You may not give your arms — wrists, elbows and shoulders — much thought, until a stiff, aching joint makes activities like carrying groceries or buckling a child into a car seat nearly impossible.
The upper extremities are extremely complex. As a result, they have many functions that allow us to perform daily activities, do our jobs, and participate in sporting events.
“Problems from overuse can creep up over time, or injuries can occur after a burst of activity,” said D. Dean Dominy III, M.D., board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, fellowship trained in hand and upper extremity. “Tendons and other structures can become swollen or inflamed, causing tendonitis or bursitis. Sometimes these structures can even tear, either from an acute injury or chronic attrition.”
Repetitive motion, aging and arthritis can also contribute to pain as surrounding tissues begin to wear down. There are common conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, rotator cuff tear and arthritis that cause pain, stiffness or discomfort and restrict range of motion.
“You should have these conditions treated early to prevent more serious problems later,” said Dominy. “For instance, if pain is preventing you from using your wrist, elbow or shoulder to its full extent, you can develop conditions that restrict your range of motion even more.”
Consider some of the following measures you can take to avoid pain and injury:
- Exercise and stretch regularly to keep your muscles and joints strong
- Don’t carry heavy shoulder bags. If you must lug heavy contents, use a backpack
- Listen to mom’s advice: standing up straight promotes good posture, preventing future problems
- Take regular breaks at work if your job involves repetitive motion or sitting at a computer all day. Briefly stretching your back, wrists, elbows and shoulders during the work day can help, too
- If activity causes soreness or stiffness, give your muscles and joints adequate rest before engaging in the activity again
- Ease into a sport you’ve been away from for a time. Tennis players, swimmers and ballplayers have the highest risk of shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries.
To schedule an appointment online with Dr. Dominy, visit houstonmethodist.org/orthopedics-sl or call 281-690-4678.
Free joint pain seminar
Is chronic joint pain slowing you down? Join D. Dean Dominy III, M.D., for a free seminar at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28 at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s Brazos Pavilion Conference Center. From diagnosis to rehabilitation, Dominy will discuss the latest medical advances for upper extremity joint pain to help you get back to the active life you enjoy. Registration is required. For more information or to register, visit events.houstonmethodist.org/jointpain-sl or call 281-274-7500.