wrist & Hand Pain

The wrist is made up of 3 main joints; the radoiocarpal joint, ulnocarpal joint, and the distal radioulnar joint.  The hand is made up of 27 bones, 8 of which are small pebble-like bones called the carpals that help connect the wrist to the hand.  There are several long bones that make up the rest of the hand and the fingers.   There are various ligaments, muscles, tendons, and bursae in the wrist and hand that help provide stability and function.

Muscles and joints of the wrist and hand can be common sources of pain (see Muscle & Joint Pain page).  In addition to those, here are some other conditions that physical therapy can help you with:

Scaphoid fracture  The scaphoid is one of the carpal bones located at the base of the thumb near the wrist.  It is one of the more common wrist fractures and typically occurs from a fall on an outstretched hand known as a FOOSH injury.  This diagnosis is important to catch early to determine proper management.   The scaphoid has poor blood supply so the location of the fracture is important to know if it will heal without surgery.  

Distal Radius fracture The radius is one of the bones in the forearm (ulna is the other) and is located along the thumb side.  Like the scaphoid fracture above, it can occur from a FOOSH injury and would then be classified as a Colles’ Fracture.  Another type of distal radius fracture is a Smith’s Fracture which occurs when you fall onto a flexed (forward bent) wrist.  

Carpal Tunnel SyndromeThe carpal tunnel is an anatomical space in the front of the wrist where several tendons and the median nerve pass through to supply the hand.  When the space in the tunnel gets too tight, compression occurs on the median nerve resulting in pain and/or numbness that located in the wrist, hand, thumb, and the index and middle fingers.   This is a common problem for people who work at a desk long hours, typing on a computer.  

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis This is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist.  It is thought to develop from overuse and faulty mechanics.  Pain is usually present when making a fist, gripping, and/or turning the wrist.   Writing and typing can be painful and you may need to wear a brace or splint to let it rest and calm down the inflammation.


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