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MOVE

Give yourself a (pain-free) hand

Hand and wrist pain is nagging, annoying and extremely common. It shouldn't be too surprising that millions of Americans experience hand pain, considering all the work we put our hands through every day. Repetitive motions can be hard on the many small bones that make up our hands and wrists.  

Carpal tunnel syndrome or de Quervain's tenosynovitis are two conditions that could be the source of your pain.  

Carpal tunnel syndrome
More than three million Americans are diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) each year, and it can develop because of repetitive hand movements. Symptoms are unpleasant and include burning, tingling, weakness or numbness in your palm and fingers, most often in your dominant hand. Oftentimes, CTS pain occurs at night when your wrists are bent while you sleep, causing the pain to flare up.  

Women are three times more likely than men to have CTS. Some scientists believe that the hormonal changes women experience in pregnancy and menopause or having smaller bones than men may explain why women more often experience these conditions; however, both men and women with medical conditions like diabetes, hypothyroidism, obesity or arthritis are more likely to get CTS or de Quervain's tenosynovitis.  

de Quervain's tenosynovitis
Less common than CTS, but just as painful, is de Quervain's tenosynovitis, which causes pain and swelling near the base of your thumb. It could feel as if your thumb has a stickiness to it—like you'd have no chance winning a thumb war.  

Overuse and repetitive motions are associated with de Quervain's tenosynovitis. Women in general, but especially new moms and pregnant women, as well as people between the ages of 30 and 50 are most at risk. If left untreated, de Quervain's tenosynovitis can limit the mobility of your hand and wrist.  

What do you do?
Both syndromes can be treated by taking care of your hands and wrists. 

  • It's important to give yourself a rest from the motions causing your pain—whether it be typing, golfing, knitting or assembly work. Take frequent breaks, shaking out your arms and legs and changing your body position.
  • Stretch your hands and wrists regularly:
    • Extend your arm in front of you, palm up.
    • Bend your wrist, pointing your hand toward the floor.
    • With your other hand, gently bend your wrist farther until you feel a mild to moderate stretch.
    • Hold for 15 to 20 seconds.
  • Ice your wrists twice a day for 15 to 20 minutes to help reduce swelling and pain.
  • Take a look at your ergonomics. Are your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle to the keyboard? An ergonomic mouse or keyboard could help with painful symptoms. Pain can also be caused by awkward stances or positions or if you remain in one position for a long time. Talk to someone about proper workplace ergonomics.

Talk to your provider about your hand and wrist pain to help address these issues and get the proper steps to finding a solution.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

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