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Study finds common conditions affecting tendon of hand, wrist may not need surgery

Common conditions affecting tendon of the hand and wrist often do not require surgery, contrary to oft-recommended treatment options. This is according to Julie E. Adams, MD, lead author of a literature review appearing in the December 2015 issue of ‘The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’, who stated that some conditions “often get better with nonsurgical treatment such as corticosteroid injections, therapy programs, by activity modifications or rest with splinting.”

Surgery not always necessary

A study finds that common conditions affecting tendon of the hand and wrist often do not require surgery, contrary to oft-recommended treatment options.

Many tendon problems of the hand and wrist are related to chronic degeneration or underlying conditions. Sometimes, a size mismatch between a swollen tendon(s) and the overlying tendon sheath may result in hand pain and functional limits for patients.

“Fortunately, most of these conditions respond with nonsurgical treatment options,” said Julie E. Adams, MD, lead author of a literature review appearing in the December 2015 issue of The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Surgery is sometimes advised if the patient doesn’t get better with other treatments.”

Common tendon-related conditions of the hand and wrist include:

  • Trigger finger, as the name implies, is where the finger can catch, lock or get stuck with bending. This can be painful to the patient and may limit activity. In some cases, the tendon is swollen but doesn’t get stuck and the patient may have pain in the palm, which can be made worse when gripping or grasping objects.
  • De Quervain’s tendonitis is a condition that affects the tendons in the wrist near the base of the thumb. The tendons can become swollen and irritated, resulting in pain when the patient bends the thumb across the palm toward the small finger. This condition, also known as “texting thumb,” occurs in indivdiuals who often lift objects such as babies or laundry baskets, which require moving the wrist from side-to-side, as well as in cross-counry skiers.

“Both of these conditions often get better with nonsurgical treatment such as corticosteroid injections, therapy programs, by activity modifications or rest with splinting,” said Adams.

All the same, patients who experience hand pain may benefit from seeking medical care from a physician or an orthopaedic surgeon to help them understand if their pain is related to a tendon condition and to discuss treatment options.

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