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Watch out for a FOOSH! Don’t let a broken wrist or ganglion cyst give you the winter blues

Being active in the winter is good for our mental and physical health, but don’t let bad luck sideline you with a fractured hand or broken wrist. These injuries are extremely common, especially in winter months when skiing, snowboarding or slipping on ice, can quickly lead to a Fall onto an outstretched hand – also known as “FOOSH” among orthopedic experts.

FOOSH tends to break the larger bone in your forearm, called the radius, which is also the bone most often broken in the arm. The end of the radius, closest to the hand, is known as the distal end, and not surprisingly, the most common cause of a distal radius fracture is a FOOSH.

When sustaining the weight of a fall, the wrist can fracture in many ways, and the break may extend into the wrist joint or be limited to the arm bone only.

Immediate signs of a wrist fracture include swelling, bruising, pain to the touch and visual deformity. The presence of numbness or difficulty moving fingers are also signs to seek immediate treatment. Time counts; delays can impair healing and limit future strength and range of motion.

Treatment options for a broken wrist are determined by the location of the break and its severity. Generally, joint immobilization (splinting or casting) and surgery are used to restore mobility, and physical therapy is employed to aid the recovery process and rebuild strength. If the fracture has interrupted blood flow to a wrist bone, a portion of the bone may die. In these cases, bone grafts and bone fusion may be used to aid healing.

Another very common cause of hand or wrist pain that spans the seasons is ganglion cysts.

If you have a lump in your hand or wrist, chances are it’s a ganglion cyst. These common and treatable fluid-filled sacs often appear on hand and wrist tendons or joints. Ganglion cysts are identified with medical assessment and most are easily treatable.

The cyst itself is generally painless, but the location of a ganglion cyst may impede hand or wrist movement or compress a corresponding nerve – which triggers pain on that nerve.

While these sacs can grow in a variety of joints on the bottom or the top of the wrist, they are most common on the top of the wrist. The size of the sac tends to grow with use and recede with inactivity.

Although ganglion cysts can present in a variety of patients, they are more prominent in females younger than 40 and in those who have high incidence or impact of wrist use. Cysts that develop on the finger (mucous cysts) tend to be associated with older patients and those with arthritis.

Ganglion cysts often clear on their own; however, some cysts require draining (aspiration) or removal (excision). During evaluation, an orthopedic specialist typically will assess the origin of the sac, its fluctuations in size, level of discomfort, and impact on mobility. The exam will reveal if the mass is fluid or a solid mass and identify if rest, draining, or removal offers the best outcome. They will also look at the patients’ history of arthritis and review current medications.

Aspiration offers relief from pain and addresses the visible appearance. But that relief may be temporary because, while the draining removes the fluid which comprises the cyst’s mass, the root sac remains. Excision (removal of the cyst) addresses this issue. Most patients find this outpatient procedure to be fairly simple and highly beneficial, and most can resume normal activities within two to six weeks. Physical therapy is frequently a part of successful recovery.

Wrist injuries and wrist pain don’t have to add to your winter blues, see a CCOE hand and wrist specialist to diagnose and treat your pain so you can get back to what you love. Schedule today.

Exercises that Strengthen Your Hand and Prevent Injuries

As an athlete or active individual, you know how to power your game and keep your body at its fighting best. Workouts and cardio work keep your arms, legs, and torso ready for action – but have you thought about your hands?

Specific hand exercises and routines can help keep your hands strong and healthy. Hand exercise can also benefit people who find that stiffness, pain, or swelling of the hands prevents them from performing daily tasks and enjoying a full life.

How Can I Make My Hands Stronger?

Today, orthopedists and physical therapists have a battery of exercises for the hands and wrists that have proven effective for everyone, whether you’re an athlete or a retiree or somewhere in between. Many of these exercises were first developed for rehabilitation following hand injuries and surgeries.

Below are some of the exercises that can help you strengthen your hands and keep them healthy:

Finger Stretches

Finger stretches are helpful exercises that can help maintain and improve the range of motion of your hands and also help to relieve pain and swelling.

1.    Place your hands palm-down on a flat surface.

2.    Straighten your fingers slowly, while slightly pressing against the flat surface (without applying excessive force).

3.    Once they’re fully straightened, hold this position for 15 seconds.

4.    Release, and repeat three times for each hand. 

Claw Stretches 

Claw stretches maintain and improve the range of motion of your fingers. 

1.    Hold your hands out in front of you with palms facing you.

2.    Bend your fingertips downward within the hand, so each fingertip is touching the base of the finger.

3.    While keeping them bent in this position, pull the fingers back to open the palm. (Now you see why this is called a “claw stretch.”)

4.    Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.

5.    Release, and repeat three times for each hand.

Thumb Stretches

The joints of your thumbs are vulnerable to injury. This exercise helps strengthen these joints and the four major tendons that control your thumb. 

1.    Hold your hands out, palms facing you.

2.    Slowly bend the tip of your thumb down toward the base of your little finger.

3.    Hold this position for 30 seconds.

4.    Release, and repeat three times for each thumb. 

Grip Strengthener 

This exercise is designed to strengthen your grip. You can use a tennis ball, rubber ball, or foam ball.

1.    Hold the ball in your palm, and slowly squeeze it as hard as you can.

2.    Hold this position for five seconds.

3.    Release, and repeat five times for each hand. 

You can repeat these hand workouts two or three times a week, and add more exercises as you go. Stop if you feel pain during or after the exercises; never force the tendons or joints beyond their range of motion.

Contact an Orthopedic Doctor in Colorado Springs

Our medical team at the Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence are experts in sports injuries – and in keeping the body strong to prevent injury in the first place. We offer a full range of therapy, minimally invasive treatments, and bone and joint surgery.

Call us today to make an appointment at our Colorado Springs at (719) 623-1050, or request an appointment here. Let us help you continue to enjoy the active, pain-free lifestyle you love!