What is happening to my fingertip? It doesn’t go straight anymore.
If you can’t extend the tip of your finger, you may have what is called a mallet finger. This happens when the end of the tendon that lifts your fingertip becomes separated from the fingertip. There are a few different ways this can happen.
Do I need to do anything about this? Will it heal on its own?
If you have a mallet finger, it needs to be treated; it will not heal on its own. You should consult with your doctor, and possibly a hand surgeon.
A hand surgeon? That sounds serious!
It may be. Sometimes the tendon comes off the fingertip with a portion of the bone – sometimes it only comes partially off. Having a specialist assess it and direct you will ensure you have a good outcome.
I noticed that after making a fist, when I try to straighten one of my fingers, it catches and becomes very painful. Sometimes it is necessary to take my other hand to force the finger back into a straight position.
The condition you are describing may be trigger finger (or trigger thumb), and is frequently caused by overuse. Some examples of activities that might initiate this condition are power washing a deck for several hours, using a rivet gun repetitively, leash training a dog or opening window latches that have a lot of resistance.
Why is there a hard nodule present in my palm? It’s tender to touch!
The nodule is actually extreme thickening of the tendon, and each time your tendon “triggers,” there is an inflammatory response that occurs (see diagrams below). Look at the swollen tendon in the first diagram, then take a look at the pulley in the second diagram. You will see that at some point, the nodule becomes so inflamed the tendon can’t glide underneath the pulley — that’s why it “triggers.”
Are pumpkin-carving tools really worth buying?
Yes, there has been real research on this topic. Dr. Alexander Marcus and his research group in Syracuse, N.Y. tested the performance of two different pumpkin carving tools against a serrated and a plain kitchen knife*. They tested the pressure it takes to cut or puncture a pumpkin with each of the knives and the pumpkin-carving tools. They then used the same pressure against the fingers of cadavers. The pumpkin-carving tools proved to be far superior and safer. The plain kitchen knife caused more injuries than the serrated kitchen knife. Both kitchen knives cut through both the tendons of the finger and, in some cases, a nerve as well. Kitchen knives require more force to puncture a pumpkin, meaning more opportunity for injury.
You can feel confident that investing in pumpkin-carving gadgets is a good idea. If you are interested in seeing the article along with pictures of the test, please be advised that there is a photo of a cadaver hand: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743504000374.
Here are some safe and creative ways to decorate your pumpkin this year:
I have pain on the outside of my elbow when reaching for objects with my elbow extended. The pain increases if the object weighs more than a few pounds, such as a gallon of milk, a coffee pot or the laundry detergent. How did I get this pain?
The condition you are describing may be lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as “tennis elbow.” The irony is that this overuse condition often occurs in non-tennis players from improper lifting and carrying of objects, or from performing activities that are highly repetitive in nature. The activities translate force to the outside of the elbow, causing inflammation and micro-tears in the tendon (see diagram below).
Paraffin wax can provide relief from arthritis pain, sore joints or sore muscles. It is a type of wax that is used for candles and can be used in your own home. A paraffin wax unit can be purchased for a low cost or even rented. Learn how to safely use one of these units for your hands by following these 9 steps:
1. Wash your hands with soap and water and dry them.
2. Rub lotion onto your hands: Hand lotion allows the wax to be removed easily after treatment.
3. Dip your hand into the wax (Figure 1 above): Your fingertips should go in first. Keep your fingers separated and submerse your hand all the way past the wrist if desired.
4. Remove your hand after it has been coated with wax.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4: Dip your hand 6-8 times, waiting a few seconds between each dip. This allows layers of wax to form over your hand.
6. Immediately cover your hand with a plastic bag and wrap with a hand towel (Figure 2 below): Wait 10-15 minutes. This will create moist, deep heat for your hand.
I have pain in the palm of my hand at the base of my thumb. It hurts more when I try to open jars, and I frequently have to ask someone for help. Is there anything I can do to make this less painful?
Hand therapists discuss something called joint protection, which is all about – you guessed it – protecting your joints! Thumb pain can occur when there is joint inflammation and swelling. With the use of the right tools, you can perform the same tasks while minimizing or eliminating the pain. Tools to help with opening jars come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
For jars that have a vacuum seal (pasta sauces or jam jars), a device called a jar popper/jar key can help break the seal without stressing your thumb. This works similar to a church key for removing bottle tops. It catches the side of the lid and you use the leverage of the tool to release the vacuum. Once that is accomplished, opening the lid is much easier – and less painful!
That’s interesting. Does it work for pill bottles, too?
Good question! Because pill bottles don’t have a vacuum, it does not work for them; however, there is another option to help you out.
Cubital tunnel syndrome: Hand numbness and tingling is not always carpal tunnel syndrome.
I have a funny tingling in my small and ring fingers while holding my cell phone to my ear or while holding a book when reading in bed. Why?
That “funny” sensation could be compression of the ulnar nerve at the elbow. The path of the ulnar nerve runs just behind the boney part on the inside of the elbow. The nerve is close to the skin and runs through a boney ridge without any substantial padding. The nerve must slide and stretch through this cubital tunnel with elbow movement.
Wait a minute! What does the nerve at my elbow have to do with the funny sensations in my hand?
Good question! The job of the ulnar nerve is to facilitate communication from your brain to your hand. This communication operates the muscles that help you perform coordinated movements with your fingers. Another job of the ulnar nerve is to take information about sensation at the ring and small fingers back to the brain. If the nerve is compressed or irritated, it can’t do its job. This condition leads to difficulty manipulating objects with your hand, feelings of weakness and sensations of tingling, numbness, burning or tightness in your fingers.
That doesn’t sound good. What can I do?
There is good news. There are some things you can try that might calm the nerve. Nerves do not like to be crowded. The ulnar nerve becomes crowded at the elbow with direct pressure over its path or when the elbow is held in a bent position for an extended period of time.
Here are a few tips: