There are many injuries and chronic conditions that can affect the hand and cause pain. Hand pain can occur from an injury or from overuse. Some hand pain may only be short term and will resolve by itself without any medical intervention. However, persistent or reoccurring hand pain may be a sign of an underlying medical condition and require further investigation to enable the most suitable treatment. Arthritis is a common condition that can affect the hands, which can cause pain, stiffness, immobility, and swelling within the joints of the fingers.
Diagnosing Hand Pain
An orthopedic hand doctor can diagnose a hand issue by conducting a physical examination and asking about symptoms and level of pain. For a suspected condition such as arthritis, the orthopedic doctor will assess muscle strength, joint motion, and joint stability, and may order blood tests and other laboratory tests to identify the type of arthritis.
Imaging tests such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans may be required to evaluate an injury or condition and to assess the bones, joints, and soft tissue structures, such as ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. A bone scan may be required to identify any bone abnormalities, such as bone spurs, cysts, or arthritis.
Depending on the diagnosis, orthopedic doctors offer state-of-the-art nonsurgical and surgical treatment methods and provide care for a full range of hand and finger injuries and conditions.
Treatments for Hand Pain
Treatments for hand pain can vary depending on the cause, but for some conditions such as arthritis, temporary joint rest and pain relievers are sometimes all that are needed. Over-the-counter or prescription medication may be necessary to reduce pain and swelling, and cortisone injections may be recommended if symptoms do not improve with medications.
Injuries such as small uncomplicated fractures, where there is no displacement of the bone fragments, can often be treated non-surgically. Bones can be held in the correct alignment with a splint or cast while the fracture heals.
Tendonitis is an inflammatory condition that develops in a tendon (the strong fibers that connect muscles to bones). It most frequently results from overuse of a joint and can cause pain and tenderness. Tendonitis is often relieved with rest and anti-inflammatory medications but chronic tendonitis may require surgery if non-surgical treatments are ineffective.
Tendon injuries occur when the tendon is torn, cut or detached, usually the result of trauma, lacerations, burns, or arthritis. Treatment is individualized and will depend on the extent of the damage. Nonsurgical treatments can include splinting and hand therapy, but surgery may be required to repair significant tendon damage.
Hand therapy is an effective form of treatment for many types of injuries and is often recommended following hand surgery. It can help increase mobility, flexibility, and strength in the hand. It can also effectively treat arthritis by strengthening muscles surrounding a joint which can help to relieve pain.
Other non-surgical treatment modalities for hand pain may include acupuncture which involves very fine needles being strategically placed around the body to block or interrupt pain pathways. These also include physical, occupational, and aquatic therapies to help strengthen muscles, relieve pain, and stabilize joints.
Hand surgery may be recommended if non-surgical treatments prove unsuccessful or if there has been significant damage to the hand which requires repair. Orthopedic doctors will use minimally invasive methods where possible to reduce pain, trauma and recovery time. Surgical procedures can include tendon repair surgery, tendon transfer surgery, cord release surgery, infection surgery, joint replacement, trigger finger release surgery and fracture surgery. For complicated fractures, and those that require realignment, surgical hardware, such as screws, pins or plates are used to align the fracture to allow it to heal in the correct position.
Types of surgery for arthritis:
- Synovectomy – removes the diseased or damaged joint lining (synovium)
- Osteotomy – realigns the bones in a joint
- Joint fusion surgery – To fuse the bones in a joint to prevent joint motion and relieve pain.
- Arthroplasty (joint replacement surgery), often for advanced arthritis
Treating Hand Pain in Maryland
If you have a hand injury or condition causing you pain, schedule a consultation with the team of hand experts at Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder. We specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions affecting the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder. Speak to our Maryland hand surgeons today at (410) 296-6232 or request an appointment online at one of our Greater Chesapeake locations.