The hands are capable of strong, precise, and dexterous movements. However, they are still susceptible to injury — and this can cause extreme discomfort and inconvenience in your daily life. When routine hand functions become hard, you’ll want to know exactly what’s causing your hand pain.
Here’s how to assess your hand and find out why they’re aching.
How To Assess Hand Pain
Finding the appropriate treatment hinges upon a thorough assessment of your hand pain. Thus, it’s always best to have your hand examined by a medical professional. However, if you want to save yourself a trip to the doctor, there are some ways to examine your hand pain on your own. Here are the factors in hand pain assessment:
Mechanism of the Injury or Condition
Knowing the mechanism of the specific injury or condition will provide clues about the structures involved and the severity of the underlying cause. For example, blunt trauma could cause different injuries compared to penetrating trauma.
Check carefully for any bruising, swelling, and lacerations. Observe the color of your skin, too. If you notice that parts or all of your fingers are either pale or very red, it might suggest an injury to your digital nerve. If some of your fingers are flexed while in a resting position, it might indicate damage to an extensor tendon.
On the other hand, if your hand pain is caused by a medical condition, you should look out for the symptoms. Here are some common conditions that cause hand pain:
- As one of the most common forms of arthritis, it can be caused by normal use of the hand or develop after an injury. Its symptoms include:
- Pain and swelling
- Bony nodules at the middle or end of finger joints
- Loss of strength in the fingers
- Loss of grip strength
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition involves the painful compression of the median nerve in the wrist. Symptoms may include:
- Reduced grip strength
- Pain or numbness in the hand
- Swelling, burning, or tingling in the fingers
- Stiffness in hand or wrist
- Ganglion cysts. These are soft, fluid-filled sacs that develop either on the front or back of the hand. The following are the most common symptoms for ganglion cysts:
- Wrist pain that gets worse with repeated use
- Swelling, aching, or weakness in the wrist
- A cyst that’s smooth, firm, rounded, or tender
- De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. This painful condition causes swelling in the tendons around the thumb, putting pressure on nearby nerves and causing pain. Symptoms include:
- Wrist pain around the side of the thumb
- Swelling near the base of the thumb
- Trouble gripping objects or pinching
- Feeling a pop when moving the thumb
Sensory and Motion Assessment
Testing sensations will determine whether you’ve damaged a nerve. On the other hand, testing your range of motion could also screen for nerve damage that could produce impairment in your motor function. You can test your range of motion by:
- Holding the end of a pen using the tips of your fingers and the thumb.
- Spreading your fingers widely.
- Doing a “thumbs up” gesture.
Unless there has been damage to the ulnar, median and radial nerves, you’ll be able to perform these three tasks easily. If you’re concerned about possible nerve damage, be sure to consult your doctor and get a thorough evaluation.
If doing all the things above still doesn’t shed light on what’s causing your hand pain or if you prefer getting examined by a professional, a doctor might recommend the following tests:
- X-ray. An X-ray might be needed to check for fractures or dislocations. It can also detect changes caused by arthritis, including bone spurs.
- An MRI uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of bones, tissues, and muscles in the hand. It could show if a tendon or ligament has been either partially or completely torn. It also detects other injuries, such as bruised bones or tiny fractures.
- Using high-frequency sound waves, ultrasound can create images of your tendons and other tissues to diagnose hand injuries, particularly tendon tears.
- CT scan. If your doctor suspects an issue in the scaphoid bone, which is located near the thumb, a CT scan might be recommended.
When You Should See A Doctor
While hand pain might respond to simple treatments, some conditions require urgent attention. Contact your doctor if you have:
- Signs of infection (e.g. redness, fever, chills)
- Deformity in the hand or fingers following an injury
- An inability to bend your fingers
- Worsening numbness in the hand or fingers
- Persistent, recurring, or worsening pain
- Debilitating pain that interferes with daily activities
- Swelling or stiffness in the hand
- A popping sensation with movement or unnatural hand position
Hand Pain Treatment In North Dakota
Hand function is critical to daily activities. If you’re suffering from pain in your hand, there are many ways to assess and treat it at home. However, if hand pain is impairing your quality of life, see a doctor to diagnose the cause and discuss which treatment options are best for you.
Here at The Bone & Joint Center, our hand specialists can diagnose and treat your condition, restoring your hand strength and function once again. If you have any questions or would like to make an appointment, contact our friendly staff today at (800) 424-2663 or fill out our convenient online form. We look forward to helping you find long-lasting relief from your hand pain!