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3 Common Hand Conditions & How to Tell them Apart: Hand Arthritis, Trigger Finger and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

DID YOU KNOW? The origin of modern-day hand surgery is directly rooted in the casualties of WWII? Soldiers with severely wounded hands were in dire need of specialists. This unprecedented demand demonstrated the significance of specialty care and “was probably one of the most remarkable advances in surgery during World War II.” (AMA Arch Intern Med., 1958)

Hand surgery is an area specialty requiring training in three surgery disciplines: orthopedic, plastic or general surgery. Such specialists were rare at the time and led to surgeons pioneering a new field of surgery by conclusively demonstrating that reconstruction of hands could be successfully undertaken.

Today, it’s easy to forget that routine procedures were at the forefront of the field in the not-so-distant past. Since the field has expanded to deal with a wide-range of conditions and injuries from arthritis to trigger finger, tennis elbow, and newest to that list: texting thumb.

For those experiencing hand or wrist pain, the cause can be difficult to nail down because many of the symptoms of the various possible issues can mirror each other. That’s why it takes trained specialists to truly understand the cause. Three common conditions that can present very similarly are hand arthritis, trigger finger and carpal tunnel syndrome.

1) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

By far the most common condition a hand surgeon treats, carpal tunnel syndrome is compression of the median nerve at the wrist. Sensations in the thumb, index and long finger are all impacted when that happens. This can cause pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness. Depending on its severity, treatment consists of wearing a brace up to and including surgery.

2) Hand Arthritis

One of the biggest and earliest symptoms of hand arthritis is pain at the base of the thumb when gripping or grasping an object. Thumbs and hinge joints in fingers feel it the most. The mainstay of treatment is often nonsurgical, and consists of bracing, anti-inflammatories, and injections. However, if these conservative measures fail to improve your pain, surgical reconstruction is always an option.

3) Trigger Finger

Do you have painful “clicking” or “popping” when you try to bend your finger? You might have a trigger finger. It happens when a tunnel in your finger gets thick and narrow, preventing the tendon from gliding smoothly through it. We often see it in people who have diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, but it is very common and can affect many people in the general population.

Treatments for trigger finger also start with splinting. If that doesn’t work, an injection of corticosteroids might be recommended. It has a 70% success rate of cure, but less in patients who have suffered symptoms beyond six months. Long-term pain may lead to a treatment recommendation of surgery.

Additional Common Hand & Wrist Conditions

  • Boxer’s Fracture
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
  • De Quervain’s Tendonitis
  • Distal Radius Fractures
  • Extensor Tendon Lacerations
  • Flexor Tendon Lacerations
  • Fractures and Dislocations
  • Ganglion Cysts
  • Hand and Finger Arthritis
  • Kinnock’s Disease
  • Mallet Finger
  • Nerve injuries and lacerations
  • Scaphoid Fractures
  • Strain or Sprains
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Texting Thumb
  • Thumb Arthritis (CMC Arthritis)
  • Trigger Finger
  • Wrist Arthritis

Treatment can include everything from surgery to home therapy, hand therapy, or medical management.

Beacon is Here for You

At Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, we have expanded our hand & wrist team to include 10 fellowship-trained hand & wrist surgeons. We offer the most comprehensive treatment options, now including consultations, hand therapy, and a new Clifton Hand Surgery Center. Beacon physicians’ first priority is to get you back to doing what you love as quickly as the healing process allows. There are no shortcuts when it comes to hand or wrist recovery. If you have pain and need to embark on your own recovery journey, schedule an appointment with our team of hand and wrist experts today.

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