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Hand Issues for Women


When it comes to the attention we give our body parts, care for our hands may be, well, shorthanded. For all we ask of our hands, we may be taking their health for granted. That is, until something goes wrong. There are three hand issues particularly common to women.

Carpometacarpal (CMC) arthritis

More plainly put, arthritis of the thumb joint. The CMC joint has 16 stabilizing ligaments around it. With CMC arthritis, you’re experiencing degeneration of these stabilizing ligaments, and the cartilage begins to wear away.

Who’s most prone to developing it: Caucasian women in their mid-50s are the most common sufferers of this condition. Studies are underway to investigate why this is the case.

Course of action: Avoid repetitive motion of the joint. See a specialist and ask to be referred to Dominican’s hand therapy clinic. Wearing a brace can help. If symptoms aren’t better within three months, a steroid injection is an option. If quality of life continues to suffer, surgery may be necessary.

de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

Also known as Washerwoman’s Sprain, Mommy’s Thumb, and Radial Styloid Tenosynovitis. Whatever you call it, it affects the tendons on the thumb side of your wrist, making movements like grasping, grabbing, or curling your hand into a fist very painful.

Who’s most prone to developing it: As the different terms of this condition suggest, women who use their hands or wrists repetitively, such as washing clothes prior to machines (Washerwoman’s Sprain) or lifting babies (Mommy’s Thumb) or gardening, golfing, etc.

Course of action: A special splint for de Quervain’s sufferers exists and has proven useful. Hand therapy is recommended as well as activity modification, addressing ergonomics, and potentially anti-inflammatory medication and/or steroid injections if the pain does not subside. Surgery is an option but rarely done because of the effectiveness of these other treatments. 

Distal Radial Fracture

Also known as Distal Radius Fracture. Often called a broken wrist, but really a break close to the wrist of the radius bone in the forearm.

Who’s most prone to developing it: Anyone can have an accident or fall down and suffer a distal radial fracture, but it’s one of the more common injuries for women who suffer from osteoporosis. When bone mass is low, you’re predisposed to fragility fractures. The three most common fractures seen are distal radial fracture, vertebral compression fracture (in the spine), and hip fractures.

Course of action: See a physician immediately if you suspect a fracture. X-rays will be taken. A splint or cast may be all that is necessary, but surgery may be required depending on the fracture. Rehabilitation may be suggested. When it comes to strengthening hands and wrists, what’s good for one person may cause an injury in another. Research shows that people who are aerobically fit have fewer incidences of repetitive motion disorders. We are living longer, and this creates a need to take care of our hands just like any other part of the body. 

To learn more about Dominican Hospital’s orthopedic services, visit dignityhealth.org/dominicanortho.