The Mayo Clinic may be stating the obvious when it encourages you to seek immediate professional medical help when you notice a significant deformity or protruding bone, but any significant trauma to the hand or wrist is definitely cause for a trip to the doctor if not the emergency room. Outside of obvious traumatic injury, however, deciding when to call your doctor about pain in the far upper extremities can be difficult.
In general, any hand or wrist pain that is acutely pronounced and/or persistent should be reported ASAP to a qualified medical professional. Other tips regarding the acquisition of clinical assistance may depend upon the particular condition that you suffer from.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that arises when the median nerve becomes pinched or squeezed as it passes through a tight space in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. This can cause unpleasant numbness, tingling, and/or pain in the wrist, hands, and/or fingers. If left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can result in significant loss of mobility and can even cause the muscles of the hand to atrophy.
According to the popular medical information site Web MD, individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome can address mild symptoms of pain or numbness at home using treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications, applying heat/cold, and splinting to restrict range of motion. If after one or two weeks symptoms have not substantially improved, a doctor visit is probably necessary.
You should also call your doctor if you…
- Lose all or most of the feeling in your fingers or hand.
- Have trouble completing simple hand movements or repeatedly drop things.
- Cannot bring your thumb and index finger together with any amount of strength.
Basilar Joint Arthritis
Home treatments for basilar joint arthritis (or “thumb arthritis”) are similar to those for carpal tunnel syndrome, but they also have similar limitations. The result of the thinning of the cartilage between the thumb and the wrist, basilar joint arthritis can be addressed clinically through modalities that range from oral medications and corticosteroid injections to various surgical procedures.
If you suffer from basilar joint arthritis or fear that you may have developed this condition, call your doctor immediately if you experience…
- Pronounced hand/wrist stiffness and/or discomfort (including sharp pains and lingering aches).
- Decreased hand/wrist strength and/or range of motion.
- Significant swelling and/or a bony bump at the base of the thumb.
To Learn More
If you are wondering if it might be best to call a doctor about your hand or wrist pain, you probably should. Problems such as basilar joint arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome are progressive, meaning that they tend to get worse over time. By contacting a trained clinical professional, such as those on the Florida Hand Center team, you can catch and address small medical issues before they become big ones.