7 Tools We Use To Treat Hand And Wrist Pain (And One We Recommend Against!)

Our hands and wrists are some of the hardest working joints in the body. As long as we’re awake, it’s likely we’re using our hands and wrists in some way.

Because we use our hands and our wrists so much, developing pain in them can feel somewhat debilitating. Tasks that were once simple “no-brainers”, such as going to the gym, cooking a meal, or picking up our child, become painful and difficult.

So, how can you treat wrist pain and hand pain? If you’re considering treatment for hand pain and wrist pain, it’s worth understanding what treatment options are available to you. While some treatments are safe and non-invasive, some come with nasty side effects.

At Featherston Pain Clinic, we’ve treated countless cases of hand pain and wrist pain. We specialise in providing flexible multidisciplinary pain relief using a wide range of tools and techniques. To give you insight into what treatment options are available for you, here’s a list of seven treatments we commonly use for hand pain and wrist pain – and one we recommend against.

1. Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy is a gold standard treatment for hand and wrist pain. It’s non-invasive, effective and backed by heaps of research.

If you’ve never heard of shockwave therapy before, it’s sort of like laser therapy. However, instead of using focussed light, shockwave therapy uses sound waves. 

A handheld device fires sound waves through the body’s bone and soft tissues at up to a depth of up to 12 cm.

The effect that these soundwaves have on the body is complex. However, put simply, shockwave therapy treats wrist and hand pain by breaking down scar like  tissue and promoting the regeneration of soft tissue.

If you’ve injured or overused your hand or wrist, you’ve likely got built up scar tissue. This scar tissue causes pain by impairing how your hand or wrist functions. Shockwave can break that scar tissue down. Not only that, but it also increases blood flow and vascular regeneration, reducing inflammation. 

If you’re the kind of person that likes to do their research on a treatment before diving in, there’s no shortage of research into shockwave therapy as a treatment for hand and wrist pain. Research has shown that shockwave therapy helps treat hand and wrist pain, including the below conditions: 

– Osteoarthritis (see research here

– De Quervain diseases (see research here)

– Trigger finger (see research here)

– Dupuytren disease (see research here)

– Carpal tunnel (see research here

– Tendonitis (see research here)

1. Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy is a gold standard treatment for hand and wrist pain. It’s non-invasive, effective and backed by heaps of research.

If you’ve never heard of shockwave therapy before, it’s sort of like laser therapy. However, instead of using focused light, shockwave therapy uses sound waves. 

The effect that these soundwaves have on the body is complex. However, put simply, shockwave therapy treats wrist and hand pain by breaking down scar like  tissue and promoting the regeneration of soft tissue.

If you’ve injured or overused your hand or wrist, you’ve likely got built up scar tissue. This scar tissue causes pain by impairing how your hand or wrist functions. Shockwave can break that scar tissue down. Not only that, but it also increases blood flow and vascular regeneration, reducing inflammation. 

If you’re the kind of person that likes to do their research on a treatment before diving in, there’s no shortage of research into shockwave therapy as a treatment for hand and wrist pain. Research has shown that shockwave therapy helps treat hand and wrist pain, including the below conditions: 

– Osteoarthritis (see research here

– De Quervain diseases (see research here)

– Trigger finger (see research here)

– Dupuytren disease (see research here)

– Carpal tunnel (see research here

– Tendonitis (see research here)

A person getting laser treatment
2. Laser Therapy

Laser therapy is another non-invasive and research-backed treatment that helps treat hand and wrist pain effectively. 

An infra-red laser works at a low frequency to penetrate invisible wavelengths deeply into the tissues below the skin. In our experience, people with wrist and hand pain often experience immediate improvements in their pain after laser therapy, and research backs this observation.

Research suggests that low laser therapy can effectively treat hand and wrist pain, including the below conditions:

– General wrist and hand pain (see research here

– Osteoarthritis (see research here) 

– De Quervain diseases (see research here)

– Trigger finger (see research here)

– Dupuytren disease (see research here)

– Carpal tunnel (see research here

– Tendonitis (see research here)

2. Laser Therapy

Laser therapy is another non-invasive and research-backed treatment that helps treat hand and wrist pain effectively. 

An infra-red laser works at a low frequency to penetrate invisible wavelengths deeply into the tissues below the skin. In our experience, people with wrist and hand pain often experience immediate improvements in their pain after laser therapy, and research backs this observation.

Research suggests that low laser therapy can effectively treat hand and wrist pain, including the below conditions:

– General wrist and hand pain (see research here

– Osteoarthritis (see research here) 

– De Quervain diseases (see research here)

– Trigger finger (see research here)

– Dupuytren disease (see research here)

– Carpal tunnel (see research here

– Tendonitis (see research here)

3. Graston Technique

Graston Technique is a specialised massage that uses ‘scraping’ tools to release connective and soft tissue adhesions. 

Soft tissue adhesions are often the root cause of hand or wrist pain. These types of adhesions can come from almost any history of physical injury, trauma or overuse and are a bit like a tiny spider web that creates tissue tension and irritation. 

We’ve found that using Graston Technique to release adhesions can bring shockingly fast relief for many wrist pain and hand pain sufferers, even for those patients who have struggled for years.

Again, research backs up what we’ve witnessed at the clinic and suggests Graston Technique is an effective treatment for hand and wrist pain.

– De Quervain diseases (see research here)

– Trigger finger (see research here)

– Dupuytren disease (see research here)

– Carpal tunnel (see research here)

– Tendonitis (see research here)

4. Acupuncture/Dry Needling

Acupuncture can be beneficial in the management of many cases of wrist pain and hand pain. Needling aims to promote blood flow, ease painful pressure points in soft tissues and reduce pain signals.

Traditionally, acupuncture places needles in a broad set of related locations. However, we tend to use a method often referred to as dry needling, where needles are placed directly on your hand or wrist at appropriate trigger points. Once we’ve placed the needles on your hand or wrist, we’ll generally leave them in for around 10 minutes, depending on your body’s tolerance to them.

Again, research backs the effectiveness of dry needling. A 2017 systematic review of 15 studies published in the Journal of Complementary Therapies in Medicine found dry needling offers short-term benefits of reduced pain, increased ROM, and better quality of life in patients with myofascial pain. 

Dry needling can also effectively treat: 

– De Quervain diseases (see research here)

– Trigger finger (see research here)

– Carpal tunnel (see research here)

– Tendonitis (see research here)

5. Trigger Point Release

Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a chronic condition that causes muscle pain. In people with myofascial pain syndrome, sensitive spots are known as trigger points.

It’s thought that injury and overuse can cause muscle fibers to contract and shorten. The shortened muscle means that the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the trigger point is constantly compromised, and therefore it can’t relax. 

Trigger point release techniques use the hands to release those painful muscle points.
Myofascial trigger point therapy aims to improve blood circulation to the trigger zone and release the surrounding fascia.  

There’s still no complete scientific understanding of the role myofascial trigger points play in pain, although research suggests it’s an effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. Over the years, we’ve seen trigger point release provide effective relief from hand and wrist pain and think it’s an effective, accessible and non-invasive tool to have in the bank for helping to get your hand or wrist pain-free again.

6. Exercise Prescription

Exercises are a vital part of long-term wrist pain and hand pain rehab. However, there is an important nuance to understand about the role exercises have in wrist pain and hand pain management. 

Most stubborn wrist and hand pain cases require hands-on treatment before they are truly responsive to exercise prescription. If you have a significant build-up of muscle knots, soft tissue adhesions, or tendinopathies, it is too much to expect that exercises alone will resolve them. Although exercises help manage wrist and hand pain, you don’t want to put the horse before the cart. Treat first, exercise later.

However, that doesn’t mean exercises are useless. Research suggests that exercises can assist in improving wrist and hand function after treatment.

So, we will prescribe them when required to strengthen weakened muscles and tendons as needed. However, if you go to a pain specialist and exercises are the only treatment they give you, we advise you to find another pain specialist!

7. Bracing & Splints

Braces and splints immobilise your hand or wrist to help it heal. Globally, pain management practices have moved away from immobilisation techniques over the last 30 years. Instead, more active types of rehab are now preferred. However, bracing for wrist pain and hand pain is still surprisingly common in New Zealand. 

Of course, there is still a place for bracing and immobilisation. Bracing is essential while bone and soft tissue heal from significant breaks. Beyond that, a modern take on pain management broadly indicates that you should be suspicious of managing your pain in a way that favours bracing over other more active treatments.

So, like exercise prescription, there’s a nuance as to when braces are the right choice for treating your hand wrist pain, and they shouldn’t act as a substitute for more hands-on treatment.

7. Bracing & Splints

Braces and splints immobilise your hand or wrist to help it heal. Globally, pain management practices have moved away from immobilisation techniques over the last 30 years. Instead, more active types of rehab are now preferred. However, bracing for wrist pain and hand pain is still surprisingly common in New Zealand. 

Of course, there is still a place for bracing and immobilisation. Bracing is essential while bone and soft tissue heal from significant breaks. Beyond that, a modern take on pain management broadly indicates that you should be suspicious of managing your pain in a way that favours bracing over other more active treatments.

So, like exercise prescription, there’s a nuance as to when braces are the right choice for treating your hand wrist pain, and they shouldn’t act as a substitute for more hands-on treatment.

8. Cortisone Shots

Finally, a treatment we don’t recommend you dive into without exploring all other avenues first – cortisone shots.

Cortisone shots are injections that can help relieve pain and inflammation in a specific area of your body. The injections usually contain a corticosteroid medication and a local anesthetic and can be injected into your joints, including your wrist and hands. 

However, cortisone shots come with a bunch of side effects. Here’s a list of the side effects we’ve taken from Mayo Clinic

– Cartilage damage.

– Death of nearby bone.

– Joint infection.

– Nerve damage.

– Temporary facial flushing.

– Temporary flare of pain and inflammation in the joint.

– Temporary increase in blood sugar.

– Tendon weakening or rupture.

– Thinning of nearby bone (osteoporosis).

– Thinning of skin and soft tissue around the injection site.

– Whitening or lightening of the skin around the injection site.

As you can see, it’s not a short list! Before you jump in and take the risk of cortisone injections, it’s worth trying less invasive treatments, such as the seven that we have listed above.

Treating wrist and hand pain
The Take Home

Wrist and hand pain can be a major inconvenience, but the good news is that there is no shortage of effective treatments for both conditions. If you’re currently experiencing pain, we can certainly help.  

We aim to provide you with a genuinely transformative healthcare experience. For us, real care and clear communication are not just bonuses – they’re fundamentals! 

Our process is a hands-on style of pain management, and we’ll work one-on-one with you as your unique needs dictate. We have spent 25 years treating on the front line and know hands-on treatment brings the best results.

Contact our team today to book in for an initial consultation if you think you might be suffering from wrist and hand pain so we can get started to help you live a pain-free day.

The Take Home

Wrist and hand pain can be a major inconvenience, but the good news is that there is no shortage of effective treatments for both conditions. If you’re currently experiencing pain, we can certainly help.  

We aim to provide you with a genuinely transformative healthcare experience. For us, real care and clear communication are not just bonuses – they’re fundamentals! 

Our process is a hands-on style of pain management, and we’ll work one-on-one with you as your unique needs dictate. We have spent 25 years treating on the front line and know hands-on treatment brings the best results.

Contact our team today to book in for an initial consultation if you think you might be suffering from wrist and hand pain so we can get started to help you live a pain-free day.

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