Hand, Wrist, and Elbow Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries in the hand, wrist, and elbow can happen as a result of repetitive motion related to sports, work, or hobbies. Because the hand, wrist, and elbow are crucial for everyday activities, our goal at UT Southwestern Medical Center is to help each patient quickly return to full use of his or her hands and arms. 

Why Choose UT Southwestern?

UT Southwestern’s orthopaedic surgeons specialize in caring for the many bones in the hand, wrist, and elbow and all the tendons, ligaments, and muscles that connect them.

Our combined 50 years of experience as hand surgeons make our doctors experts at diagnosing and treating overuse injuries in the hand, wrist, and elbow.

Because postoperative care is crucial to recovery, our surgeons collaborate with certified hand therapists to create comprehensive treatment plans for each patient. We also offer patients access to the latest technology, fixation devices, and surgical techniques to ensure excellent results.

Conditions We Treat

At UT Southwestern, we treat hand, wrist, and elbow overuse injuries including:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome
  • Golfer's, tennis, and baseball elbow
  • DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis, which affects the thumb
  • Ganglion cyst
  • Flexor tendinitis
  • Skier’s thumb (also known as gamekeeper’s thumb or ulnar collateral ligament tear)
  • Ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) Injury
  • Stress fractures

Symptoms

Symptoms of hand, wrist, and elbow overuse injuries present in different ways.

For example:

  • An injured thumb or finger, as in DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis or skier’s thumb, may present with pain or swelling near the base of the thumb, difficulty grasping or pinching, or a sticking sensation in the thumb.
  • Symptoms of a ganglion cyst, a common injury in gymnasts, are hard bumps on the wrist that are painful and limit motion.
  • Golfer's, tennis, or baseball elbow can cause minor pain that is present during activity and rest or a sudden pain during actions like throwing, lifting, and reaching. These conditions often result in loss of strength and motion in the arm.
  • Patients with carpal tunnel syndrome often have numbness in the fingers, hand, or arm. They may experience decreased grip strength that makes it hard to grasp small objects, write, or perform other daily tasks.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing the cause of hand, wrist, or elbow overuse injuries always starts with a physical exam and patient history. Our surgeons take time to talk with patients individually, find out how the injury is affecting them, and then tailor treatment to best suit their needs.  

X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound are sometimes used to get a better look at the injury and to rule out tumors, arthritis, fractures, or other conditions.

Conservative Treatments

For most overuse injuries, we first recommend conservative treatment that starts with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications. If the pain persists, we’ll discuss other treatment options that may include the following nonsurgical and surgical treatments.

Nonsurgical treatments include:

  • Medication, or steroid or cortisone injections at the site of the pain
  • Splints for carpal tunnel syndrome or other elbow conditions to straighten the wrist or arm to keep it from flexing or extending, which reduces pressure on the nerve
  • Physical or occupational therapy to help patients recover from overuse injuries; our therapists walk you through exercises to strengthen your hand, wrist, or elbow or to decrease pressure on the injured area; occupational therapists may observe how you work or play a sport and reposition your hands or arms to reduce pain and aid healing
  • Aspiration of a cyst to release the liquid

Surgical Treatments

Hand surgeons were among the first surgeons to use minimally invasive surgical techniques, conducting complex surgeries through small incisions in the hands, wrists, and arms. 

Surgeries that we offer include:

Excision surgery
For ganglion cysts that return after aspiration, excision surgery is sometimes offered to remove the cyst altogether.
UCL reconstruction (or Tommy John surgery)
When the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the elbow is injured, we offer elbow reconstruction to replace the torn ligament with a tendon from somewhere else in the body. This surgery is most often performed in baseball players.
Thumb surgery
For patients with skier’s (or gamekeeper’s) thumb, our surgeons make small incisions in the hand and use sutures beneath the bone to sew the tendon back to the bone in its original position so it can heal properly.
Carpal tunnel release surgery
Our surgeons have extensive experience doing endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgeries where small, powerful cameras are used to direct the surgeon as he or she releases the tight ligament over the nerve. Endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery typically results in faster healing and fewer complications.
Ligament reconstruction surgery
When ligaments in the hand, wrist, or elbow are injured from overuse, we offer endoscopic ligament reconstruction surgery to stabilize the joint by sewing the tendons or nerves end-to-end using high-powered operative microscopes.

Following surgery, patients will work with certified hand therapists to regain full use of the hand, wrist, or elbow.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a sports medicine specialist at UT Southwestern or to learn more about our services, please fill out the Appointment Request form or call 214-645-8300.

Doctors Specializing in Overuse Injuries