free life.
When you’re ready to get started, request an appointment or free screening at Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, East Kalamazoo, Holland, Mattawan, Midtown (Downtown Kalamazoo), Plainwell, Portage, Richland, Schoolcraft, and Three Rivers clinics so we can help you quickly resolve the debilitating neck pain you’re feeling now – and learn how to prevent it in the future.