What are hand, wrist and elbow conditions? The hand, wrist and elbow are part of the upper extremity, which includes the shoulder, upper and lower arm, wrist, and hand. The hand contains 19 bones with eight more in the wrist that join to the two forearm bones. That means the wrist is actually a group of several joints and the hand also contains multiple joints. Because the hand and wrist are closely integrated, hand and wrist conditions can each affect the other body part. The elbow joint forms where the upper arm bone and two forearm bones meet. Your hand, wrist and elbow also contain multiple nerves and blood vessels, attachment points for muscles and tendons, and joint ligaments and cartilage. Hand, wrist and elbow conditions can involve any of these components. Common injuries include hand, wrist and elbow fractures and dislocations, but a variety of problems can result in pain and other symptoms. Common elbow conditions Elbow conditions include fractures, dislocations, and problems with the nerves, tendons and joints, such as: Cubital tunnel syndrome, a specific form of ulnar nerve entrapment, is compression of the ulnar nerve. This nerve provides feeling in the little finger and ring finger. Elbow bursitis is inflammation and irritation of the olecranon bursa in the elbow. Tennis and golfer’s elbow are forms of tendinitis due to overuse. Common hand and finger conditions Hand conditions include dislocated or broken fingers as well as other problems, such as. Dupuytren’s contracture occurs when the fascia layer in the palm thickens and tightens. Hand arthritis is usually osteoarthritis that develops from degeneration or wear and tear over time. Hand cramps are involuntary and forceful contractions of the skeletal muscles in the hand. Mallet finger (baseball finger) is injury to the tendon that allows the tip of the finger or thumb to straighten. Trigger finger is irritation of the flexor tendons that control finger and thumb movements. Common wrist conditions Wrist injuries are very common in urgent care settings. Injuries and conditions include: Broken wrist is a fracture of any of the bones in the wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome is compression of the median nerve, which controls muscles at the base of the thumb. Forearm fractures are broken bones—the radius and ulna—in the area between the wrist and elbow. Sprained wrist is injury to a ligament in the wrist. It occurs when the ligament stretches farther than it should. Seek prompt medical care for persistent symptoms of a hand, wrist or elbow condition. Seek immediate medical care (or call 911 for help) if you have severe pain or other symptoms of a broken hand, wrist or elbow bone. What are symptoms of hand, wrist and elbow conditions? Pain is a frequent symptom of many hand, wrist and elbow conditions. However, the type of pain can differ. The pain can be acute or chronic and it can feel dull, achy, sharp or stabbing. You may find that some activities worsen the pain, while others ease it. Other common symptoms of hand, wrist and elbow conditions include: Bruising Deformities Difficulty performing fine hand movements Lumps or bumps Numbness, tingling, burning, and other abnormal sensations Stiffness Swelling Warmth and redness Weak grip Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition Broken bones require immediate medical attention because they can lead to complications without proper treatment. Seek immediate medical care (or call 911 for assistance) if you, or someone you are with, have any symptoms of a broken bone including: A deep wound or trauma with open skin Bone sticking out through the skin Deformity of the hand, wrist or elbow Difficulty moving the elbow, wrist, hand or fingers Hearing a snapping or grinding sound during an injury Severe pain or swelling What causes hand, wrist and elbow conditions? Many causes of hand, wrist and elbow conditions are the result of either an acute or chronic trauma. Acute injuries are those that occur suddenly, such as with a fracture or sprain, and symptoms come about soon after the injury. Chronic injuries occur gradually over time. They are overuse injuries from repetitive stresses or forces on bones, muscles, tendons and joints. What are the risk factors for hand, wrist and elbow conditions? There are specific risk factors for many types of hand, wrist and elbow conditions. Each condition has its own factors that increase the risk of developing it. Playing sports is a common risk factor for conditions due to injury or trauma. However, medical conditions can also contribute to your risk of developing a hand, wrist or elbow problem. Osteoporosis is one example. It thins the bones, making them more prone to fractures. Certain jobs and work environments can also increase the risk of problems with the upper extremity if they involve repetitive movements. Reducing your risk of hand, wrist and elbow conditions You may be able to lower your risk of hand, wrist and elbow conditions by: Balancing strength training with stretching exercises Closely following your treatment plan for medical conditions Cross-training with a variety of activities Knowing your risk factors for osteoporosis and treating it if necessary Strengthening the muscles in your arms and upper body Strengthening your bones with weight-bearing activities and plenty of calcium and vitamin D Wearing protective sports gear such as wrist guards Don’t ignore persistent symptoms of a hand, wrist or elbow problem. Seeing your doctor promptly typically results in better outcomes. A doctor will evaluate your arm and symptoms, diagnose the condition (in most cases), and make treatment recommendations. How are hand, wrist and elbow conditions treated? Hand, wrist and elbow treatments depend on the problem and its severity. In general, the goals are to correct any physical problems and improve your symptoms. Many hand, wrist and elbow conditions respond to home treatments. This includes RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) and over-the-counter medicines to reduce inflammation and pain. Sometimes, doctors recommend splints, casts, joint supports, physical therapy, or corticosteroid injections. In a few cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the problem. What are the potential complications of hand, wrist and elbow conditions? The potential complications of hand, wrist and elbow conditions vary with the specific problem. Most people recover without any chronic problems after an injury. But it is possible for injuries to heal incompletely or improperly. An injury that doesn’t heal right can lead to complications, such as chronic pain or weakness. You can help avoid complications by carefully following your treatment plan after an injury or other diagnosis. Working with a physical therapist is another way to prevent complications. The therapist will also show you how to avoid future injuries and problems.