/ by Dr. Chase Kluemper
Whether you work in construction or in an office, your hands can be your most valuable tools. But that also means that your hands are particularly vulnerable to a variety of injuries. These injuries can result from accidents as well as develop over time.
Let’s go over how these types of injuries occur, how they can be treated and how you can reduce your risk for them:
What are some common types of work-related hand injuries?
I frequently see work-related injuries due to heavy machinery and sharp instruments as well as injuries sustained due to lifting/twisting. These are discrete incidents where a date of symptom onset can be identified.
I also see plenty of problems in the hand where symptom onset is gradual and potentially related to repetitive activities. Many forms of tendinitis, including tennis elbow, trigger finger and de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, can be caused or worsened by repetitive activities.
Nerve entrapment, such as carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel, can be influenced by posture of the hand, wrist and elbow while working.
It’s important to identify these conditions early before nerve damage progresses.
What symptoms are associated with these injuries?
The following symptoms in the hand, wrist and elbow can indicate tendonitis and nerve entrapment:
- Decreased motion.
What causes these issues?
Inflammation around the tendon sheath or tendon origin can lead to tendinitis. Inflammation can be caused by overuse, micro-tears of the tendon collagen itself and/or autoimmune conditions.
Nerve entrapment is frequently related to genetics, posture and inflammation in the structures around the nerve.
At what point should someone see a doctor for these issues?
If you notice pain, numbness or decreased motion in your hand, wrist or elbow that interferes with sleep, work or daily activities, you should see a hand surgeon at your convenience.
Are there any specific diagnostic tests you run?
When appropriate, we obtain X-rays, CT scans and MRIs. In the case of nerve entrapment, we order nerve conduction studies to evaluate how well your nerves are working.
What treatment options are available?
There are many treatments for these diagnoses. Non-operative options involve medication, therapy and injections. Operative options include relieving compression on tendons and nerves, as well as repairing damage to tendons and ligaments.
Is there anything people can do to reduce their risk for these injuries?
A workplace ergonomic assessment can be helpful to identify ways to help improve posture and hand position as it relates to work activities. Keeping wrists straight and elbows extended can help relieve pressure on your nerves while working on keyboards. Likewise, keeping screens at your eye level rather than having to bend your neck can help prevent cervical problems.
Many assembly line and factory workers could also benefit from this assessment, which can usually be obtained by an occupational therapist through your workplace. Our therapists at UK can provide this as well.
Why should someone come to the UK HealthCare Hand Center to have a hand injury treated?
The UK HealthCare Hand Center is one of very few comprehensive care units in the Commonwealth. We approach the care of upper extremity injuries and conditions though a multidisciplinary approach with fellowship-trained orthopaedic and plastic surgeons, physician assistants, nurses, and, importantly, hand therapists. Our therapists work closely with our surgeons to achieve motion and function after surgery, and, in some cases, instead of surgery.
You can rest assured that you are receiving leading-edge treatment in a caring, specialized environment.
Learn more about the UK HealthCare Hand Center and the services it offers by visiting our website or call 859-323-4263 to make an appointment.