We rely on our hands and wrists for so many essential daily tasks. But if you have wrist joint pain, those tasks may feel much more difficult. There are many causes of – and treatments for – wrist pain, and it’s a good idea to see a hand and wrist specialist who can examine, diagnose, and treat your pain so you can do more with less pain.
When does my hand or wrist joint pain require surgery?
Joint pain in the wrist or hand can be caused by numerous injuries or other conditions. Some causes of joint pain can be treated with rest, immobilization, ice and anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs). But other conditions require surgery.
Hand surgery may be needed for a variety of reasons, including serious injuries, congenital defects, degenerative conditions, and tumors.
Fractures: When a bone in the hand or wrist is broken – even a hairline fracture can cause considerable pain. Falling on an outstretched hand (known as “Foosh”) is extremely common – especially in winter months when people lose their footing on ice or snow. Fractures are also common in contact sports and other collisions.
Dislocations: Falls and other collisions can also cause bones in the hand or wrist to be knocked out of place. This can occur with or without a fracture.
Fractures and dislocations of the hand and wrist that are serious enough to warrant surgery can include realignment of the bones and stabilizing them with pins, screws, or plates.
Sprains and strains: When the ligaments that connect the bones in the hand or wrist are stretched or torn, a sprain or a strain can occur. They can be caused by a fall, a sports injury, or overuse. Non-surgical treatment is often sufficient to treat sprains and strains.
Cuts (Lacerations): Did you know kitchen accidents involving knives send more than 300,000 people to the ER each year? Cuts can range from superficial to causing serious tendon, ligament or joint damage and can even be limb-threatening. Serious cuts require surgery to repair the damaged tissue.
Tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome: Tendinitis is inflammation of the tendons in the hand and wrist, while carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition caused by compression of the median nerve in the wrist. Both conditions can cause pain, weakness, and numbness in the hand. Hand surgeons can treat these conditions with a surgical procedure that releases the compressed nerve or tendon.
Arthritis and other degenerative conditions: Several types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, can cause inflammation and/or degeneration of the joints in the hand and wrist. Surgical treatment for these conditions includes joint-preserving procedures or joint replacements.
Tumors: Tumors, both benign and malignant, can occur in the hand and wrist. Hand surgeons can remove these tumors and repair any damage to the surrounding tissue.
When needed, reconstructive surgery is used to treat congenital defects and traumatic injuries of the hand and wrist. The surgeon will use techniques such as skin grafting, tissue transfer, and bone grafting to correct the condition and improve function.
Recovery time and outcome depend on the specific procedure and the individual patient’s condition, but in general, hand surgery is very successful in improving function and reducing pain.
Physical therapy is usually recommended after surgery to help each patient regain strength and range of motion. It’s important to follow your surgeon’s instructions for post-operative care and rehabilitation to ensure the best possible outcome.
The hand and wrist specialists at Advanced Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists diagnose and treat the full spectrum of joint pain and injuries. Learn more about Dr. Micah Worrell, Dr. Davis Hurley and Dr. A. Todd Alijani and schedule an appointment today.