I’m often surprised that people do not consider chiropractic care for hand and wrist pain. We do more than just low back and neck pain. We are taught to address the spine and most other joints of the body including the hand and wrist.
Hand and wrist pain for the sake of this article is not about carpal tunnel syndrome. That is another topic for another day. Besides which, most carpal tunnel syndromes involve the neck. Hand and wrist pain can be independent of the neck.
What are the some of the more common hand and wrist pain cases that a typical chiropractor would treat? For one, overuse or repetitive strain syndromes that can manifest either as hand/wrist or elbow pain. The typical scenarios can be sports injuries, falling and catching oneself with the hand extended, weight lifting or lifting heavy items (such as with a recent move to another house). Even repetitive activities such as knitting, crocheting, computer usage can add to repetitive strain. Massage therapists also are at risk for repetitive strains with the heavy usage of their hands, forearms and elbows.
Pain along the thumb (usually of the dominant hand) is another typical pain syndrome seen by chiropractors. This is usually an inflammation of the extensor hallicus longus tendon – translation: inflammation of the tendon that goes to the thumb. This is usually of a chronic nature. Difficulty writing, picking up objects, performing fine motor skills with the thumb can be painful. The joint where the thumb attaches to the hand is the most commonly degenerative joint in the hand. That tells us we use our thumbs a lot. Over time the wear and tear stress upon that joint makes is vulnerable to degenerative or arthritic changes.
Finger pain shows up now and then. Typically, the finger doesn’t bend all the way. The pain is usually not disabling but annoying. I had a patient with such a case. He had low grade finger pain for over 20 years. He thought there was no cure. Just on a whim he ventured to ask if anything could be done for it. One treatment and the pain was totally gone and hasn’t returned since.
A typical treatment protocol for hand and wrist pain is of course chiropractic adjustments. I use the Activator (hand held device) which pinpoints the joint accurately. I also use the “speeder board” which is like a mini-drop table. This helps to jog loose the joint that maybe stuck. Soft tissue work is also helpful to reduce inflammation, break up adhesions, reduce muscle spasm, increase vascularity to the tissues and most importantly reduce pain. Checking other related structures can ferret out contributing causes to the pain. Typically, the elbow, shoulder and neck are the usual suspects.
In more advanced cases, testing for loss of strength and other orthopedic tests to rule out nerve entrapment syndromes, carpal tunnel syndrome, and thoracic outlet syndrome may be necessary.