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Wrist and hand pain are intimidating since we use them continuously throughout our day. Several reasons can lead to wrist and hand pain which could limit our ability to perform normal activities. Physical therapy is effective in providing hand pain relief, and in this article, we walk you through the various reasons for hand pain and how physical therapy can help with hand pain relief.

What Leads to Hand Pain?

The human hand is made of different bones, muscles, and ligaments that are responsible for a strong and dexterous movement while doing various activities. Hand pain may originate from bones, joints, connective tissue, tendons, or nerves. 

Short-term hand pain may be caused due to an injury, sprain, inflammation, or nerve damage. But chronic hand pain may be severe and results from various health conditions. This type of long-term or chronic pain needs physical therapy for a complete recovery. Now we will explain the different conditions that may lead to wrist and hand pain.

1) Arthritis

Arthritis is a common condition that leads to inflammation of single or multiple joints. It is a common condition that affects 54 million adults in the United States. Arthritis is the primary cause of hand and wrist pain. It is a progressive disease. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common types of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is caused due to the wear and tear of the cartilage, a connective tissue in the joints between the bones. As the cartilage gets damaged, it results in the rubbing of two bones, thus leading to osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints and tendons around the wrist and fingers.

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Some of the symptoms of arthritis are loss of strength in the fingers, morning stiffness, swelling, and severe pain in the hands.

2) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which increased pressure on the median nerve, located in the palm side of the hands. It goes through a passage in the wrist and ends in the hand called the carpal tunnel. The median nerve provides sensation to the thumb, middle and index fingers, and half of the ring finger.

It causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the wrist. The common symptoms are severe pain in the wrist extending to the fingers, numbness in the hands, trouble grasping objects or doing normal activities.

3) Elbow Bursitis

Elbow bursitis is a condition that causes pain, swelling, and redness at the tip of the elbow, which is called the olecranon bursa. The olecranon bursa is a thin sac filled with fluid. When the burse gets inflamed and filled with extra fluid, it leads to pain. This condition is termed elbow bursitis. The most common symptoms are swelling and pain in the elbow.

4) Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is another type of nerve injury that affects the ulnar nerve, also known as the “funny bone” nerve. Increased pressure on the ulnar nerve that passes through the inside of the elbow leads to irritation and pain in the forearm. 

The most common symptoms of this condition include pain and numbness in the elbow, weakness in the ring and little fingers, and decreased overall hand grip.

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Physical Therapy for Hand Pain Relief

It is a well-known fact that physical therapy is effective in treating any kind of chronic pain. Physical therapists ask the patients’ medical history and examine their hand movements to provide them with a personalized treatment plan according to the reason behind their pain. Physical Therapy for Hand Pain Relief includes the following methods.

1) Heat/Cold Therapy

Heat therapy can increase the temperature of the soft tissue and relax the muscles. Physical therapists use heated gel packs or heating pads to an affected joint to promote hand pain relief. Patients can take a warm shower in the morning that can relieve morning stiffness in the joints. Heat therapy promotes joint lubrication, reduce muscle spasm and ease the pain.

Cold therapy decreases the temperature of the soft tissues and slows down blood circulation. Patients can easily carry out cold therapy by wrapping ice cubes in a towel and applying them to the area experiencing pain. Cold therapy speeds the recovery process, reduces pain, inflammation, and swelling.

2) Graston Technique

Graston technique is one form of manual therapy where the physical therapists use stainless steel tools to locate the affected areas and break down the scar tissues. It effectively promotes hand pain relief in patients struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome and golfer’s elbow. This technique improves mobility and muscle tone by reducing irritation of the tendons. Graston technique can reduce numbness and pain in the hands.

3) Therapeutic Exercises

Therapeutic exercises assisted by physical therapists help the patients to involve in safe physical activity without causing injury. Some of the physical therapy exercises for hand pain relief include wrist flexion, finger flexion, wrist flexor stretch, wrist extensor stretch, wrist deviations, and prayer stretch. 

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These exercises can help reduce pain, maintain strength and flexibility, restore function and mobility. Physical therapists recommend therapeutic exercises after performing heat and cold therapy alternatively.

4) Other physical therapy modalities that promote hand pain relief include ultrasound therapy, ASTYM therapy, and electrical stimulation.

Final Thoughts

Wrist and hand pain can affect an individual’s everyday life, but physical therapy can effectively reduce the symptoms and promote hand pain relief. Physical therapists find the root cause of the hand pain and provide treatment accordingly to prevent future injuries. They also suggest patients use night splints to reduce discomforts and educate them on maintaining a good posture in their workplace.

Shabbir Ahmad

Shabbir Ahmad is a freelance enthusiastic blogger & SEO expert. He is the founder of Shifted Magazine & Shifted News. He contributes to many authority blogs including porch, hackernoon & techcrunch.