The Impact of Smoking on the Hands

The nicotine found in cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products can have many adverse effects on the body. In addition to harming the lungs, smoking can damage the hands and other upper extremities.

Hand Problems Caused by Smoking

People who smoke regularly may experience reduced blood circulation in the hands that could affect the fingertips. Nerve damage in the hands can also occur from smoking. Some smokers notice that the skin on their hands has formed wrinkles or shown other premature signs of aging. The nicotine in tobacco products may cause the nails to turn yellow or develop fungal infections. Tobacco use has even been linked to a condition known as Dupuytren’s contracture which causes tissue knots under the skin of the hands to form and bend the fingers permanently. Some studies have also shown evidence that smoking increases the risk of developing conditions like reflex sympathetic dystrophy and hand-arm vibration syndrome.

Smoking Worsens Existing Hand Conditions

Tobacco use can also exacerbate existing conditions of the hands and lead to further complications. Breaks and fractures in arm, wrist and hand bones often heal slower and could be prevented from healing completely. Skin wounds on these upper extremities may also have trouble healing and are more susceptible to infection in smokers. Anyone who plans to undergo surgery is advised to quit smoking in order to speed up recovery time and reduce the chances of complications while healing.

Talking to a board-certified hand and plastic surgeon at LA Hand Surgeon or another trusted professional is advised for anyone who is having trouble quitting smoking and is about to undergo surgery.

Skier’s Thumb and the Stener Lesion

A common injury when falling on an outstretched thumb, or while skiing is euphemistically referred to as the “Skier’s Thumb” and not so long ago was referred to as the “Games Keepers Thumb”. This injury involves a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament of the metacarpal phalangeal joint of the thumb, resulting in ulnar sided laxity of the joint to more than 45 degrees in radial deviation. This can be accompanied by a mass effect in this area commonly referred to as the Stener lesion, which occurs when the adductor pollicis fascia becomes stuck under the ulnar collateral ligament after it is torn. A Stener lesion almost always requires a surgical repair of this torn ligament by a hand surgeon.

Why Does My Thumb Hurt?

Our thumbs are what distinguish us from just about all other species, and it’s a piece of our body that is vital to function. Far often, many people and patients complain of a very broad question: why does my thumb hurt?. This is often asked when the pain is consistent or recurring in patterns. Everyday tasks such as using a keyboard or working out could cause intermittent pain in the thumbs – something this post isn’t concerned with.

Our thumbs, and fingers for that matter, consist of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. After repeated usage and function, these muscles, tendons, or bones will start to show their age. And of course, heavy, sudden trauma to your thumb is likely to result in negative consequences to your thumb, with the possibility of long-term damage. We’re not here to scare you, only keep you aware of possible reasons as to why your thumb hurts.

Thumb pain is usually diagnosed based on where the pain stems from:

  • Thumb sprain – this is typically easy to detect as it involves an event where sudden trauma to the thumb has taken place, most often while playing sports. Swelling, bruising, and sharp pain are common signs.
  • De Quervain’s tendonitis – if you have a shooting pain that moves up and down your thumb, often at the base of your thumb, then De Quervain’s tendonitis may be a possible diagnosis. Signs of inflammation such as swelling may occur in some cases.
  • Trigger thumb – similar to trigger finger, trigger thumb is a situation in which your thumb locks up at a bent position and then will pop back into place. Sometimes the lock lasts awhile; sometimes it pops back right away.
  • Skier’s thumb – this is a phenomenon that is similar to a sprain, but involves tearing of the ligament in your thumb. It commonly occurs in skiing accidents, which is where the term “skier’s thumb” derived from. Swelling, weakness of grasp between thumb and index finger, as well tenderness to touch along the side of your index finger point to this issue.
  • Arthritis at base of your thumb – pain that is strictly centered at the base of your thumb that is often described as “deep” and “aching” with no sign of relief, then arthritis of the thumb may be a possible diagnosis.

Regardless of your situation, it is important to receive an examination in person as these problems all contain similar symptoms. Don’t wait on pain that doesn’t seem to be getting any better, visit your Los Angeles hand surgeon today to find out exactly what it is that’s causing your thumb to hurt.

Three Most Common Sports-Related Hand Injuries

Playing sports should always be encouraged for the physical health benefits offered. As with any sport, accidents may happen. Injuries may happen during the game, or build up over time through the use of extended play. Knowing the 3 most common sports hand injuries could help you increase your chances of preventing injury.

Wrist Sprains

Depending on the sport, your wrist could seriously take a beating. A few examples of games that heavily involve the wrists are bowling and golf, but other sports such as basketball contain a fair amount of wrist usage as well.

The wrist is made up of many small ligaments, tendons, nerves, and bones. A common injury is a wrist sprain, in which there is damage to ligaments in your wrist. These typically happen spur of the moment when your wrist endures sudden trauma, such as bending your wrist backwards.

Scaphoid Fractures

Fractures may happen anywhere on your hand, but the most common type of fracture is one that is located at the bottom of your hand towards your wrist. It is a small bone that is fractured more often than others.

A scaphoid fracture is one that usually happens when you fall onto your hand, a natural instinct to prevent yourself from a nasty fall. This means that your hand, specifically your wrist, has to bear the weight of the fall. A weakened hand/wrist increases your chances of fracture, but the sheer trauma puts anyone who plays sports at risk.

Thumb Sprains

As with wrist sprains, thumb sprains involve the ligaments specifically located in your thumb. Oftentimes you will sprain your thumb when you jam it, or bend it in a peculiar way. When your thumb faces sudden trauma from an object or is jammed into someone or something accidentally, it will most likely result in a thumb sprain.

A term known as “skier’s thumb” has been dubbed because of the numerous amount of times skiers sprain their thumbs. Other occurrences are common in basketball where a player tries to catch a ball that lands awkwardly onto their thumbs.

Sprains are different from fractures in the sense that fractures involve bones. Bone fractures usually will heal to full potential, whereas ligament injuries may sometimes cause unwanted bouts of pain even after the healing process has finished.

Sports related hand injuries might occur from weakened wrists from overuse, such as computer usage. Talk to a Los Angeles hand surgeon today to find out how you successfully treat your hand injuries.

Injuries Named After Specific Sports

Summer is a time where many of us actively engage in sports of some sort. For good reason too: because sports are a great way to exercise and improve the appearance of your body. There’s no better time to play sports than during summertime when the weather is nice (just be sure to stay hydrated at all times).

However, there are many sports that have their own common injuries. These injuries have become so common amongst the sport that the injuries possess their very own name.

Popular Sports Injuries That Have Received Their Own Name

Tennis Elbow – Tennis players use their arms frequently, usually in an abrupt bending motion that puts strain on the elbow. Over time, the tendons on the outside of your elbow may become swollen, which has been termed “tennis elbow”.

Golfer’s Elbow – Very similar to tennis elbow, golfers may experience the same phenomenon. Instead of on the outside of your elbow, the pain occurs on in the inside of your elbow.

Boxer’s Fracture – Also referred to as brawler’s fracture, this is an occurrence in which the bones of the hand that form the knuckles become fractured. Typically boxers do not experience this, as they are experienced. This commonly occurs in less-trained individuals who punch walls or are not accustomed to proper punching techniques.

Bowler’s Thumb – Bowlers engage their thumbs on every throw of a bowling ball. This puts added strain on their thumbs. A common symptom in bowler’s thumb is a numbing sensation in the thumb.

Skier’s Thumb – This occurs when an important ligament in your thumb is overstretched. Skiing falls are a common way to incur skier’s thumb.

Baseball Finger – Also called mallet finger, this is a condition in which a tendon at the tip of the finger is torn or ruptured making it very difficult to fully extend a finger.

Turf Toe – Turf toe is a condition in which ligaments around the big toe become sprained. In short, it’s a jammed big toe. It commonly occurs in football players that play on artificial turf.

You should keep in mind that tennis players are not the only ones who may be suffering from tennis elbow. It just so happens that tennis players are more likely to experience tennis elbow. Anyone can suffer from tennis elbow and this applies to the rest of the sport-termed injuries listed above.

Your hand surgeon of Los Angeles can help you treat any of these injuries.

Don’t Overlook Animal Bites: Risk of Hand Infection

With an estimated number of around 77.5 million dogs in the U.S (this data is from 2010 and the new number is probably closer to 100 million), it’s no wonder accidents are bound to happen by organisms that live on instincts alone.

Here’s the thing about animal bites: it’s not the actual bite that you should be worried of; it’s the high chance of infection that is often associated with animal bites. Contrary to what you may believe, cat bites have the tendency to be worse than dog bites. The reason why? Infection. Cat bites typically occur on the hand.

Cats actually have sharper teeth than dogs, meaning they are able to puncture our skin deeper than a dog can. Deep bites have more of a chance to reach a joint of tendon, which can increase the chance of developing a bacterial infection.

Animal Bite Infections Are a Bit Different

A bacterial infection caused from an animal bite – especially a cat’s – is typically harder to treat than your typical bacterial infection that responds nicely to antibiotics.

Back in February 2014, the Journal of Hand Surgery published an article that revealed 30% of cat bites to the hand resulted in hospitalization that requires an intravenous use of antibiotics.

The issue with an animal bite to the hand is that the wound will heal itself by regenerating new skin over the wounded site. What this does is prevent the bacterial infection from draining, leaving the infection stuck inside the hand.

The good news is that cat bites are much less frequent than dog bites. Dog bites make up a large majority of animal bites – roughly 80-90% of all animal bites in the USA. Cats make up 10%-20%, and other animals such as rats comprise a very small minority of less than 1%.

Caring For an Animal Bite at Home

If either a dog or a cat ever bites you, then you should follow these quick steps in effective treatment and infection prevention:

Blood Control – if the wound is bleeding profusely, then use a sterile dressing such as gauze to apply pressure to the site and stop the bleeding. If the site is not bleeding then clean it off initially with water or hydrogen peroxide.

Infection Control – the best way to prevent infection is by using an antibiotic ointment (i.e. Neosporin®) and then applying a necessary amount of sterile dressing.

Watch It – pay close attention to the symptoms of your wound over the next few days after the bite has occurred. If you feel the site is becoming more swollen, tender, painful, or develop a high fever then it would be strongly recommended to visit a doctor or hand specialist for prompt antibiotic treatment.

Dr. Golshani is a hand specialist located in Los Angeles and will treat any animal or even human bites with ease. Failing to respond to an infected wound could result in permanent injury to the hand.

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Texting Thumb is a Repetitive Strain Injury from Smartphone Overuse

Perhaps our smartphones are actually too smart for our own good. Our cell phones, now referred to as smartphones, are causing many of us to suffer from repetitive strain injuries. These injuries result from repetitive motions that cause stress to a ligament, tendon, muscle, etc. In short, our smartphone usage is causing hand injuries – among other injuries too.

The fact that smartphones are causing injuries to our hands should be no surprise to anyone. This problem has occurred since the days of the BlackBerry phone, a once widely popular phone that was eventually topped by the iPhone and Android devices. However, during the time of the BlackBerry a famous name was born: “BlackBerry thumb”. You may have already guessed it but BlackBerry thumb originated because of the strain that was commonly associated with our thumbs after texting too much. Nowadays, people may refer to the same problem using different names: texting thumb, smartphone thumb, iPhone thumb, Android thumb, and so on.

A recent article reveals that tendonitis is most frequent in younger people, the same people who happen to make up a large majority of the “high-tech people”, according to a division leader for the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, David Ruch.

Stop and ask yourself: are you using your smartphone too much? Some of us have no choice as smartphones are beginning to play a major role in the world of business, but improper usage is actually the reason why people develop problems in their hands. “Hold your smartphone a little bit further away from your body”, suggests David Ruch.

How Do I Know I Have A Problem?

You won’t actually know you have a problem until you begin to feel the physical symptoms associated with the problem. The main symptom is generally a pain felt on the side of your wrist towards the thumb. If you find yourself experiencing slight numbness in the tips of your fingers – especially your thumb – then you may have already caused damage to your nerves. This doesn’t mean you should forego using a smartphone altogether, but rather limit your usage.

Quick tip: only go on your smartphone when you absolutely NEED to. We say this because a lot of us will impulsively check our phones even if we have not heard a ring, text tone, or vibration of any sort. The easiest way to limit usage is by stopping the impulsivity to check our phone every 2 minutes.

Texting thumb is technically referred to as De Quervain’s tendonitis and can be treated non-surgically by your Los Angeles hand surgeon through medication, lifestyle changes involving proper posture, and splints to limit movement.

Funny Sports Injuries Involving the Hand

You won’t believe the accidents that happen when you absolutely least expect it. The weirdest thing about it is that these funny hand injuries we are about to list involve professional athletes – people who spend most of their time in the gym or training in an effort to make sure they are in the best shape possible to compete at high levels of play.

Ricky Bones – a baseball professional who tore a muscle in his hand while changing channels with a TV remote. You definitely would not expect this to happen to a professional baseball athlete.

Lionel Simmons – a basketball star who developed tendonitis in his right wrist from playing too much GameBoy. Perhaps this serves as proof that playing video games for extended periods of time could damage your wrists/hands?

Julian Tavares – a professional baseball athlete who broke his hand by punching a dugout phone. This is why it’s best to control your anger. It’s not uncommon for people to slam their fists into the wall and don’t realize the damage done until after the adrenaline has subsided.

Roger Craig – a baseball manager who managed to cut his own hand on a bra strap. This is just an absolute stroke of horrible luck. Thankfully it was only a cut and not a hand fracture or worse.

Ron Russell – a professional disc golfer who accidentally swung his entire hand directly into a tree while “teeing” off. It’s uncertain what injuries he sustained but the official who saw it mentioned it sounded as if a small gun was being fired. Ouch.

Darryl Dawkins – a basketball player who sliced his hand right open when he was washing a broken dinner plate. As a professional basketball athlete, we can only wonder why he kept a broken dinner plate to begin with.

These spontaneous funny athlete injuries go to show that sometimes circumstances are not in your favor, despite how fit your body may be. Hand injuries are bound to happen either suddenly or through excessive use over time, especially from certain jobs.

The only advice we can offer is to be careful and follow our short guide on hand injury prevention tips.