Not everyone who has pain or tenderness in their hands is a good candidate for tendonitis hand surgery. First, not all discomfort in the hands is related to tendonitis; other common reasons for pain in the hands, fingers or wrists can include arthritis or carpal tunnel, for example. One of the first steps to determining if tendonitis treatment could assist with your condition is getting a definitive tendonitis diagnosis. Even after that, numerous factors can determine whether your physician will recommend surgery.

Symptoms of Hand Tendonitis

If you haven’t already been diagnosed with tendonitis, you might be wondering if surgery is an option to relieve your hand pain. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described in the list below, you should talk to your doctor and find out exactly what condition is affecting your hand and what options you have for treating it. Symptoms of tendonitis in the hands can include:

  • Pain similar to a dull ache that comes and goes at odd times or with activity.
  • Swelling.
  • Tenderness, particularly around certain joints or muscles in the hand, wrist or elbow.
  • Numbness in areas of the hand, thumb or fingers.
  • An inability to grasp items, especially smaller objects.
  • Weakness or lack of grip strength.
  • Inability to engage in certain hobbies or activities requiring motor skills.
  • Constantly dropping items when you don’t mean to.
  • Over-the-counter medications no longer relieve symptoms or only do so for very short amounts of time.

Causes of Hand Tendonitis

Tendonitis involves the wear and tear on the tendon. The tendon is what holds your muscles and bones together and causes bones and joints to move when muscles contract. Because the parts of your hand are constantly in motion, the tendons here are especially susceptible to damage. The two categories of causation for tendonitis are overuse and overloading.

Overuse simply means you put “too many miles” on your tendon. Think of tires on your car — even the highest quality tire won’t last forever and the more you drive, the faster you’ll wear it out. Your tendons are a lot like that tire and the more you use the bones, muscles and joints in your hands, the more work you put your tendons through. Typing, athletics, carpentry and any other activity that involves repetitive motion over days, weeks and years can lead to overuse of tendons. That overuse causes the tendons to weaken, shred or tear.

Overloading involves putting too much strain on the tendons at one time. This can be caused in an accident, during sports or exercising or during hobbies that involve carrying, bearing weight or performing awkward movements with your hands.

Anyone can develop tendonitis in the hand, but age and health are both also factors for injury. Tendons become less flexible as you age, which can lead to an increased likelihood of tendonitis beginning around middle age.

Is Tendonitis Hand Surgery Right for You?

Surgery isn’t the right choice to treat every instance of tendonitis. Most healthcare providers like to be on the conservative side and work up to a procedure like tendonitis hand surgery. If your symptoms are manageable with OTC medications from time-to-time or if they are temporary and RICE (relax, ice, compression, elevation) causes them to go away, you probably don’t need surgery at this time.

If your symptoms don’t go away with these types of treatments and you find them interfering with your quality of life, your tendonitis might be chronic. The only way to treat chronic tendonitis fully is usually surgery, but you’ll need to speak with your qualified hand surgeon to ensure you are healthy enough to undergo the procedure in question. Luckily, most tendonitis hand surgeries are relatively noninvasive when compared to major surgeries and they can be handled in an outpatient environment. That means you’ll be home within a few hours, where you can recover in comfort.

Other Treatment Options for Tendonitis in the Hand

If you can’t undergo tendonitis hand surgery because of another medical condition or any other reason, you may be able to work with a physical therapist or seek muscle relaxation treatment to somewhat manage your symptoms. Physical therapists can teach you exercises used to strengthen your tendon and help it to heal. Ultrasound and whirlpool relaxation treatments may also serve to release some stress from the tendon, which can reduce pain and allow the tendon to heal on its own if possible.

Understanding your options for tendonitis treatment is important. Not everyone is a good candidate for surgery, but if you are, it is typically a safe procedure with a quick recovery time. Within about 12 weeks, most people have returned to normal function and find they are in less pain and better able to use their hand and enjoy life.

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Dr. Yueh

About Dr. Yueh

Dr. Janet H. Yueh specializes in hand surgery including Trigger Finger, Basal Joint Arthritis, Carpal Tunnel and Tendonitis. Dr. Yueh did her undergraduate work at Harvard University in Cambridge where she graduated magna cum laude. She continued her education at Harvard Medical School where she earned her M.D.