Wrist & Hand Nerve Damage & Pain
Wrist & hand nerve damage at a glance
- A nerve injury can occur when the finger, hand or wrist is overstretched, cut, crushed or burned.
- Nerve damage can be caused by an injury, illness or nutritional deficiency. For example, motor vehicle accidents, work injuries and falls are common causes of nerve injuries.
- Symptoms of wrist and hand nerve damage include numbness and difficulty moving the affected hand or wrist.
- Treatment depends on the severity of the injury, and may include rest and immobilization, physical therapy, and in some cases, surgery.
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Causes of hand & wrist nerve damage & pain
Nerve injury in the hand or wrist
Injury to nerves in the hand or wrist is often caused by trauma, such as the area being cut, overstretched, crushed or burned, damaging the nerve or nerve ending.
Medical conditions affecting nerve function
In addition to trauma, nerve damage can also be caused by a number of medical conditions including an infection, repetitive use, or other illnesses.
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Hand & wrist nerves impacted by damage & pain
The hands and wrists are comprised of many bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, arteries and nerves. When damage from trauma or other conditions occur in the hand or wrist, it can cause nerve pain and loss of functionality in the corresponding areas:
- Median nerve: allows individuals to flex their thumb, index and middle finger as well as move their thumb away from their palm.
- Ulnar nerve: provides a sensory pathway (which sends sensations like pain or temperature to the brain) for the palm, pinky finger and part of the ring finger, and provides motor function for fine hand motions and flexing of the pinky and ring fingers.
- Radial nerve: controls motor function of the wrist, fingers and thumb, and provides a sensory pathway to the brain for the thumb, index and middle fingers.
Symptoms of wrist & hand nerve damage
Wrist & hand pain, numbness & limited range of motion
The complex structure of the hand and wrist allows a person to have a wide range of motion. Individuals with symptoms of nerve damage may experience nerve pain or numbness in their hands and/or wrists that can limit their range of motion and make everyday tasks more difficult.
Similarly, when a nerve in the hand or wrist is pinched or compressed (such as in carpal tunnel syndrome), there can be pain and loss of feeling through the hand and fingers.
Loss of motor & sensory functions in the hand, wrist and arm
The nerves located in the hand and wrist affect motor and sensory functions. If a nerve in the hand or wrist is cut, severed, stretched or otherwise damaged, it will not function properly.
Damage to the nerves that control motor function can cause weakness, twitching and paralysis in the hand, wrist and arm.
Sensory nerve damage symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling, increased sensitivity, burning and problems positioning the hand correctly.
Nerve damage symptoms signaling other medical conditions
Symptoms of wrist or hand nerve damage unrelated to an injury may point be a sign of another medical condition such as infection or diabetes. This should be assessed by a physician.
Diagnosing nerve injuries & damage in the hand and wrist
In order to diagnose nerve damage, the physician will conduct a physical exam and order a variety of tests to evaluate a patient’s hand and wrist. Tests might include:
- Physical exam
- CT Scan
- An electrodiagnostic nerve study (EMG)
Treatment of hand & nerve damage & pain
In the majority of nerve damage cases, the problem cannot be fixed completely but a variety of treatments and medications can help alleviate symptoms.
Resting, immobilizing and or exercising the hand and wrist can help relieve pain from nerve damage.
Anti-inflammatories can also relieve pain caused by nerve damage. However, it’s important to talk to a doctor or pharmacist before using anti-inflammatories as these medications may interact with other medications and medical conditions.
If hand or wrist pain is chronic, consult with a physician to confirm nerve damage and review the best at-home methods.
Surgery for wrist & hand nerve damage
If the nerve is pinched or compressed, surgery may be able to release the nerve and restore functionality, depending on the severity of damage and how long the nerve was compressed.