It’s difficult to deny the importance of taking care of yourself if you suspect you have a medical condition of any kind, but there is some temptation to ignore “small” matters like hands and fingers.
However, wrist pain or numb fingers can quickly make it difficult to be productive or engage in your favorite hobbies. Knowing some of the most typical issues related to the wrist and hands could help you recognize when something is wrong and be more likely to address it.
1. Carpal tunnel
Carpal tunnel syndrome presents as pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the hand and fingers. It’s caused by repetitive stress on the wrist and can be treated by reducing stress via rest, a splint, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, or other options.
Carpal tunnel is, unfortunately, a relatively common affliction. The carpal tunnel is a tiny passageway that doesn’t allow much wiggle room around the median nerve as it runs through the bones of the wrist. Consequently, it doesn’t take much of an increase in inflammation to cause pain or numbness in the hand.
Sometimes, carpal tunnel syndrome resolves on its own, given enough rest from whatever was causing the increased pressure. However, more severe cases may require carpal tunnel surgery to release the trapped nerve.
2. Other forms of nerve compression
Two other nerves that run through narrow passages in the wrist can cause hand issues: the radial and ulnar nerves. As in the case of carpal tunnel, most nerve compression issues are caused by excess strain on the wrist, whether it’s from repetitive motion, too much heavy lifting, or poor posture.
It’s important to note, though, that trapped nerves can cause issues in the hands even if they’re pinched relatively far away from the wrist.
In this age of near-constant screen time, it’s worth considering the impact of ergonomics at your desk. Sometimes all you need is a minor adjustment, like a wrist or elbow pad, to see a drastic reduction in symptoms.
Ulnar nerve compression
Ulnar tunnel syndrome is similar to carpal tunnel. However, with ulnar nerve compression, you experience decreased sensation in your last two fingers. Carpal tunnel affects all the other fingers.
Cubital tunnel syndrome is another form of ulnar nerve entrapment that causes pain or numbness in the pinky and half of the ring finger but isn’t caused by excess pressure in the wrist. Instead, cubital tunnel refers to what’s essentially ulnar tunnel syndrome located in the elbow.
The cubital tunnel could become an issue if you lean on your bent elbows for long periods or sleep with your arm bent beneath you.
Radial nerve compression
According to the National Institute of Health, radial nerve compression is referred to as Wartenberg syndrome and is almost always more painful than numb. Wartenberg syndrome is less common than other forms of nerve compression and can often resolve when the sufferer stops putting pressure on the area by wearing a tight bracelet or watch, for example.
All three nerves that provide sensation to the hands (median, ulnar, and radial) can be compressed due to chronic inflammation, such as autoimmune disorders. These causes are harder to identify and are typically explored once others have been ruled out.
Tendinitis refers to any kind of irritation in a tendon. Some common hand and wrist examples are De Quervain’s tendinosis and trigger finger. De Quervain’s tendinosis is a wrist injury near the thumb from overuse, while trigger finger is usually an issue of the pointer finger “locking” or causing pain due to underlying problems like rheumatoid arthritis.
4. Ganglion cyst
A Ganglion cyst may be the culprit if you’ve developed a lump near your wrist, but it might not necessarily cause pain or require treatment. It’s merely the result of fluid leaking from the joint and only needs to be removed if it bothers you.
The thumb is especially vulnerable to arthritis in the hands and wrist, but inflammation is possible around any joint in the human body. Arthritis gets more likely with age and is often treated with over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen.
Gout is a subtype of arthritis that causes painful swelling around joints when uric acid builds up in the body. It’s more likely to flare up for those who have gout in their family, are male, or drink alcohol.
7. Broken bones or sprains
Bone fractures are arguably the most immediately apparent cause of hand and wrist injuries. A wrist fracture is most common due to falling on an outstretched hand. Catching yourself is an instinctive behavior, but the wrist joint can’t always handle that much stress.
8. Muscle strain
It’s essential to take the time to prevent workout injuries whenever possible to stay active. Practicing good form, stretching before exercise, and staying hydrated are some examples of ways to prevent muscle strain in the wrist or elsewhere in the body.
One last note
Just because it’s common to suffer from any of these conditions doesn’t mean you need to ignore the pain or tingling. The physical health of your hands can have a significant impact on your quality of life and should not be overlooked.