Hand injury

What are hand injuries?

There are many different types of hand injuries, most of which occur due to trauma, but some also occur due to over-exertion or compression. Injuries can occur to the bones, muscles, nerves, ligaments, and skin of the hand, wrist and fingers, and different treatments are needed for different injuries. Some common types of sudden hand injury include:

  • Breaks and fractures – blunt trauma to the hand, wrist, or fingers can fracture or even break the bones in these parts of the body.
  • Dislocations – when a bone is pushed or pulled out of its normal place.
  • Lacerations – cutting the skin on a sharp object is one of the most common hand injuries.
  • Burns – damage is mainly done to the skin and soft tissue.
  • Sprains (joint injuries)
  • Strains (pulled muscles)
  • Crushing injuries – these can lead to compartment syndrome, where an area of tissue becomes enclosed and swells, leaving the muscles, nerves, and blood vessels no room to expand. This is incredibly painful and can cause tissue death if left untreated.
  • Tendon injuries, e.g. mallet finger
  • Ligament injuries, e.g. skier’s thumb

Some common types of overuse injury are:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome – the median nerve in the wrist becomes trapped, leading to pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the hand and fingers.
  • Tendonitis – a series of tiny tears in a tendon due to overuse.
  • De Quervain’s disease – the tendons on the part of the wrist nearest the thumb become inflamed and swell up.

What are the symptoms of a hand injury?

Different injuries cause different symptoms. Most traumatic injuries will cause pain, bruising, and often swelling.

Fractures and breaks often limit the hand’s range of movement, and cause weakness. They may also be accompanied by bleeding or numbness, and severe cases can cause deformity.

Lacerations are characterised by bleeding, which in turn can cause weakness and pallor, while burns can cause redness, blistering, black areas of tissue, discolouration, and alterations or deformities of the skin, depending on the severity.

Overuse injuries typically result in pain and soreness, and may also lead to numbness, tingling, and weakness.

What causes hand injuries?

Hand injuries can either be caused by some sort of trauma or by overuse.

The most common cause is blunt trauma, resulting in injuries like breaks, fractures, sprains, and dislocations. Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive tasks or by over-exertion.

Contact sports, falls, fights, and strenuous tasks all carry the risk of injuring your hands. Sports that involve using the hands for weight-bearing (such as gymnastics) or for holding equipment (such as ski poles) can also cause injury. Nerve injuries, such as carpal tunnel can be caused by repetitive motions, such as typing on your computer.

Lacerations are also very common, and are usually caused by contact with a sharp object, while burns are caused by excessive heat or fire.

What is the treatment for hand injuries?

The treatment depends on the type, location and severity of the injury. Some injuries may heal on their own, while others may need help in the form of a cast, splint, bandage, or physical therapy. If more conservative treatments don’t work, your doctor may recommend surgery.

If the injury is severe, surgery may be required immediately. Serious breaks, fractures, laceration and burns require immediate medical attention, and if a crushing injury causes compartment syndrome, this too is an emergency. 

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