Hands

What is the best treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have cubital tunnel syndrome. What's the best treatment for it?

DEAR READER: Cubital tunnel syndrome is a trapped or pinched nerve problem, much like its better-known relative, carpal tunnel syndrome. Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve gets compressed. The ulnar nerve extends from the spinal cord in your neck to your forearm and the pinky side of your hand. The nerve passes through a series of passageways, or tunnels. The tunnels are composed of tough layers of fibers that can pinch the nerve running through them.

What can I do about a painful “trigger finger”?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a painful trigger finger on my left hand. What caused it, and what can I do about it?

DEAR READER: The term "trigger finger" may conjure up visions of sharpshooters and hunters -- people who sometimes are too quick to draw their guns. To doctors, however, "trigger finger" refers to a condition that occurs when the finger briefly locks and then suddenly releases as you try to bend or straighten it. This often causes a snapping sound.

How can I relieve my carpal tunnel discomfort without drugs or surgery?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have carpal tunnel syndrome. How can I relieve the discomfort without drugs or surgery?

DEAR READER: Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain and discomfort in the wrist that can extend into the hand or forearm. It's often caused by activities that require constant use of the wrists. People who spend a lot of time at a computer keyboard, for example, pounding away at the keys, are more likely to experience it.

What are exercises that will help with my stiff hands?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm bothered by pain and stiffness in my hands. It's nothing significant, but enough to interfere with some tasks. Are there any exercises that might help?

DEAR READER: You never realize how many different and essential things you do with your hands until something happens to them. Pain, stiffness or swollen joints can transform even a simple task into a painful ordeal. And millions of people have problems using their hands. Fortunately, the right exercises may help. Start by asking your doctor if you should work with a hand therapist -- an occupational or physical therapist who has specialized education and training in hand rehabilitation.

Do people who are “double-jointed” have twice as many joints?

DEAR DOCTOR K: This may be a silly question, but here goes: Do people who are "double-jointed" have twice as many joints?

DEAR READER: I can see how you might think that. If the question is silly it's because the medical term we use is imprecise and misleading. The term makes it sound as though "double-jointed" people have two joints in places that other people have only one, or that they have twice the normal amount of motion. Neither is true of people who are double-jointed. In fact, the vast majority of humans have the same number of bones and joints.

What can I do about writer’s cramp?

DEAR DOCTOR K: These days I mostly type. But when I write, my hand cramps up within minutes. Is there anything I can do?

DEAR READER: I do most of my "writing" on my computer, too. Whether I'm writing a column, updating a colleague or catching up with a friend, I'm more likely to reach for a keyboard than a pen. But, like you, on the occasions when I do write in longhand, my hand sometimes misbehaves. It doesn't become painful -- the handwriting just is less legible.

What is a wrist replacement?

DEAR DOCTOR K: We've all heard of hip and knee replacements -- but is it true that you can have your wrist replaced too?

DEAR READER: We like to think of ourselves as irreplaceable, but the truth is that some of our parts are replaceable. The joint replacements you hear most about are those of the knees and hips, but surgeons also have been replacing hand joints for decades.

What is trigger finger?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My finger hurts. When I try to bend and straighten it, it feels like it's catching. What's going on?

DEAR READER: It sounds like you have trigger finger. This common condition is named for the trigger-like snap that occurs when the finger briefly locks and then suddenly releases as you try to bend or straighten it.

What would cause numbness and tingling in my little finger?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm bothered by numbness and tingling in my little finger and general weakness in my right hand. Could I have carpal tunnel syndrome?

DEAR READER: Based on your description, I'd say you have cubital (not carpal) tunnel syndrome. Another name for this condition is ulnar neuropathy. Cubital tunnel syndrome, like carpal tunnel syndrome, is a "pinched nerve" problem. The affected nerve is the ulnar nerve.

Should I see a doctor for a finger injury?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I hurt my finger playing basketball last week. The pain is manageable, but doesn't seem to be lessening. Should I see a doctor?

DEAR READER: Catching a ball -- a football, baseball or basketball -- is a common way kids and young adults can injure a finger. Fortunately, most finger injuries are not serious or lasting. But sometimes a tendon (fibers that connect muscles to bones, and cause fingers to move) can be torn, or a joint can be dislocated, or one of the finger bones broken. So you've asked an important question.