Think about what medical professionals call your “activities of daily living. For the rest of us, this means brushing your teeth (ow!), tying a shoelace (ouch!), making a cup of coffee (argh!), starting your car (ache!), reaching for your wallet (uugh!)…
Almost anything you do during the day requires use of your wrist, hand and thumb. Pain makes the entire day a struggle.
“Because we use them so much, injuries to the hand and wrist are common,” says McLeod Orthopedic Specialist David Lukowski, MD. “Wearing wrist guards and gloves help prevent injuries in sports, such as skating and skateboarding. Taking a break from tedious, repetitive handwork or keyboarding helps refresh muscles and joints. But, arthritis is another major cause of hand and wrist pain, often due to wear and tear over a lifetime of use.“
Ouch! WHAT MAKES IT HURT
Osteoarthritis is caused when continued use wears away the smooth cartilage on the end of bones. When the bones rub together, joints often swell. Your hand feels weak, stiff and painful. An injury of fracture – even if it’s repaired properly – can trigger osteoarthritis in the hand and wrist.
Rheumatoid Arthritis has the same symptoms, but is a chronic disease that affects multiple joints in the body, usually starting in the smaller joints. Both sides of the body are affected, often at the same time.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Because of the small bones and joints involved in the wrist, hand and thumb, a joint replacement is not as simple and successful over a long term, as current knee replacements or hip joint replacements. However, new surgical and material developments are changing this situation.
In the wrist, hand and fingers, arthritis can be treated by surgically removing damaged bones. You maintain partial wrist motion and feel relief from the pain.
Fusion bonds together worn or injured bones. It reduces pain but limits motion in the affected joint.
Ache! WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
We all have aches and pains on occasion. So, it’s important to know when to wait and when it’s time to see your doctor. Waiting too long can result in additional, serious damage to the joint, while limiting the options an Orthopedic Specialist can offer you.
Two keys to remember: See a physician if you feel
1) persistent pain (that continues for days or weeks with little relief)
2) pain so bad that affects activities of daily living, such as those mentioned at he top of this article.
Watch for side effects from the medication as triggers to see a physician. Look for stomach problems, constipation, sleepiness during the day or nausea.
Just remember, treatments exist. You don’t need to live with pain in your wrist and hands.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Society for Surgery of the Hand, Arthritis Foundation, National Institutes of Health