What will I notice if I have a nerve related condition of the hand?
Nerves play a vital role in movement and sensation. A compression or injury to a nerve can interrupt both of these systems. The symptoms of a nerve compression include tingling or numbness, and indicates a problem with the nerve conducting information in the sensory branches. Clumsiness and weakness may also be signs of nerve damage in the motor branches. The nerve may have been compressed such as in carpal tunnel syndrome, which is a compression of the median nerve at the wrist. This presents from mild to severe and the treatment is dependent on this.
There are other nerves supplying the upper limb which can also be compressed at specific locations. It is very important that a specialist assesses these problems to distinguish between similar symptoms from nerve compression in the cervical spine (neck) and further down the limb.
Nerves can be lacerated through injury which will result in a complete loss of sensation and muscle activity in the muscles supplied by that nerve.
What can I do about my symptoms?
Mild cases of nerve compression respond well to analysis of what is causing the compression and conservative attempts to reduce this. Referral to a specialised hand therapist for assessment and treatment recommendations is the first step. Treatments can include splinting, ice, alteration of movement or functional patterns or localised steroid injections (if the problem is inflammatory). Severe cases need decompression surgically by a hand surgeon. Post operatively hand therapy will be also be recommended to ensure wound healing, restoration of movement and management of the scar.
If the nerve is lacerated by injury the nerve needs to be repaired micro-surgically. The nerve will then slowly recover but this is a long process. During this time, some sensory deficits and loss of movement will persist. Hand therapists will use sensory re-education techniques, exercises and fabricate splints to facilitate function.
All nerve related problems benefit from a thorough and expert assessment to ensure the correct treatment is initiated in a timely manner.