Thumb pain can become quite a hinderence to activities of daily living. Our thumbs have a lot of motion to give us the ability to oppose and grasp onto objects. However, as we age, there are some common degenerative changes that can occur to the thumb.
Wrist fractures are one of the most common traumas that I see as a hand surgeon. Often times, it occurs as a result of a fall from standing. Typically, the patient will have immediate swelling and pain in the wrist. Occasionally, the wrist fracture will not be shifted very much and may be treated non-operatively. However, there are other times where a reduction (setting the bone in place) is necessary.
Many patients come into the clinic with elbow pain that began without a specific incident that caused the pain. Most of the time, it's tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis. Contrary to the name, tennis elbow doesn't mean you must play tennis to get the condition. Another misnomer is that it's not actually a tendonitis (inflammation of the lining of the tendons), but rather an actual issue with the tendons themselves. It most often times involves small tears or attrition of the extensor carpi radialis brevis. There is pain when trying to pick up objects where the back of the hand is pointed towards the sky.
Many people have asked me what hand surgery is. Does it include just the hand? Does it include the wrist, elbow, or rest of the upper extremity? It's a difficult topic to answer but hand surgery typically includes surgery of the fingers, hand, wrist, forearm and elbow. Some hand surgeons are comfortable moving up the extremity and perform shoulder surgery as well. Many times, what a surgeon will treat has to do with his/her underlying surgical training. Traditionally, hand surgeons are those who received a fellowship in hand surgery after their residency training. Many hand surgeons 50 years ago initially were general surgeons.
Numbness and tingling of the fingers affects many Americans. There are multiple causes but carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome are two of the most common reasons. Carpal tunnel syndrome is associated with numbness in the thumb, index and middle fingers whereas cubital tunnel syndrome typically affects the small finger. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve at the wrist and cubital tunnel syndrome is associated with compression of the ulnar nerve at the elbow.