The wrist and hand are a complicated set of joints and articulations made up of the radius and ulna of the forearm and two rows of 4 small bones called Carpals. The finger joints extend from the carpal bones and each finger is made up of 1 small bone called a metacarpal (the end of this is the knuckle) and then 3 phalanges which are the long finger bones (the thumb only has 2). Muscles in the forearm activate the fingers by contracting long tendons like pulleys which run through the wrist and hand. Each hand consists of 27 bones in total which allow for us to manipulate objects with precision and provide us with a large range of function.
If you have had a fall on to your hand or wrist and have a significant loss of movement then please seek medical assessment as you may need an X-Ray.
Pain in the hand or wrist can be caused by so many factors from soft tissue injury and osteo or rheumatoid arthritis to specific joint complaints such as post plaster cast removal stiffness/pain and specific medical conditions. There can also be post operation pain and reduced function nerve release or more complex injury. It is always best to seek assessment from a Physiotherapist.
What can I do to help?
Simple painkillers (paracetamol) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDS, (ibuprofen) are available over the counter and can be very effective for musculoskeletal pain. If you are currently taking any form of medication it is advisable to consult your GP or pharmacist before taking pain relief.
Ice or heat
If your wrist or hand is painful then applying an ice pack can reduce swelling and pain. This can be repeated several times a day for 10 mins at a time as long as your skin condition and feeling in your hand is intact.
Home wax therapy units can also be utilised if available as long as your wrist/hand is not warm due to swelling and inflammation.
Elevating your hand and wrist if it is swollen and doing gentle movements with your hand can help with reducing swelling.
Reducing the strain on your wrist or hand
It is usually best to carry out your normal activities unless you have been told otherwise, but try not to overdo it. You need to pace yourself to start with and try to do a bit more each day.
Physiotherapy treatment may consist of mobilisations, activities to improve dexterity and specific movements, taping/bracing to offload and always exercises for muscle strength and flexibility. Sometimes specialist splinting is required.