It’s the little things in life that can get to us big time, and while the hands are not big and hand pain is not very common until our senior years, even a little hand pain can be a huge disability. Simple, everyday tasks such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, stirring oatmeal, holding a coffee cup or your child’s hand becomes miserable and frustrating when the hand is numb, tingling, weak or in pain.
Anatomy of the hand
The hand is a unique and complex part of the body, and all of the parts of the upper extremity are essential to functioning hands. Within the upper extremity, there are bones, joints, muscles, nerves, vessels and tendons that tie all of the parts together to form this brilliant work of anatomical engineering. The human hand has distinctive anatomical features, as compared to the rest of the body, including long thumbs and fingers that can be individually controlled.
It’s interesting that the dexterity of the human hand cannot be explained solely on anatomical factors, and due to the evolution of the central nervous system the hands are closer to the brain than anatomy suggests. Our unique appendage is a direct tool of our consciousness. Our hands represent our personalities through differentiated tactile sensations and gestures.
This holistic link between the hands the brain signals the importance of the health of the hands to the brain; when it’s ‘hands down’ nothing is effortless or easy.
Causes of hand pain
Trauma – fractures, dislocation or injury. Repetitive motion injuries, blunt trauma and lacerations are the most common traumatic injuries to the hand. In the design of the hand, form follows function, so injuries carry potential long-term effects if not treated immediately.
In addition to medical attention for hand trauma, keeping the rest of the body, especially arms and shoulders, healthy and happy can be beneficial. Myofascial release, grounding, electrical stimulation and water therapies are helpful for all hand pain.
Arthritis/Gout/Osteoarthritis/Rheumotoid arthritis: These conditions are different yet present similar symptoms that include inflammation, reduced mobility, weakness, numbness and pain. These symptoms can be treated using similar therapies, however, the conditions require medical care.
Water is a friend to these inflammatory conditions due to the soothing, cooling, buoyant nature of water. Soaking, bathing, swimming, floating or simply applying a warm, wet compress to the hands is a welcomed treatment to sore fingers and hands.
Grounding helps everything, so if you aren’t regularly grounding, you’re in for a great surprise! And, if you already use grounding, then, good for you – it’s good for all of us, no matter what.
Specialized myofascial release and massaging surrounding zones can ease the symptoms of these inflammatory conditions. Using massage balls in the thoracic outlet, upper arms, underarms and trapezius muscles improves circulation to the hands as well as gives therapeutic relief to tired and sore muscles and tissues.
Carpal Tunnel: The compressed nerve in the wrist can bring symptoms into the hands and fingers, such as numbness, tingling and/or weakness. Treatment varies from fairly non-invasive measures, such as pain management, to surgery and anti-inflammatory injections.
Splinting provides considerable relief for the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel, and does not weaken muscles. Water therapies are effective in relieving symptoms, as well as pain remedies. Grounding helps everything.
Neck problems: Cervical radiculopathy occurs when a nerve root in the cervical spine becomes irritated or compressed. In addition to other factors with this condition, symptoms can present anywhere between the neck, shoulders, arms and down into the hands and fingers.
Myofascial release and massage balls are the best front-line therapies to treat the symptoms that accompany cervical radiculopathy.
Lupus: The joint swelling into the hands is a secondary effect of lupus, and appears to be similar to the symptoms associated with arthritis, so treatment for the hands and fingers will be similar.
Ganglion cyst: This generally harmless growth can be a bit troublesome from mild symptoms that are usuallly temporary. Resting and splinting bring relief, and, if necessary, pain management methods. Remember, grounding is a proven therapy for pain!
Trigger finger/stenosing tenosynovitis: In many cases, the tender finger that’s stiff and noisy can resolve with at-home remedies, such as water therapies, splinting, resting, grounding, breathing and gentle exercises.
De Quervain’s: The thumb and wrist area near the thumb are the target of this condition. Symptoms of pain and tenderness are typically responsive to physical therapies, water therapies, pain management methods, and, as always, grounding.
Raynaud’s Disease: This complex condition requires specialized medical care. We include it because one of the main symptoms involves the hands, which are particularly sensitive to temperature. Warm water therapies, stress management, and grounding are helpful in treating the hands.
Treatment of hand pain
Due to the bony structure of the hand and vulnerable fingers, treating hand pain is a delicate matter. Often, the best remedy is time – give the hand a rest or soak it in some nice, warm water.
While leaving the hands to rest is a passive treatment, there are a number of therapies that can be administered to the surrounding zones of the body, such as arms, shoulders, chest, upper back and neck.
Myofascial release of the upper extremeties and the thoracic outlet area are vital in helping hands heal. Using massage balls on the chest, upper arms and trapezius areas improve circulation to the hands, as well as provide relief to sore, tight muscles.
Ice or heat?
Most of the time, ice is the answer, however, when it comes to bony joints they appreciate the warm moisture followed by ice.
Pain relief for the hands can come from several sources. OTC’s, topical analgesics, and herbal remedies can provide temporary relief.
Grounding: This back-to-the-basics therapy sounds too good to be true, but it’s that and more.
In the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, it reports that grounding appears to improve sleep, normalize the day-night cortisol rhythm, reduce pain, reduce stress, shift the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic toward parasympathetic activation, increase heart rate variability, speed wound healing and reduce blood viscosity (the ability of blood to flow through the blood vessels).
That’s a lot of benefits for a simple and pleasurable treatment!
Relaxation Breathing: Ironically, breathing has come a long way! This natural, automatic system of the body has long been overlooked as a method for treating pain, stress and many other conditions. Learn a simple breathing exercise and then use it – relaxation breathing can release endorphins, the painkillers of the body.
Exercise: Fitness has a remedy for just about everything, including conditions and symptoms of the hands.
Our health is in our hands! This double entendre is meant to get us fired up about taking appropriate measures when it comes to our health and doing what we can to stay healthy!