Summary: If you have hand pain, you might be thinking: when should you get hand surgery? Do you even need hand surgery? It’s not always as easy as you might think to tell. People can cope with a significant amount of hand pain, especially if it’s chronic and mild. But that pain is a good indicator that something is wrong, so you shouldn’t let things get too far without seeing a doctor.
When Should You Get Hand Surgery for Hand Pain?
If you’re experiencing hand pain of any kind, you might be wondering: when should you get hand surgery? When do you reach the point where surgery is going to be your best option and when should you simply let your hand heal itself? The answer to that question is going to depend largely on what’s actually wrong with your hand—if you even know!
Because you use your hands so often, and in so many different ways, there are multiple issues that can crop up. Some of them will have obvious causes (if you hit your hand with a hammer, for example, that will be obvious). But there are other hand ailments that seem to come out of nowhere, with little or no warning.
Trying to figure out what to treat and how (and when to go see a doctor) can be frustrating, especially when the only information you can find are those “worst case scenarios” running around the internet. Hopefully our quick guide to “when should you get hand surgery” will help (though you should seriously always check with a doctor if hand pain doesn’t go away).
Common Causes for Hand Pain
It might be helpful to discuss some of the most common causes of hand pain. In general, hand pain can be broken down into two categories: chronic and acute.
- Chronic hand pain is something that takes a long time to develop and is felt on a daily basis. In other words, you hand hurts every day and, without treatment, it will likely continue to hurt every day for years to come. This pain doesn’t necessarily have to be profound. It can be a nagging pain. But it’s there every day.
- Acute pain, on the other hand, has an immediate beginning or end and is experienced for a relatively short period of time. A broken finger or a cut or sprain will often fall into the acute category. The pain may last several weeks, but it recedes as your body begins the healing process. Many acute pains begin with some kind of trauma to the hand.
These two pain types are not mutually exclusive. It’s entirely possible for acute pain, left untreated, to develop into a chronic problem. Likewise, it’s possible that chronic pain can have good days and bad days—or flare ups of some kind. It’s also possible that you might have two different hand ailments at once. You can start to see why this is so complicated!
Treatments for Hand Pain
There are several treatments for hand pain available that involve surgery—and many that don’t. Again, much will depend on the actual cause of your pain. In fact, that’s probably a better way to look at this. Any particular ailment of the hand is going to have its own unique treatment options.
Common Hand Ailments
- Broken bones: If you have broken bones in your hand, you should seek immediate medical attention. It’s important that the bones are set properly. Depending on the place and nature of the break, surgery may be required (then again, it might not—very simple fractures can be treated with a simple popsicle stick).
- Lacerations: Even a shallow cut to the hand may turn out to be quite catastrophic. That’s because there are tendons and nerve endings very close to the skin all over the hand. So while a particular cut may seem shallow (maybe you missed while chopping that onion), you should still consult with a doctor about repairing the damage. In some cases, surgery will be required to repair tendons.
- Carpal Tunnel: Perhaps one of the most common and well known hand ailments around, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a chronic issue for many patients. As Dr. Charles Polsen, a Houston Carpal Tunnel surgeon, says on his website, this ailment may have to be treated with surgery. The idea is to relieve the pressure caused by inflammation. However, any treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome must be combined with a change of behavior. That’s because Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is usually caused by repetitive motion.
- Trigger Finger: This is another condition that has a cause within the tendons of the finger. With “trigger finger,” the tendon becomes “locked.” This makes the finger get stuck in a flexed position (as though it’s pulling a trigger). Obviously, this can have a detrimental effect on one’s day to day life. Surgery is almost always required to treat trigger finger or similar issues in the hand.
Finding the Right Surgeon to Treat Your Hand
You use your hands every day for all kinds of reasons. Your hands are simultaneously robust and fragile. They’re sensitive. And that’s a good thing. That’s why it’s important to spend the time to ensure you find the right hand surgeon for any work you might need done on your hands.
Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or repairing a torn tendon can help your hands function better and less painfully. But it never hurts to ensure that you’re finding a hand surgeon who has extensive experience treating your particular ailment. In fact, it’s not uncommon for your doctor to refer you to a specialist for issues concerning the hand.
That’s because there’s a lot of potential for further damage when you’re treating the hands. In the hands (ha, no pun intended) of a skilled and experienced surgeon, that potential is diminished considerably.
So if you’re having trouble with your hands—either acute or chronic—be sure to consult with a reputable hand surgeon to see what types of therapies and treatments might help you. When should you get hand surgery? When your surgeon tells you to!