There is absolutely no question that the human hand is uniquely designed to set us apart from other primates. In fact, it all comes down to the way our thumbs are designed. We are able to bring the thumb across the palm of the hand to meet up with the pinkie or ring finger. This opposable thumb design not only allows us to have the dexterity to handle small objects, but also gives us a very firm grip.
For the most part, we tend to take the use of our hands for granted. We use them constantly throughout our daily lives to do everything from typing, to moving boxes, to eating. In fact, it is not until we develop hand pain that we really begin to realize just how much we expect our hands to do for us. When hand pain does strike, it can feel completely incapacitating.
Causes of Hand Pain
Hand pain can be classified into two broad categories of either injury or illness. Hand pain can affect any of the hand structures, including bones, muscles, tendons, joints, blood vessels, or connective tissue. Some of the more common causes are listed below:
Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis: In osteoarthritis, the cartilage between the bones becomes worn away with age. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks its own tissue. Both conditions can result in stiff, painful fingers and hands.
Carpal tunnel syndrome: Although this condition mainly involves the wrists, it can spread into the palm of the hands, leaving a painful, numb, or tingling sensation. It occurs when the carpel tunnel, through which the medial nerve leading to the hand must pass, becomes inflamed or swollen.
Trigger finger: Like carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger can be a repetitive use injury. The tendon sheaths for the fingers will become irritated and swollen, causing them to catch when bending or straightening them.
Treatments for Hand Pain
In most cases, mild to moderate hand pain can be treated with massage, over-the-counter pain medication, heat or ice, rest, and the use of a splint to keep the hand immobilized. In some cases, cortisone injections may relieve inflammation. For severe cases in which the hand or fingers are completely immobile, surgery can be done to loosen up tight tendons, such as for trigger finger.
When Dr. Nathen Horst sees patients with hand pain, he will perform range-of-motion testing and take x-rays to determine what the root cause may be. He will then do a series of adjustments to the various joints and tendons of the hand in order to relieve pressure on the nerves by easing the joints back into their proper alignment. This can either be done by hand or with a small spring-loaded metal device that can reach some of the smaller bones and joints in the hand. Dr. Horst may also perform adjustments on the wrist, arms, shoulder or neck, as the root cause for the pain may not actually be in the hand. If one side of the neck is tight, it may cause the shoulder, arm, and hand to try to compensate by being held in an unnatural position. Releasing neck tension will then relieve pressure on the nerves all the way through the arm to the hand.