Orthopedic Hand Specialist in Santa Ana
Most people don't think too much about the important functions their hands perform every day until pain or injuries demand attention. The joints, tendons, and muscles within hands need to work well together to allow hands to effortlessly reach, grasp, catch, flex, bend, and make precise movements to complete tasks such as writing or manipulating small parts. A problem with any of the various structures in hands may lead to a referral to an orthopedic hand specialist in Santa Ana for further assessment, a more accurate diagnosis, or treatment.
Broken Bones of the Hand
Sports-related injuries, a hard fall, a sudden and direct impact, or a forceful twist or bend may result in a hand fracture (break in one or more bones). Hand fractures can affect the phalanges (small finger bones) or the metacarpals (longer finger bones). An orthopedic hand specialist in Santa Ana will look for signs of a fracture that may include tenderness and swelling, a noticeable deformity, or difficulty moving the affected part of the hand. Fractures can involve any part of the hand, including the thumb and wrist. Thumb fractures, in particular, require immediate attention since improper healing may increase the risk of developing arthritis of the hand.
When a ligament in fingers or thumbs is stretched beyond its normal range of motion or torn to some extent, a sprain occurs. While most people respond well to home remedies such as the application of ice or allowing time for the affected tissues, there are times when medical attention is needed. For instance, if he ulnar collateral ligament in the thumb is completely torn, surgery is usually necessary to repair the damage. Wrist sprains are also fairly common, ranging in severity from mild (ligament is stretched or irritated) to severe (ligament is torn). Treatment for most sprains involves some type of immobilization to allow healing to occur.
Diseases Affecting Hands
Arthritis is the most common condition that can affect all parts of the hand, including the wrist. As arthritis advances, it may result in changes in surrounding joints. Cysts may also develop around the end joints of fingers as cartilage becomes damaged. Carpal tunnel syndrome is another common condition often evaluated and treated by an orthopedic hand specialist in Santa Ana. Often affecting the median nerve, carpal tunnel syndrome can produce symptoms that include numbness, tingling, and burning sensations. As pressure on the nerve continues, symptoms often become more persistent and severe. If conservative treatments aren't effective, an open carpal tunnel release may provide relief.
Hands may also be affected by conditions like Kienböck's disease, an interruption to the blood supply to the small bones of the wrist, and De Quervain's tendinosis, an irritation of tendons around the base of the thumb. A Santa Ana orthopedic hand specialist can also treat problems due to trigger finger (finger catches or locks), and compartment syndrome, a decrease in blood flow that can be acute or chronic in nature. Hand deformities may also require attention from a specialist.
Diagnosis of Hand Problems
An orthopedic hand specialist in Santa Ana will use several methods to make an accurate diagnosis of a hand-related injury or condition. X-rays can identify broken bones in hands while a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or a computed tomography (CT) scan will show a more detailed view of tissues in hands. An arthrogram (joint X-ray where dye is injected to identify a pain source) may also be performed if symptoms are believed to be related to issues with the wrist joint.
Treating Hand Problems
Treatment for hand problems will depend on the severity of the symptoms. Surgery is usually necessary if ligaments are completely torn or a fracture is severe and not responding to other treatments. If there isn't an urgent situation that requires surgical intervention, treatment of most hand problems typically involves:
- Gentle stretches and other forms of physical therapy
- Medications to reduce inflammation
- Splinting or bracing
- Modifications to activities to minimize pain triggers
- Injections with a local anesthetic and a steroid to directly treat the affected part of the hand and/or wrist
Being referred to an orthopedic hand specialist in Santa Ana doesn't necessarily mean surgery will be your only option. Oftentimes, the purpose of a visit is to achieve a more accurate diagnosis with methods such as electrodiagnostic testing or to determine if there are other treatment options available. Surgery is usually only an option is there is an immediate need to correct damage, as would be the case if a finger needed to be reattached (replantation) or if other treatments aren't providing sufficient relief.