What You Might Need to Know About Upper Extremity Injuries


Upper extremity injuries are common, particularly among people who practice various sports and strenuous work activities. Some of the most common upper extremity injuries involve fractures on wrists and hands, dislocations on shoulders, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc. Ignoring the pain and discomfort caused by extremity injuries can aggravate the symptoms and lead to more severe health issues. Orthopedic specialists and surgeons like Dr. Kristopher L. Downing consider upper extremity injuries to be muscle, nerves, and tissue-damaging injuries if left untreated. Here is everything you should know about upper extremity injuries.

What are upper extremity injuries?

Upper extremity injuries affect the hands, elbow, shoulders, and arms. They can be caused by accidents, physical trauma, or repetitive strain injuries. Extremity injuries also affect the bones, tendons, muscles, and ligaments. They also affect people of all ages, including children and adults. Severe and untreated upper extremity injuries can lead to loss of movement or permanent damage to arms, hands, elbows, and wrists.

Symptoms of upper extremity injuries

The upper extremity relies on a complex network of muscles, tendons, blood vessels, nerves, and bones to facilitate motion. When these musculoskeletal tissues begin to malfunction, you can start to experience some symptoms, as highlighted below.

  • Pain, bruising, and swelling in arms and hands
  • Numbness and tenderness on the upper body parts
  • Deformed bones
  • Muscle and ligaments strains
  • Motion instability

Depending on the severity of your condition, your symptoms might vary on both extremes. Also, most upper extremity injuries are caused by repetitive motions that accelerate the damage to the musculoskeletal tissues. 

Common types of upper extremity injuries

Various types of upper extremity injuries require orthopedic treatments and care. They include:

  • Hand injuries: Your hands consist of the delicate metacarpal, carpal, and phalangeal bones, which are connected by a network of tendons, muscles, and ligaments. When these muscles or bones are exposed to any form of injury, they can begin to cause chronic hand pain and the inability to hold anything.
  • Wrist injuries: Wrist injuries are caused mainly by repetitive aggressive movements such as jackhammering, hammering, etc. As a result, you may develop fractures, sprains, posttraumatic arthritis, or even carpal tunnel syndrome. 
  • Elbow injuries: Elbow injuries can develop when the elbow cushioning tissues and tendons become irritated due to repetitive movements. As a result, you may feel pain, stiffness and inflammation, weakness, and a tingling sensation from your elbow to other areas of your hands.
  • Shoulder injuries: Shoulders are usually the most mobile joints but with less stability. As a result, they are more prone to injuries such as dislocations than any other part of your body. Repetitive shoulder injuries can result in more shoulder problems such as bursitis, tendonitis, arthritis, etc.

How are upper extremity injuries treated?

Depending on the sustained type of injury, your doctor will first make a diagnosis before proceeding to treatment. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor might recommend physical therapy or surgical treatment. 

Physical therapy involves actively moving your joints gently, using anti-inflammatory medications, and heat & ice treatments. Also, some upper extremity injuries, such as fractures, dislocations, etc., will require immobilization instead of physical therapy.

Suppose your injury is too severe and the above conservative treatments fail to work. In that case, your doctor will recommend surgical treatments such as carpal tunnel release, tendon surgery, or wrist and elbow arthroscopy.

Experiencing pain, weakness, swelling, motion instability, or numbness on your upper extremity should be cause for concern. Visit the Upper Extremity Specialists of Ortho 1 Medical Group, a private orthopedic treatment center led by Dr. Kristopher L. Downing, and begin your diagnosis and treatment journey.

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