Hands are vital for daily activities, providing the capability to perform both broad and fine motor movements – be it picking up large items, performing delicate tasks, having the dexterity to use tools, or even to control a forceful grip. Each hand consists of 19 bones in total, and is made up of 4 segments, which are the fingers, back of the hand, palm and wrist. The main nerves of the hand include the median, ulnar and radial nerves, which function to relay messages from and towards the brain, thereby creating sensation and controlling movement. In this page, we explore the common hand injuries, key medical conditions affecting the hand and the treatment options available.
Common Hand Injuries
Hands are susceptible to a number of common injuries caused by sports or recreational activities, accidental falls and even everyday wear and tear. Most minor injuries like cuts and bruises heal on their own, but certain injuries may lead to serious conditions that can affect hand function in the long run. Common hand injuries include:
Trauma may fracture the bones that make up the hand, be it the small (phalanges) or long bones (metacarpals) of the fingers. The injury may require surgical attention should the force of impact cause the bone to break and displace from its original position. Fractures can result from a fall, a twisting injury or from direct contact in sports.
Symptoms of bone fracture in the hand include pain, tenderness, swelling, deformity at the area of the fracture and limitation in movement. For minor cases, treatment usually requires immobilisation with cast support until the bone fragments heal, which can take about 6 – 8 weeks. Surgery may be required to align and stabilise badly deformed fractures. You may also choose to fix less severe fractures with strong metal screws and plates instead of having a cast. This allows you to use the hand immediately without the inconvenience of a cast and may hasten your return to sports. Consult with your doctor to understand the treatment options available.
Arthritis is a condition where inflammation occurs in the joint area. In the hands, osteoarthritis is common, where the protective cushion between the joints (cartilage) wears out due to ageing or wear and tear. Genetic factors, joint instability and injury may also contribute to osteoarthritis.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, stiffness, limited motion, swelling at the joint area and at times a grinding sensation when moving the joint.
Supplements such as glucosamine, fish oil, ginger and turmeric can help with symptoms of arthritis. If they become more severe, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) or steroid injections into the joint can alleviate pain and swelling swiftly. In very severe cases that are not responding to these, surgery may be needed to fuse the joint or replace it with an artificial one. Consult with your doctor to understand the treatment options available.