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Hand & Arm Care


Our hands serve many purposes. They help us eat, dress, write, earn a living, create art and do many other rewarding activities. To accomplish these tasks and activities, our hands must function at top efficiency. UNM Health System’s hand and arm specialists are here to aid in your recovery from a number of different ailments.

Tennis Elbow

This is a painful condition caused by overworked elbow tendons. It typically occurs through repetitive wrist and arm motions (such as swinging a tennis racket) and causes pain primarily in the area where the forearm muscles attach to the prominent bone area of the elbow.

The pain and potential weakness that radiates from the elbow to the wrist is the primary symptom. This may even be prevalent in simple tasks like shaking hands, picking up small objects or pulling up a blanket on your bed.

A physical examination should be able to diagnose the condition, but additional tests may be required to rule out any underlying conditions. Your physician may prescribe any or all of the following to help treat it:

  • Physical therapy
  • Exercises – To stretch and strengthen your affected muscles
  • Braces – To reduce strain on the injured muscle tissue
  • Surgery – A last case option after other treatments have failed to improve your condition after a year of trying

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This occurs due to the compression of the median nerve, which is located in the carpal tunnel that runs along the palm side of your hand and wrist. This is a very common injury with over 3 million reported cases in the United States each year. Most patients experience relief and healing through physical therapy exercises, wrist splinting, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and pain relief injections. Surgery is viewed only as a last resort and in the most severe cases.

Shoulder Issues

The shoulder joint allows for a wide range of motion and flexibility. Unfortunately, the versatility of this joint can make it prone to a variety of injuries. Degenerative conditions and damage to the soft tissues that stabilize the shoulder can cause pain and inflammation as well as limit your range of motion and functionality.

One of the most common shoulder injuries is to the rotator cuff, which consists of four tendons that attach to four muscles in the shoulder. They help keep the shoulder stable in its socket and enable it to rotate. It is possible to tear the cuff through either physical trauma or through repetitive motion injuries such as swimming or throwing a ball. 

Surgery is often recommended for rotator cuff tears to limit the risk of future tears or damaging the cuff further.

It is important to contact your physician should you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in and around the shoulder
  • Pain that radiates into the neck, arm, wrist or hand
  • Pain that worsens at night or that interrupts sleep
  • Weakness of the shoulder
  • Limited range of motion
  • Popping, creaking or cracking sensation or sound in the shoulder

If you present with any of these symptoms, your physician might perform any or all of the following tests to properly diagnose your injury:

  • Health history with physical examination
  • X-rays
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Neurological exam
  • Electromyogram
These tests are also used to diagnose a number of other issues with the shoulder including tendinitis or arthritis. If your shoulder issue is more severe then your physician might recommend replacement of your shoulder joint. Read more in our Total Joint Replacement section.
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