Orthopedic Elbow and Wrist Injuries and Treatment
Minor aches and pains are a part of life. But if that ache or pain progresses to a point that simple tasks become difficult, like buttoning your shirt or tying your shoes, it could be time to seek professional treatment.
Every day, the affiliated specialists at Memorial Hermann utilize the latest diagnostics and treatments to provide relief to patients with injuries and diseases related to the wrist and elbow. If pain is impacting your quality of life, we can help you get back to a life where you can more easily move, work and be active again.
Common Types of Hand Elbow and Wrist Injuries
At Memorial Hermann, our affiliated orthopedic specialists treat a wide variety of hand and upper extremity injuries – everything from complex lacerations and fractures, to congenital disorders and the reconstruction of nerves, joints and bones.
Below are a few of the most common elbow and wrist issues:
Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
Despite its name, you don’t have to play a single minute of tennis to develop tennis elbow. This condition involves the gradual degeneration of the tendons that attach to the bone on the outside of the elbow.
Tennis elbow can occur while performing common, repetitive actions that involve the wrist and forearm, such as lifting, gripping and grasping. It can affect anyone, but is most common in adults ages 30 to 50. If you begin to feel pain or burning in the outer part of your elbow or notice unexpectedly weak grip strength, these could be symptoms of tennis elbow and should be checked out by a specialist.
Golfer’s Elbow (medial epicondylitis)
Similar to tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow can affect people who have never set foot on a golf course. This condition occurs when the tendon on the inside of the elbow becomes stressed during activities such as throwing objects (like a baseball) or swinging a golf club.
With golfer’s elbow, pain and tenderness is usually felt on the inner side of your elbow and forearm, and you may have difficulty making a fist. Symptoms may appear gradually at first, and can often be treated with rest, ice and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
Carpal tunnel occurs when the median nerve is restricted as it travels through the wrist, causing numbness, pain and a tingling sensation in the hand and arm. The condition, which affects between 3 to 6 percent of adults in the United States (more commonly those between the ages of 45 to64), has a number of potential causes, including age, heredity and actions requiring repetitive hand or wrist motions.
Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and hormonal changes during pregnancy have also been linked to symptoms consistent with carpal tunnel. Additional symptoms include tingling or pain in the thumb, index, or middle fingers and reduced hand or finger dexterity due to weakness in the hand and wrist.
Trigger Finger (stenosing tenosynovitis)
If you’ve ever felt unusual pain, stiffness or the sensation of “catching” when you attempt to bend and straighten your fingers, you may have what’s known as “trigger finger.” This condition develops when the flexor tendons in your hand become inflamed, making it difficult or painful to extend or contract your fingers.
If left untreated, small nodules can develop on the surface of these inflamed tendons, causing them to catch as they pass through the pulley at the base of the finger. In extreme cases, the finger may become locked in a bent position. Causes of trigger finger are not well known, but certain factors including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and excessive force on the fingers and thumb may increase your risk.
Signs and Symptoms of Elbow and Wrist Injuries
While injuries such as cuts, sprains and fractures can result from direct trauma, the cause of wrist and elbow injuries may not be as obvious. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your body. It usually does a good job of letting you know when something’s wrong.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, it’s best to schedule a check-up with a trained orthopedic specialist to assess the severity of your condition:
- Tenderness or warmth due to inflammation around the wrist or elbow
- Swelling that does not subside after RICE treatment (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
- Pain that worsens during certain activities involving the hand, wrist or elbow
- Pain or stiffness in the morning
- Numbness and tingling that is more consistent or persistent
Treatment Options for Elbow and Wrist Injuries
At Memorial Hermann, we’re committed to providing you with as much information as possible about your injury or condition, so together you and your doctor can choose the course of treatment that works best for you.
Our specialized affiliated orthopedic surgeons believe the key to fully recovering from hand, wrist and elbow injuries is through physical therapy. For non-trauma cases, all non-operative options are exhausted before determining whether or not surgery is needed.
“Physical therapy is critical,” says Dr. Matthew Koepplinger, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann who specializes in hand and upper extremeties. “Flexibility, strength and stamina take a lot of time to get back to functioning normally. It doesn’t matter how well the surgery was performed if people can’t get back to a reasonable functional level.”
Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute is proud to provide advanced physical therapy and specialty care for patients at multiple locations across the Greater Houston area. Our team of experienced, affiliated physicians, therapists and sports performance specialists will help you find convenient rehabilitation options for your hand, elbow and wrist injuries so you can get back to your daily routine.
What Should I Do If I Have Elbow or Wrist Pain?
The affiliated orthopedic surgeons at Memorial Hermann treat more than athletes or trauma patients. They help everyday (consider dropping “everyday” here) people just like you overcome everything from sprained wrists to stiff, painful hands. The affiliated specialists have the knowledge and resources available to provide you with a quick and accurate diagnosis and put you on the path to recovery.
Memorial Hermann makes finding an orthopedic specialist in your area easy. Just use our online scheduling tool to find the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine facility that’s convenient for you.