Hand surgeon Mark Yuhas, MD answers your questions about ulnar-sided wrist pain.
What does it mean to have “ulnar-sided” wrist pain?
Pain on the ulnar side of the wrist refers to pain in the region of the wrist on the “pinky side” of the wrist joint. The structures on the pinky side of the wrist make a complex interaction with bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons. They allow us to grip, twist the forearm and wrist, and move the wrist forward (flexion) and backward (extension). In the wrist, injury or wearing down of these structures may lead to pain or instability.
What are some causes of ulnar-sided wrist pain?
In a relatively small area on the ulnar side of the wrist, there are many different structures. The main structures that cause pain in this part of the wrist are ligaments (soft tissue that connects bone to bone), tendons (soft tissue that connects bone to muscle), bone, or cartilage (allow joints to move smoothly). Also on this side of the wrist is the triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) which is a group of soft tissue structures that work together.
An injury to a flexor tendon is basically an injury to your muscle. The flexor muscles are the muscles that allow you to bend your fingers. These muscles are able to move your fingers through tendons, which are cord-like extensions that connect your muscle to your bone. The flexor muscles start at the elbow and forearm and turn into tendons just past the middle of the forearm. They then attach to the bones of the fingers.
These tendons can be injured, for example, by a deep cut. If you severely cut yourself, the cut could also damage surrounding structures such as nerves and vessels. Many times, an injury that looks simple on the outside, like a cut, can be very complicated on the inside. A severe cut that injures the tendons will mean that you won’t be able to bend your finger, as the flexor muscles allow this movement.
There are 5 different flexor muscles in the wrist and forearm, including:
LAST SUMMER, ANNA LEA Matysek of Sarasota, Florida, and her husband Jim set to work sprucing up their property. Some of the hardscaping that had been installed two decades prior had sunk into the soft, Gulf Coast soil, and it was time to break up that old concrete and elevate the flower beds. “We excavated these giant concrete pieces and then filled the trenches with rock and laid the pieces back down so that they’re now at surface level again,” Matysek says. The job took about two weeks and involved “a lot of digging, moving pieces of concrete and shoveling rocks.” By the end of the project, the property looked great, but Matysek was suffering from a classic case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports CTS “occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The carpal tunnel – a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand – houses the median nerve and the tendons that bend the fingers. The median nerve provides feeling to the palm side of the thumb and to the index, middle and part of the ring fingers (although not the little finger). It also controls some small muscles at the base of the thumb.”
A stiff elbow can be caused by a couple different things. It could be the result of a injury, such as a fall, and it could also result from a certain condition such as arthritis. Having a stiff elbow likely means that you are unable to move the elbow as you normally would. It makes it difficult to perform simple, everyday tasks. You likely cannot bend or straighten the elbow to pick up objects or rotate your palms to do things like wash your hands.
Here are different methods that your surgeon may recommend for treating a stiff elbow:
Hand surgeon Brian P. Kelley, MD, answers your questions about a broken hand.
How do I know if I broke a bone in my hand?
Breaking a bone, or fracturing a bone as a doctor may refer to it, is a common injury that can occur at any age. In fact, fractures of the bones of the hand represent one of the most common reasons for a visit to the emergency department in the United States (about 1.5% of all emergency visits). Also, fractures of the fingers represent about 10% of all types of fractures.
Fractures often occur after physical trauma, such as during sports, work, or falls. However, it’s important to remember that not all hand injuries involve a fracture of the bone. Other injuries, such as sprains or dislocations, may occur around the bones, but may not actually involve a break. In these cases, the soft tissues that hold bones together may be injured (such as ligaments, tendons, muscles, or cartilage).
Have you been experiencing pain in your wrist during day-to-day activities? Wrist pain may be attributed to many things, as the wrist is a complex network of tendons, ligaments, bones, vessels, and cartilage in and around the joints.
A common location of wrist pain is on the small finger side of the wrist, as highlighted in the image above. Pain in this area is referred to as ulnar sided wrist pain because it is on the same side of the wrist as the ulna bone. This area has a large collection of ligaments and cartilage that form a complex structure called the Triangular FibroCartilage Complex, TFCC for short. Pain here can greatly interfere with and limit day-to-day activities. So what should you look for?
What causes ulnar-sided wrist pain?
Acute injuries such as falling on your hand and/or a twisting injury while gripping can cause pain on this side of your wrist. Another culprit for such wrist pain can be repetitive stress from continued gripping and/or weight bearing. Sports such as tennis, baseball and gymnastics are examples of activities where these types of recurring injuries most often happen.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) – formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) – is a pain condition that can be present for a long period of time. Those with this condition have a dysfunction in their central or peripheral nervous systems, causing the system to send frequent or constant pain signals to the brain, which results in the nervous system becoming overactive.
Here are 8 signs that you may have CRPS:
- “Burning” pain
- Sensitive skin
- Changes in skin temperature (warmer or cooler compared to other parts of the body)
- Changes in skin color (often blotchy, purple, pale or red)
- Changes in skin texture (shiny and thin, and sometimes excessively sweaty)
- Changes in nail and hair growth patterns
- Swelling and stiffness in affected joints
- Decreased ability to move the affected body part