Arthritis

Arthritis is a disease that causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. There are more than 100 types of arthritis. Two common forms are Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five adults in the U.S. has been diagnosed with arthritis. Although arthritis is considered to be an older person’s disease, Juvenile Arthritis (JRA) can affect young people.

There are many different causes of arthritis, including autoimmune disease, weight, injury, and stress on your body from work, sports and other activities. Arthritis can affect any joint—your neck, spine, knee, hip, thumb, hand, wrist—as well as other areas of your body, including internal organs. The most common place for arthritis is in the hand.

Symptoms

  • You have joint pain, achiness, stiffness, and swelling for more than two weeks
  • Your pain is worse in the morning or after sitting
  • Your joint feels warm to the touch
  • You have trouble moving your joints

What can I do about it?

Your healthcare provider can confirm that you have arthritis and recommend the appropriate treatment. Left untreated, some forms of arthritis can lead to complications.

Anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with your pain and swelling. Other medications may also be prescribed by your healthcare professional.  A physical or occupational therapist can recommend treatment to help reduce your pain and swelling and help you gain strength, mobility and dexterity.  Wearing a splint that rests your joints at night and provides support and comfort during the day may also be helpful.

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Boutonniere Deformity

Boutonnière Deformity describes the way your finger is bent—the middle joint bends down and won’t straighten while the fingertip bends back at the end joint.  Boutonnière Deformity can occur when the finger is jammed or crushed and the middle finger bone tears through the part of the tendon that inserts into the finger bone, leaving a hole the bone can extend through, like a buttonhole (or boutonnière in French.)

The tendons and ligaments that usually straighten the middle finger joint bend it down instead. These same tendons and ligaments now cause the fingertip to bends backwards beyond normal range. Arthritis, as well as a genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) can also cause Boutonnière Deformity.

Symptoms

  • You have pain and/or swelling on top of the middle finger joint right after an injury or up to three weeks following that injury
  • You can’t straighten the finger at the middle joint
  • You can’t bend your fingertip down

What can I do about it?

If left untreated, what seemed like "just a jammed finger" can become a long-term deformity not easily corrected with therapy or even surgery. The best treatment for a Boutonniere Deformity is early treatment with appropriate splinting or casting.

Applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with the pain and swelling. Ignoring the symptoms will not make Boutonnière Deformity go away. It is best to seek medical treatment early, especially if your symptoms persist.

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Broken Finger

Any break or crack in the bone of the finger is called a fracture. The bones of the fingers can be broken (or fractured) if they are injured or crushed during a fall on the hand, playing sports, or as the result of an accident.

Symptoms

  • Your finger is swollen and painful
  • Your finger looks crooked
  • It hurts to move your finger       
  • Your finger feels very stiff
  • You may see bruises on your finger

What can I do about it?

Applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with the pain and swelling. Untreated broken fingers can become stiff and deformed if untreated. It is important that you consult with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.  An x-ray may be needed to determine if your finger is broken.

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Broken Toe

Any break or crack in the bone of the toe is called a fracture. The bones of the toes can be broken (or fractured) if they are injured or crushed during a fall, while playing sports, or as the result of an accident.

Symptoms

  • Your toe is swollen and painful
  • Your toe looks crooked
  • Your toe feels very stiff  & may be hard to move              
  • You may see bruises on your toe

What can I do about it?

Applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with the pain and swelling.  If you think you have broken your toe, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider. An x-ray will determine if your toe is actually broken.

An untreated broken toe can become stiff and deformed if untreated

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Bunion

(Image courtesy of Footlogics Australia)

A bunion is a bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe. The big toe joint swells, forcing the toe against the other toes. This puts pressure on the big toe joint, pushing it outward beyond the normal profile of the foot, and resulting in pain. Bunions that occur on the joint of the little toe are called bunionettes or Tailor's bunions.

Bunions can happen for a number of reasons, but a common cause is wearing shoes that fit too tightly. They can also develop as a result of injury, inherited foot type, or stress on your foot  Bunions may also be associated with certain types of arthritis, particularly inflammatory types, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

While your foot shape and the way you walk may contribute to bunions, the most common cause is wearing high-heeled shoes and shoes that are too tight or narrow especially in the toe. Spending a lot of time on your feet can also aggravate bunions.

Symptoms

  • You have a bump on your big toe at the base
  • Your big toe is painful, sore, and may be red from rubbing against the shoe
  • Your toe burns or feels numb
  • You may have calluses on the big toe, sores between the toes, or an ingrown toenail
  • You have trouble moving your big toe

What can I do about it?

Treatment usually starts with new shoes. Shoes should be soft and wide with flat or low heels. A pad or cushion over the bunion may relieve rubbing if the shoe is wide enough to accommodate the padding. A gentle wrap that helps stretch the toe and holds it in proper alignment may also be helpful.

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes numbness, tingling and other symptoms in your hand and arm. Knowing the anatomy of your hand and wrist can help to explain carpal tunnel syndrome.

The median nerve and several tendons run from your forearm to your hand through a narrow space in your wrist called the carpal tunnel. This “tunnel” protects the median nerve and tendons that bend your fingers. Pressure on the median nerve, usually from swelling, can make the carpel tunnel smaller and “pinch the nerve” in your wrist causing pain and numbness.

The exact cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is not known but injuries; repetitive movements, such as typing on a keyboard; pregnancy, and some diseases can cause swelling making the carpal tunnel smaller. Conditions such as hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes can also cause swelling.

Symptoms

  • You have pain, numbness, or tingling in your thumb, first, and middle fingers
  • You may feel “pins and needles” in your fingers especially if you bend your wrist
  • Your fingers may “fall asleep” especially at night when sleeping with the wrist bent
  • You need to shake your hand to restore feeling in your fingers
  • You have trouble holding onto small objects

What can I do about it?

Resting your wrist in a neutral position and exercises to stretch and straighten the wrist reduce the symptoms of CTS. Splinting the wrist, and sometimes the fingers, decreases the swelling that may be filling the tunnel. Splinting the wrist to maintain a neutral position decreases the pressure on the median nerve.

If symptoms persist, seek medical attention to avoid permanent damage to the median nerve.

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Claw Toes

Claw toe is a fairly common condition that is often the result of nerve damage that weakens the muscles in your foot. Having “claw toes” means the bottom half of your toe points up and the top half curls downward like an eagle’s claw. Claw toes, which usually affect the four smaller toes, can be caused by wearing tight shoes, as well as by arthritis and diabetic nerve damage. Claw toes can be flexible or rigid. If your claw toes are flexible, you can use your hand to straighten the joints. Rigid claw toes are very painful and cannot be straightened by hand. Without treatment, claw toes may get worse and toes may become permanently deformed.

Symptoms

  • Your toes are bent at the middle and top joints
  • Your toes hurt
  • It’s hard to find shoes that fit
  • You may see calluses or corns on your toes

What can I do about it?

Treatment usually starts with new, low-heeled shoes or sandals. Shoes should be soft and roomy. The front part should be wide enough to accommodate your toes without squashing them together. Wearing Toe Loops to keep the toes straight and cushioned is also helpful. 

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CMC Thumb Arthritis


Arthritis occurs when the cartilage – the flexible tissue that covers and protects the joints - wears out. Without this cushioning, the bones in the joint grind together wearing the joint down. Carpometacarpal (CMC) joint arthritis is arthritis at the base of your thumb, where your thumb and wrist meet. As the cartilage wears down, the ends of the bones rub together causing pain and making it difficult to use your thumb.   

Named for the bones that make up the base joint of the thumb – a Carpal (wrist) bone and a Metacarpal or long bone of the thumb – the (CMC) joint is the most common place in the hand for arthritis. CMC joint arthritis can be mild or it can progress over time, and it is best to treat it early with some simple measures.

Symptoms

  • Pain at the base of your thumb
  • Pain when you pinch or grip small objects, pens or keys
  • Pain or tenderness when you press on or around the joint

What can I do about it?

Wearing a splint or brace that helps support your thumb is one way to reduce pain and lessen the effects of arthritis on your thumb. Thumb splints offer different levels of support depending on the way they are made. Flexible fabric splints provide compression and support for stability, while splints with metal strips help hold the thumb in place to allow it to rest. Choosing the right splint is key to properly manage your CMC joint arthritis.

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DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis

DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis (Dee-quare-vanes-T-no-sigh-no-vie-tis) describes a problem of inflammation and swelling in the tendons on the thumb side of your wrist and up the side of your forearm. The cause of de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis may be overuse when lifting or performing side to side motions with your hands. Working in the garden, playing golf or picking up a baby are common activities that can lead to deQuervain’s Tenosynovitis. Many times deQuervain’s occurs with no known cause or activity behind it.

Symptoms

  • You have pain and/or swelling near the base of your thumb and along the thumb-side of your wrist
  • You have pain that radiates from your thumb that then runs along the thumb side of the forearm especially when bending your wrist down as you make a fist.
  • It’s difficult to make a fist, grab an item, or cradle the back of an infant’s head with your thumb outstretched
  • You have tenderness with pressure over the tendons at the bottom of your thumb

What can I do about it?

Applying ice and taking anti- inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen can help with the pain and swelling. Resting your thumb and refraining from any activities that make it worse can also be helpful. Wearing a splint that keeps your thumb in an extended position, with the wrist in a neutral position helps to reduce swelling and limits the motions that cause de Quervain’s.

Ignoring the symptoms will not make deQuervain’s go away and it‘s always recommended to treat it early and to consult with your health care provider if your symptoms persist.

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Dislocated Toe

If you have a dislocated toe, the bones in your toe are out of place or misaligned. You have two joints in your toe, one where your toe and foot meet and the other nearest to your toenail. Either joint can be dislocated through minor injuries, like stubbing a toe or tripping and rolling a toe forward or back. Toe dislocation is also common among runners and athletes who change direction quickly. That rapid change of course can put a lot of stress on a toe and force it to bend too far forward or backward.


Symptoms

  • Your toe looks bent or crooked
  • Your toe hurts and is hard to move
  • You can see swelling and discoloration around the toe

What can I do about it?

Applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with the pain and swelling. It’s very difficult to tell the difference between a dislocated toe and a broken toe. Your healthcare provider, can provide a proper diagnosis and return your toe to its correct position.

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Ehlers Danlos Syndrome

Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a rare genetic disorder of connective tissue that causes unusually flexible joints, very elastic skin, and fragile tissues.

There are six major types of EDS. Hypermobile or Type III is the most common type. Symptoms of Hypermobile EDS include loose, unstable joints and long-term joint pain. People who are “double-jointed”, that have joints that move well beyond the normal range, may in fact have a form of EDS. Symptoms of Classical EDS, the second most common type, include highly elastic and delicate skin that tears and bruises easily.

Symptoms

  • Your joints are hyper-flexible and move well beyond the normal range of motion
  • Your skin is stretchy and elastic
  • Your skin is easily damaged and doesn’t heal well
  • You have joint pain

What can I do about it?

Protecting your joints and skin is crucial in managing your EDS. Sunburn and injuries to the skin are difficult to skin that is fragile.  Wounds must be tended with great care and infections treated and prevented. Contact sports, such as football, and exercises, like running, that heavily impact the joints, should be avoided. Braces/Splints that help support stable joints without limiting function may be helpful.

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Gamekeeper’s Thumb


Gamekeeper’s thumb, also known as Skier’s thumb, happens when your thumb is pushed sideways away from the index finger, tearing the ligaments between the bones in your thumb. A fall, where you catch your thumb on the way down or a strong twisting motion is common causes.  Wiping out on the slopes while you’re holding a ski pole or using a tool to loosen a tight screw—can stretch or tear the ligament. Gamekeeper’s Thumb can also be caused by an injury that worsens over time. 

Symptoms

  • You have pain when you pinch an object between your thumb and forefinger
  • It’s hard to grasp or hold onto an object
  • Your thumb may appear crooked, as if it is leaning away from your hand

What can I do about it?

It is important to get the correct diagnosis before attempting to treat this or any other thumb problem.  With that said, as with any injury, reducing pain and swelling with ice and anti-inflammatory medications can help.  A splint that stabilizes and protects your thumb can also be worn to give the ligament time to heal. In some cases, if the ligament has torn away from the bone, wearing a splint that will protect the thumb from further injury until surgery can be done may be recommended.

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Golfer’s Elbow



Golfer’s elbow describes when you feel pain around the bony bump on the inside of your elbow. The pain may extend down your arm, all the way to the wrist. (Tennis elbow describes a similar pain that occurs on the outside of the elbow.)

Golfer’s elbow is not just caused by swinging a golf club. Any activity that requires repeated twisting or flexing and extending the wrist—like painting, spring cleaning, and even shaking hands may cause that pain in your elbow to flare. The pain may be gradual or appear suddenly.The inside of your elbow near the bony bump hurts and is tender to the touch 

Symptoms

  • Your elbow is stiff and it hurts especially when you swing your club or racket, make a fist, try to grab something with your palm down
  • You may feel pain all the way down your arm to the wrist
  • Your hand feels weak, especially when you shake hands

What can I do about it?

Applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with your pain and swelling. Splints and wraps that rest your wrist can help relieve stress around the elbow, reduce pain and allow the tendons to heal.

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Hammer Toes

A hammertoe is a toe that bends or curls downward in the middle of the toe, instead of pointing forward. The end of the toe curls up, making the toe look like a hammer. Hammertoe can affect any toe on your foot but most often it affects the second or third toe.  Although you can be born with hammertoe, it usually develops over time as a result of wearing shoes that don’t fit properly.  Narrow- and high-heeled shoes can jam the toes into a bent position. The toes rub against the shoe, leading to corns and calluses, which further aggravate the condition. Other conditions including arthritis, diabetes, Charcot-Marie-Tooth, bunions and Morton’s toe also contribute to the development of hammer toes.  

Hammertoe can also be caused by a muscle imbalance. Initially, hammertoes are flexible and can be stretched. Muscles work in pairs to straighten and bend the toes. When there is an imbalance, the muscles tighten and over time the toe can no longer be straightened. Without proper treatment hammertoes can become permanent and can only be corrected by surgery.

Symptoms

  • Your toe rests in a bent position at the middle joint and curls upwards at the end
  • The top of your toe may hurt
  • Corns and calluses may appear on your toe

What can I do about it?

Your healthcare provider can diagnose your hammertoe through examination. Treatment usually starts with new shoes. Shoes should be soft and one-half inch longer than your longest toe with room at the front for the hammertoe. Sandals may help as long as they do not pinch or rub other areas of the foot. Exercises to gently stretch and strengthen the muscles are often helpful to help relieve pain.

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Jammed Finger

A jammed finger describes pain and swelling of the middle joint of the finger and can occur when something hits the top of your finger hard, jamming that knuckle. Trying to catch a ball that strikes the tip of the finger and bends it backwards is one of the most common causes of jammed fingers.

Symptoms

  • Your finger is swollen and painful around the middle joint
  • You may see bruising around the knuckle
  • Your finger is stiff
  • It hurts to bend your finger

What can I do about it?

If your finger looks crooked, you should consult with your healthcare provider immediately. You may need an x-ray as your finger could be broken.

Resting your finger, applying ice and taking anti- inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen can help with the pain and swelling. After a few days, you may want to wear a splint that allows your finger to rest in a straight position.

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Ligament Injury

Each of your fingers has a series of ligaments (thin bands of connective tissue) that stabilize your joints and help you move them smoothly. Sports, accidents, and injuries to the finger joints can damage ligaments. These injuries are sprains, strains, jams, tears, over-stretching, and dislocations. The most common ligament injuries occur at the middle joint of the fingers and at the webbing of the thumb. Sometimes, the injuries are mild and require little treatment, but more severe injuries require immediate medical attention and ongoing treatment to reduce the risk of long-term problems.

Symptoms

  • You have pain and swelling in your finger or thumb joint
  • It hurts to move your finger or thumb
  • It’s hard to move your finger or thumb
  • Your finger or thumb are stiff

What can I do about it?

If you experience pain for more than a few days, your health care provider can rule out a serious injury. Applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with the pain and swelling. Wearing a splint or wrap to reduce pain and swelling.  Resting your finger or thumb and avoiding activities that make it feel worse can also be helpful.

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Mallet Finger

A Mallet Finger, also called “baseball finger” is when the end joint of your finger closest to your fingernail, bends but will not straighten by itself. You are able to push your finger into a straight position, but it won’t stay straight without support.  A Mallet Finger is a very common injury that can happen when catching a ball, hitting your finger against something hard or catching your finger in a drawer.

With Mallet Finger, the tendon (band of tissue) that straightens the DIP joint may tear; or, a small piece of bone may break off when the tendon pulls away from its attachment on the top of the finger. The result is that there is nothing to hold the joint up or to straighten it without help.

Symptoms

  • Drooping of the fingertip joint
  • Your fingertip is swollen and the skin make be bruised and sore.
  • Fingertip can be pushed into a straight position but it will not stay straight without support

What can I do about it?

It’s important to treat a Mallet Finger as soon as possible with a splint that holds the DIP joint straight for 4 to 6 weeks to allow the tendon to heal. Your healthcare provider can help you confirm that splinting is the appropriate treatment.

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Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA), often called “wear and tear” arthritis, is the most common type of arthritis. Caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints, OA can range from mild to very severe. OA can affect any joint, but typically affects your hands and weight bearing joints such your knees, back, feet, and hips. Unfortunately, it is the cause of pain and stiffness, for many middle-aged and older people.

Although aging is a risk factor, OA is not an inevitable part of aging. Obesity and joint injuries from sports, work-related activities, and accidents may also increase your risk of developing OA later in life.

Symptoms

  • You are experiencing joint pain, achiness, stiffness, and less flexibility, especially after you move around
  • Your pain and stiffness is worse in the morning or after sitting
  • You may hear creaking or feel grating when you move
  • You have bumpy fingers

What can I do about it?

Osteoarthritis often gradually worsens, and no cure exists. Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and other treatments may slow progression of the disease. Anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with your pain and swelling. Other medications may be prescribed by your healthcare professional, along with physical and occupational therapy to improve or maintain joint motion and comfort. Splints that support  and allow your inflamed joints to rest at night and provide comfort during the day may be helpful.

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Overlapping Toes

Toes that cross on top of or under the toe next to it are called overlapping toes. Overlapping toes can be caused by wearing shoes that are too tight, especially in the front- making your toes squeeze together eventually causing them to overlap. Bunions can create pressure on your toes, also causing them to overlap. Another cause of overlapping toes, is when you have high arches, you tend to put more weight on the outside of your feet, and this may cause your little toe to overlap the fourth toe.

Symptoms

  • Your toes visibly overlap
  • You feel pressure and irritation between your toes
  • The pain and swelling in your toes makes it difficult to walk
  • You have soft calluses between your toes and/or  hard calluses on top of your toes

What can I do about it?

Treatment usually starts with new, low-heeled shoes or sandals. Shoes should be soft and roomy. The front part should be wide enough to accommodate your toes without squashing them together. Stretching your toes to maintain flexibility can also help. Left untreated, overlapping toes  can lead to corns, calluses, and other foot problems.

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Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is usually the result of tearing or overstretching the fascia (thin band of tissue) that runs across the bottom of the foot (plantar) which causes a sharp stabbing or burning pain across your heel, arch, or ball of your foot .

The pain from PF most often occurs first thing in the morning after you’ve taken a few steps. As your muscles warm up, the pain usually lessens; but, it may return if you sit or stand for long periods of time. A very common running injury, obesity, wearing shoes without good arch support, and other forms of exercise can also cause or make plantar fasciitis worse.

Symptoms

  • You feel sharp, stabbing, or burning pain along the bottom of your foot
  • The pain goes away as your muscles warm up but returns if you stand or sit too long
  • You may not have pain during exercise but the pain returns as the muscles cool down

What can I do about it?

Gentle stretching and ice after exercising can significantly reduce the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Wearing a nighttime splint that gently stretches the bottom of your foot can also help.

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Repetitive Stress Injury

A Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) occurs when the same motion is repeated over and over again, for a long period of time. Swinging a tennis racket, playing many consecutive games of corn hole or non-stop typing or texting can cause pain and irritation to  your fingers, thumbs, hands, elbow, neck or shoulder.  This repetitive motion causes inflammation to the ligaments and tendons of your joints resulting in swelling, and loss of muscle strength.  

Common Repetitive Stress Injuries include Tendinitis, Bursitis, Trigger Finger, Tennis Elbow, Golfers Elbow and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), is one of the most common “over use” injuries which causes pain, tingling, and swelling in your hand because of pressure on the nerve in your wrist.

Symptoms

  • You have pain and swelling in your fingers, thumb hand or arm
  • Your fingers or thumb may tingle or feel numb
  • Your hands or forearms feel stiff or weak

What can I do about it?

At first, you may only notice the symptoms when you are doing a certain activity and your symptoms may improve or go away when you stop.  Since RSIs can worsen over time, it is important to seek treatment from your health care provider when your symptoms are mild. Rest, ice elevation may be prescribed for your injury. Splints that support the fingers, hands, wrist or arm may also help.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects not only bones and joints, but can also affect organs. With RA, the immune system goes awry and attacks the tissues and fluids around the joints that keep them healthy and mobile. Unlike osteoarthritis where the cartilage wears down in the joints, RA affects the lining of your joints, causing painful swelling, especially in the small joints of the feet and hands

Rheumatoid Arthritis affects more than two million people in the US and is three times more common in women than in men.  In some cases, RA may be hereditary; but, in most cases, experts do not know what causes the disease.

Symptoms

  • You have pain and swelling in your joints, particularly in the small joints of your hands and feet
  • Your joints hurt and are stiff in the morning and may feel warm to the touch
  • You feel extremely tired and may have lost weight

What can I do about it?

If you show symptoms of RA, it is important to see your health care provider as soon as possible. While there is no cure yet, your doctor can prescribe drugs that can help slow it down. Regular exercise, applying heat packs and cold compresses, and learning relaxation techniques are also helpful in treating RA symptoms. Since deformity in the fingers is a common problem in RA, splinting your fingers can help stabilize and support your fingers, improve hand function, and reduce pain as well

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Rotated Toes

If you have a rotated toe, your toe—usually the smallest toe—is turned or rotated. Rotated toes may be caused by your foot turning inwards as you walk or run with the weight on the outside of that small toe. Other causes are hammertoes (a toe that bends downwards, abnormally, at the middle joint) and bunions (a bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe.)

Symptoms

  • You may have a bump or swelling on your big toe at the base
  • You may have calluses on the on the side of a toe
  • You toe may feel sore
  • Your toes that rub against each other

What can I do about it?

Treatment usually starts with new shoes. Shoes should be soft and wide with flat or low heels. A pad or cushion over the bunion may relieve rubbing if the shoe is wide enough to accommodate the padding. A gentle wrap that helps stretch the toe and holds it in proper alignment may also be helpful. Applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with the pain and swelling.

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Scars

A scar is the body's natural way of healing and replacing your lost or damaged skin. Scars can be caused by burns, cuts, injuries, or past surgeries. When your skin is cut or torn, tougher and thicker tissue grows as its replacement.

Scar tissue is not the same as the tissues it replaces.  The final look of a scar depends of many factors, including your skin type, the type of injury, your age, and nutritional status. Most scars will fade with time and don’t need treatment. Others, however, may be discolored, thick, raised, or reduce your ability to move. These scars may benefit from treatment.

Symptoms

  • Your skin is red or pink and may be tender to touch
  • You notice the scar tissue is tougher than the surrounding skin
  • If the tissue of the scar is tight, you may have trouble moving the body parts that the scar affects

What can I do about it?

In some cases, a cream or gel may be prescribed for your scar. Or, you may be able to get an over-the-counter product to treat the scar. Gel sheeting products are designed to help reduce the appearance of scars and reduce discoloration. Massage tools and oils created for scar massage can help loosen scars and make the skin more pliable.

For deeper scars and those caused by burns, skin grafts may be recommended. Lasers, dermabrasion, steroid injections, and other minor surgical options may be suggested.

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Skier’s Thumb

Skier’s thumb, also called Gamekeeper’s thumb, occurs when the ligaments that connect the bones of your thumb are torn or overstretched.  Blunt force—like wiping out on the slopes while you’re holding a ski pole with your fingers and your thumb is stretched out—can stretch or tear the ligament, along the outside of the thumb. Skier’s thumb can also be caused by an injury that occurs over time.

Symptoms

  • It hurts when you try to pinch an object between your thumb and forefinger
  • You feel as if you don’t have enough strength to pinch an object
  • Your thumb may appear crooked, as if it is leaning away from your hand

What can I do about it?

A splint that stabilizes and protects your thumb can be worn to give the ligament time to heal. In some cases, if the ligament has torn away from the bone, more restrictive splints that will protect the thumb from further injury may be worn until surgery can be performed.

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Sprain or Strain

Sprains and strains are similar injuries. With a sprain, you’ve overstretched or torn a ligament or group of ligaments. Sprains often occur during a minor accident. For example, you can sprain your thumb if you are skiing and fall on an outstretched thumb. You can sprain your wrist if you fall and land on your hand.

If you’ve strained a muscle or tendon, you’ve overstretched or torn it. Acute strains (those that occur abruptly) occur when an activity forces a muscle or tendon to pull, strain, or tear suddenly, such as falling on ice or awkwardly lifting a heavy object. Chronic (long-lasting) strains may be the result of overuse during activities like golf and tennis.

Symptoms

Strains:

  • You have tenderness, pain, and swelling
  • You might feel pain around the injury or that pain might travel to other areas. You may not be in a lot of pain, but it persists, especially if you don’t rest
  • You may have trouble moving the strained muscle

 Sprains:

  • You have pain and swelling
  • You may see bruising around the injured area

What can I do about it?

Applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with the pain and swelling. Resting the strained or sprained part is a very important for healing and to prevent further injury.

Strains can become chronic if the activity causing the strain is not stopped. And, severe sprains can lead to weakness and instability in joints if left untreated. Wraps and splints will enable you to rest those body parts.

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Stroke

If blood flow to the brain is interrupted or reduced, oxygen and nutrients cannot get to the brain and blood cells in your brain can die. This is known as a stroke or cerebrovascular accident (CVA). There are two kinds of stroke—ischemic and hemorrhagic. Most strokes are ischemic, caused by a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel or artery in the brain. The less common hemorrhagic strokes, occur if a blood vessel in the brain breaks open, leaking blood into the surrounding tissue and killing the brain cells in that area.

Symptoms

  • You experience numbness, weakness, or paralysis in the face, arms, or legs (on one side of your body)
  • One side of your face may droop
  • Your speech may be slurred and difficult for others to understand  or You may have difficulty understanding what others are saying
  • You have trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • You have a severe headache
  • You may feel dizzy and unbalanced and have difficulty walking

What can I do about it?

It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you think you are having a stroke. If you’ve had a stroke, your healthcare provider will provide your plan of treatment based on how it effects you. If you have trouble moving your arm or hand after your stroke, it is important to keep them in a safe and functional position to avoid permanent muscle contractions.  Positioning the hand in a splint at night can help alleviate tight muscles and help you regain motion.

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Swan Neck Deformity

Swan Neck Deformity is a finger condition characterized by the middle knuckle bending backwards beyond the normal range (hyperextending) and the fingertip bending down towards the palm (flexing). As the middle knuckle bends backwards, it may be difficult to get your finger to bend when you try to make a fist.

This problem is commonly seen in people with Rheumatoid Arthritis, where inflammation (swelling) weakens the tissues that protect the joints and keeps them stable.

Those with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a genetic condition that affects the connective tissue, experience Swan Neck Deformity in their fingers due to the hyper-flexibility common in the disease. And, Swan Neck Deformity may result from an untreated Mallet Finger where the loss of the ability to straighten the end of the finger eventually affects the middle knuckle as well.

Symptoms

  • Your middle knuckle bend backwards (hyperextends) and the fingertip bends down towards your palm
  • Difficulty bending the middle knuckle when you make a fist
  • You may have pain in the middle knuckle and difficulty using your hand

What can I do about it?

Wearing a splint that stops the middle knuckle from bending backwards allows you to more easily bend and straighten your finger. A properly fit splint that prevents the tissues around the joint from overstretching may also prevent the deformity from getting worse.

As in most conditions, early treatment of a Swan Neck or a Mallet Finger is important to avoid complications that may result in the need for surgery.

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Tendinitis

Tendinitis means swelling or irritation of a tendon. It can affect any tendon in your body- tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, pitcher's shoulder, de Quervain’s, and trigger finger are all forms of tendinitis.  Most of the time, tendinitis is caused by overuse or repetitive motions. Repetitive motions can cause small micro tears that occur each time use your tendon. When you do the same activity over and over again, the tears do not have time to heal properly, causing injury. The activity may be as simple as a day of cleaning or painting walls, or playing in the first ball game of the season without warming up.

Symptoms

  • You notice pain, tenderness, and stiffness
  • You may notice a tingling sensation or numbness
  • You may notice muscle weakness

What can I do about it?

Rest, along with anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with your pain and swelling. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe other medications and/or physical and occupational therapy to help improve or maintain motion and comfort.

Splints that support but do not fully limit motion may help relieve the symptoms of mild tendinitis. For more severe tendinitis, when total rest is required, splints with firmer control are usually recommended.

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Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a common condition that is caused by overuse of your arm, forearm and hand and causes elbow pain. The pain occurs around the bony bump on the outside of the elbow. (Golfer’s elbow causes pain around the bony bump on the inside of your elbow.)

Tennis elbow is not just caused by swinging a tennis racquet. Any activity that requires repeated twisting or flexing and extending the wrist—like painting, spring cleaning, and even shaking hands may cause that pain in your elbow to flare. The pain may be gradual or appear suddenly. 

Symptoms

  • The outside of your elbow near the bony bump hurts and is tender to the touch
  • Your elbow is stiff and you may have pain all the way down your arm to the wrist
  • Your hand feels weak, especially when you shake hands
  • You may feel tingling down your arm and into your fingers
  • Your elbow hurts worse when you swing your racket, make a fist, try to grab something with your palm down, or when you flex your wrist back

What can I do about it?

Applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with the pain and swelling. Since the muscles that bend and straighten the wrist start at the elbow, resting the wrist and elbow may help. Splints and wraps that rest the wrist can help relieve stress around the elbow, reduce pain and allow the tendons to heal.

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TFCC (Triangular Fibro-Cartilage Complex)

The triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) ligament is located on the side of your wrist below the small finger and is approximately the size of a dime.  A TFCC injury or tear (triangular fibro-cartilage complex) can occur during an accident, such as falling on your hand, or with age as the cartilage wears down.

An injury or tear to the TFCC can cause chronic wrist pain. Sometimes called a wrist sprain, TFCC can be very painful and cause loss of motion. With TFCC, turning your wrist, pushing open a door, and pushing up from a chair, can cause your wrist to hurt.

Symptoms

  • You have pain and swelling at the base of the pinky side of the wrist and in the wrist
  • You have more pain when you bend your wrist
  • Your wrist may click or grind when your turn it
  • You may see bruising around the injured area
  • You may experience loss of strength when you try to grip an object

What can I do about it?

Applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with the pain and swelling. Resting your hand and wrist in a wrap or splint is important for healing and can help prevent further injury. Splints can be worn during the day and at night. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended.

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Trigger Finger


Trigger finger happens when your finger locks or clicks when it is bent and then suddenly pops back when trying to straighten it, like a trigger on a gun. The cause of the locking, and resulting soreness, is swelling and inflammation around the tendon. “Triggering” commonly happens at night or in the morning after sleeping with the hand in a fisted position for a long period of time. Trigger finger can also happen with activities that require repeated gripping or pinching, such as holding a pen. Health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes can also cause Trigger Finger.

Symptoms

  • Your finger clicks, locks, or pops when you try to straighten it from a fist
  • Your finger gets stuck in a bent position
  • Your finger locks in a bent position then suddenly springs straight
  • Your finger is stiff, especially in the morning
  • Your finger hurts at the base, near your palm

What can I do about it?

Applying ice to the palm of your hand, resting your finger, and eliminating activities that involve repetitive gripping may reduce your pain and improve your ability to move your finger. Wearing a splint that keeps your finger in an extended position and limits the motions may also help.

If the joints of your finger feel hot to the touch and are swollen, see your health care provider as  quickly as you can, as you may have an infection.

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Ulnar Deviation


A simple explanation of Ulnar deviation, is when your fingers bend toward your pinky, while your wrist shifts toward the thumb side of your hand. Ulnar Deviation, sometimes called Ulnar Drift, is commonly caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and generally occurs over time. 

Symptoms

  • Your knuckles may be swollen and painful
  • Your knuckles may feel “spongy”
  • Your fingers “lean” toward the pinky side of the forearm
  • It’s hard to straighten your fingers
  • It’s hard to grip and pinch items

What can I do about it?

Your healthcare provider or hand therapist can recommend the best treatment for you. Using ice to reduce swelling and pain is often prescribed, followed by gentle stretching and heat. Exercises to maintain strength and flexibility may also help. It’s is important to make sure that you stabilize and protect your hand and fingers from further damage to avoid complications that may require surgery.

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