Wrist and hand problems represent more than 8% of all work-related injuries. Wrist and hand pain are so pervasive that they result in more days away from work than job-related back problems.
If you have a job that stresses your wrist and hands, you owe it to yourself to learn how the pain develops. Then you can take steps to prevent the problem.
Whether you already have wrist and hand pain or you want to learn how to work safely and avoid injuries, Gregory M. Stanley, MD, at Cascade Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center can help. After identifying the cause of your pain, he provides effective treatments and gives you tips on ergonomics and how to perform your job without developing injuries.
How jobs affect your wrists and hands
Your wrists and hands develop job-related injuries when you:
Repeat the same movement
Repeatedly using the same soft tissues (tendons, ligaments, and muscles) to perform the same movement causes stress. The stress naturally results in small tears.
If the tissues get a break from the same movement, your microtears heal. But when you don’t rest long enough, the wounds can’t heal, inflammation develops, and the tears enlarge - known as an overuse injury.
Overuse injuries often occur in jobs that require:
- Playing an instrument
- Operating a machine
- Using hand tools
- Assembly line work
- Using a cash register
These are only a few examples. Many work-related activities put you at risk of repetitive hand movement and overuse injuries.
Use certain tools
Tools that require you to maintain a strong grip increase your risk of injuries. Holding it compresses the tissues in your hand and fingers. Heavy tools such as drills and chipping hammers cause vibrations that traumatize your soft tissues.
Prolonged muscle contractions to hold and use a tool also stress your soft tissues. In all these examples, the activity disrupts blood flow and can cause nerve damage.
Have poor ergonomics
Ergonomics refers to your posture and how you hold your body while working. Many people think of posture as sitting up straight. While that’s also an essential factor, your posture includes the position of your arm, hand, and fingers in relation to one another and your body.
Maintaining good posture and keeping your body in a neutral position allows your muscles and bones to function with the least amount of stress.
Good posture distributes stress evenly over several areas. By comparison, poor posture places excessive force on one body part, increasing your risk of soft tissue inflammation and injuries.
Job-related wrist and hand conditions
The three causes listed above lead to painful wrist and hand problems such as:
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when a nerve gets pinched in your wrist. Nerve compression occurs when the tendons next to the nerve become inflamed. The tendon inflammation develops from repetitive movements and poor ergonomics (bending your wrist instead of holding it in a straight, neutral position).
Tendons connect muscles to bones. These sturdy tissues are responsible for moving the bones when your muscles tighten and relax. Needless to say, the tendons operating your fingers and wrists bear significant stress.
Everyday stress can cause inflamed tendons (tendonitis). Adding any of the other variables into your daily routine only increases your chance of developing a painful case of tendonitis.
Tenosynovitis refers to inflammation in the tendon sheath. The sheath is a membrane that surrounds each tendon, providing lubrication that allows smooth movement.
DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis occurs when you have pain and swelling in the sheaths surrounding the tendons in your thumb. Work-related activities may also lead to a trigger finger. In this condition, the tendon sheath of one or more fingers becomes inflamed and thickens, limiting or stopping finger movement.
Bursa are small, fluid-filled sacs located between bones and soft tissues. Inflammation of the bursa (bursitis) causes pain and swelling in the joints of your wrist and/or hand.
If you’re worried about the effect of your job on your hands or you need treatment for an existing problem, call Cascade Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center or request an appointment online today.