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Discomfort when typing or holding something?

By Rachel Herrmann, DPT

Let PT give you a helping hand with your elbow, wrist, or hand issue.  Physical therapist is not just about getting people walking again. Physical therapists can also treat your upper extremities issues that impact one’s ability to type, hold, grip, squeeze, and perform other fine motor tasks with one’s hand required throughout a typical day.  For example, some of the most common issues for we see throughout the elbow, wrist, and hand include tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, De Quervain’s tendinitis, and post- wrist fracture. Below are the common symptoms you may experience with each of these issues and their causes.

Tennis elbow (AKA lateral epicondylitis). People with this condition usually complain of pain of the outer aspect of the elbow. It can be especially painful when gripping or lifting things.  Despite the name for this pain, often times it is caused by activities other than tennis. Rarely is there one particular injury or incident that causes this pain, but rather repetitive activity or overuse of the muscles that lift the wrist up that is the primary cause.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the result of the compression of a nerve as it goes through the wrist. This compression can occur as a result repetitive hand/wrist use, inflammation at the wrist, swelling, altered wrist shape or mobility after trauma to the wrist, and sometimes for unknown reasons.  The compressed nerve will produce symptoms of pain, tingling, and/or numbness in the hand, thumb, index, and middle fingers and weakness of the hand/thumb. People with carpal tunnel often complain of clumsiness of their hands, difficulty gripping, and more frequently drop things.

De Quervain’s tendinitis is an inflammation of two of the tendons that controls the thumb resulting in pain along the base of the back side of one’s thumb and along the thumb side of one’s wrist.  There may also be swelling along these areas. This is also a condition caused by repetitive, overuse such as texting/typing on a handheld device and bottle-feeding babies.

Wrist fractures are also a very common occurrence usually due to a fall on a outstretched hand.  Immediately following a fracture, the wrist is usually immobilized for a period of time. Swelling, pain, stiffness, and weakness are common symptoms after a fracture whether treated conservatively with immobilization or treated surgically with plates and screws.

If you have had any of these pains or issues, physical therapy can help you;  the sooner the better. If not treated early, the pain and functional deficits can further worsen and further damage could occur to the tissues involved, making  recovery slower and more difficult. Through an evaluation with a physical therapist, you can learn more specifically about what factors are contributing to your symptoms; how to manage the pain, inflammation and swelling; what activities to avoid/limit; and how to go about treating your condition in order to help you regain your normal hand and arm use.

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