The intricate neuromusculoskeletal system of the forearms, hands and wrists consists of numerous bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons and nerves. These interdependent structures provide us the ability to perform gross and detailed movements needed in daily life, sports and emergency situations. Thus, hand, wrist and forearm pain is very debilitating. "There are many common hand problems that can interfere with activities of daily living," according to The Ohio State University Medical Center. Hand and forearm pain may originate from a variety of sources including nerve impingement, arthritis, tendonitis, ligament injury and muscle tension.
Nerve signals travel in a split second from the brain to the hand. These signals originate in the brain, proceed down the spinal cord, into the spinal nerves, which branch off the spinal cord between the individual vertebrae of the neck and upper-middle back and continue through the nerves in the shoulders and upper extremities before reaching the hand. Symptoms associated with pressure on a nerve include sharp shooting pain, burning sensations, numbness, tingling, weakness, decreased mobility and muscle atrophy. Common areas where the nerve entrapment occurs are between the individual cervical and upper thoracic vertebra, underneath the collar bone and upper chest muscles, in the elbow and inside the carpal tunnel of the wrist.
Arthritis of the hand and wrist comes in two most common forms. Osteoarthritis, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease, is a wear-and-tear disease that occurs in the joints where an injury occurred or in joints where the highest amount of stress is placed. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease, in which the body's immune cells mistakenly attack the thin membrane that lines the joints. Both of these arthritis types may lead to pain, lack of function and disability in the hand.
Inflammation of the tissues which attach the muscles to the bone is called tendinitis. Lateral epicondylitis, also called "tennis elbow," occurs on the outside of the elbow and forearm. Medial epicondylitis, also known as "golfer's elbow" or "baseball elbow," is pain and tenderness on the pinky side of the elbow and forearm. These common sources of forearm pain occur when incorrect form, muscle imbalances or repetitive motions increase the amount of pull on the tendons attachment to the bone resulting in pain, tenderness and muscle fatigue.
Ligament Sprain and Muscle Strain
Trauma or cumulative repetitive sub-trauma to the upper extremity can cause a sprain to the ligament or muscle strain. Overstretching and over use of these structures causes micro-trauma, resulting in pain, swelling, decreased pain-free range of motion, fatigue and weakness. Trauma to the forearms, wrists, hands or thumbs can be devastating to your ability to perform simple daily activities. Sprain/strain injuries come in the form of falls, working in incorrect body positions, over-stressing a joint with repetitive motions and static positioning.
Exercise goes a long way in hand health. An exercise routine for the entire body with emphasis on the forearms and hands increases strength, flexibility, stamina and joint range of motion. Work with correct body positioning in all endeavors and listen to your body. Pain is a signal that an underlying problem exists. During frequent breaks from your work station walk around, stretch your forearms, massage your hands, perform nerve slides and execute range of motion rolls for your neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands and thumbs. Take micro-breaks from your static work positions by pinching your shoulder blades together, expanding your ribcage and taking several deep breaths.