Q: I heard that injuries to your hands are among the most common in the upper body and are likely to result in more serious problems later in life. Is this true?
A: In order to accomplish all that they’re able, hands are comprised of a number of joints with many supporting ligaments, muscles and nerves. This, combined with the fact that they are such an integral part of our daily life and the first line of defense when shielding ourselves from a blow or breaking a fall, makes them vulnerable to a host of injuries over the course of our life.
Nearly 90 percent of women and 80 percent of men between the ages of 75 and 79 have X-ray evidence of osteoarthritis in their hands.
Repeated injury to any joint can create an unstable environment and possibly scar tissue that further disrupts joint function – all of which contribute to joint degeneration and related problems. Ensuring that torn ligaments, dislocations and fractures are successfully treated when they happen and that the affected joints are periodically monitored for changes can greatly reduce the risk of serious problems in the future.
Q: I fell on my thumb in a game of football and tore the ulnar collateral ligament. It was surgically repaired, but the doctor said that there could be future problems. What could these be?
A: Because of the flexibility of the thumb and its unique joint construct, it requires strong stabilization and monitoring. Occasionally the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint of the thumb remains unstable following an ulnar collateral ligament injury – and surgical repair. Chronic instability in a joint can predispose the joint to arthritis. It is important to periodically assess the joint for any changes.
Q: What sometimes causes numbing in my hands after a long bike ride – is this nerve-related, or circulation? What can be done to prevent it?
A: This is not a serious problem and is usually caused from compression of the ulna nerve at the base of the hand. Wear good gloves and change the position of your hands frequently. You may also want to consider triathlon bars for better hand positioning and more comfortable grip.