Hand, Wrist, Arm Medical Glossary

Arthritis of the Hand – Arthritis is damage to the cartilage between bones caused by excessive use, and is very common in the hands.

Basal Thumb Arthritis – the joint of the thumb is particularly susceptible to arthritic damage. This can be very serious, as the mobility of the thumb is important to hand function.

Rheumatoid Arthritis – rheumatoid arthritis is a genetic condition that predisposes an individual to arthritic damage in the cartilage of the joints. it cannot be predicted genetically, but can be managed by doctors.

Arm Fractures – The long bones of the arm are highly susceptible to breaking, or fracturing. This is due to both their structure and the repetitive use that arms undergo on a daily basis.

Boxers Fracture – boxer’s fracture is a break of the head of the long bone in the hand as the result of impact against an object. It can occur in any finger, but it most common at the little finger.

Nursemaid’s Elbow – nursemaid’s elbow only affects very young children, as the ligament involved is only delicate enough to become trapped between the bones of the arm in the young, as it has not reached its mature strength.

Little League Elbow – is caused by the repetitive overuse of the elbow joint, causing damage to the growth plates. if it is not diagnosed and treated effectively, it can cause permanent deformation of the bones of the arm.

Panner’s Disease – Panner’s disease is a genetic disorder that interrupts the blood flow to the capitellum or humeral growth plate. Due to the constant remodeling of bone tissue by young bodies, this condition usually repairs itself in a timely fashion.

Osteochondritis Dessicans – this is a condition similar to Panner’s Disease but it occurs in more mature individuals whose growth plates have become ossified into true bone, and as a result is a more serious condition that can have lasting damage.

Colles Fracture – in a Colles fracture, the head of the radius, one of the two long bones in the forearm, is fractured and comes away from the rest of the bone. This type of injury is very common and is caused almost exclusively by a fall onto an outstretched hand.

Elbow Fractures – elbow fractures can affect the joint in several ways, as the three bones that meet there can be injured in different ways. Depending on which bone or bones are involved, the severity of the injury and the path of treatment will vary.

Children’s Elbow Fractures – children are highly susceptible to fractures of the elbow, because of their often highly active lifestyles and tendency to engage in risky behavior. Luckily, most injuries to children’s bones are easily remedied because they are still growing, so if treated properly will not likely have much of an effect on maturing bones.

Forearm Fractures – The radius and the ulna are the two bones that make up the forearm, and while they are strong and can stand up to a lot of wear and tear, it is not uncommon to see injuries in one or both. They are more common in children, whose bones are not at their adult hardness, but even some adults can undergo trauma sufficient to fracture and or displace these bones.

Hand Fractures – the delicate bones of the hand are highly susceptible to fractures. The phalanges, or finger bones, and the metacarpals, or the long bones of the hand, can easily be broken due to accident or overuse.

Metacarpal Fractures – metacarpal fractures come in many different varieties, such as the boxer’s fracture, but other injuries known as Bennet’s or Rolando’s fractures, which describe different types of break, may also occur. The type of fracture determines the type of treatment, which can range from simple casting to more invasive treatment requiring metal pins.

Scaphoid Fracture – the scaphoid is a small bone in the wrist that can be injured by a fall onto the outstretched hand. If the fracture is severe enough to cut off the blood supply to the bone, it cannot rebuild itself and may require more advanced treatment.

Wrist Fractures – the bones of the wrist are highly specialized, each performing a specific function, which together enable the wrist to move and manipulate in its characteristic way. Due to the almost constant stress placed upon the joint by daily activity, fractures to these bones are common.

Animal Bites – for obvious reasons, animal bites to the hand are a very common injury. These can be as simple as a puncture of the skin, or as complicated as multiple fractures to bones of the hand.
Hand Infections – the complex nature of the hands makes them susceptible to infection, as is most of the human body. Skin infection or cellulitis, is common, and internal injuries to the bones and joints can also introduce bacteria to the interior of the hand and led to infection, which can be much more serious.

Human Bites – due to the bacteria present in the human mouth, human bites can actually be more dangerous than animal bites, and should be treated as such. Human bites can take the form of a classic occlusive bite where the teeth are brought together on the hand, but injuries to the knuckles due to grazing by the teeth are also part of this family.

Nail Infection – due to the delicacy of the cuticle skin, infections around the nail, or paronichia, are quite common. Bacterial and fungal infections can also occur, and may require the removal of the nail to clean out the wound.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common injuries to the upper extremity. The sheath of nerves that carry signals from the brain to the hand becomes inflamed and rubs against the nerve inside, leading to numbness, tingling and pain.

Cervical Radiculopathy – cervical radiculopathy is most commonly referred to as a pinched nerve. When the nerves that connect the hands to the main nervous system are someway impeded, radiculopathy is the diagnosis in these cases, and treatment is usually surgical.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – CRPS is a little-understood constellation of nervous symptoms that lead to pain and discomfort throughout various limbs, particularly the upper extremities. It can be brought on either by a traumatic injury, which is most common, or by idiopathic inflammation of the nervous pathways.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome – Cubital tunnel syndrome is akin to carpal tunnel syndrome, where the nerve is trapped within a swollen tunnel, but this time the cubital tunnel rather than the carpal tunnel.

Hand Numbness – numbness of the hand can be caused by many different types of injuries, but nervous involvement is required. While not a condition itself, numbness is a very common indicator shared by many conditions of the hand and upper extremity.

Nerve Injuries of the Hand – as with fractures, nerve injuries to the hand are brought about by trauma to the structure of the hand itself, which can lead to ripping or tearing or severing of the nerves themselves. These types of injuries most often require surgery to repair.

Pronator Syndrome – pronator syndrome is, essentially, carpal tunnel syndrome, but at the elbow rather than the wrist. The median nerve is trapped and compressed by the surrounding structure, leading to numbness and tingling and pain.

Radial Tunnel Syndrome – Radial Tunnel syndrome is related to carpal and cubital tunnel syndrome, but is the least common of the three. As a result of some trauma to the tissue of the elbow, the radial nerve becomes trapped and cannot transmit information from the brain to the hand and back.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome – thoracic outlet symptom occurs when a complex series of nerves is compressed within a tight passageway in the shoulder/armpit. Thoracic outlet is one of the more serious conditions of the upper extremity, and surgical treatment, although often necessary, carries risks.

Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome – ulnar tunnel syndrome is most often accompanied by the presence of a ganglion cyst in the joint that puts pressure on the nerve. As with many hand conditions, overuse is the most common cause of these cysts and the accompanying nervous problems.

Biceps Tendinitis – when the tendon that attaches the biceps muscle to the radius becomes injured or inflamed, that is tendinitis. Repetitive wrist motion, particularly associated with athletic activity, is the most common cause of this condition.

Boutonniere Finger – this condition is caused when the tendon running along the top of the finger becomes injured, which causes the finger to bend in a characteristic formation. This can be caused by trauma or by rheumatoid arthritis.

Cartilage and Ligament Tears of the Wrist – cartilage and ligaments in the wrist hold the small delicate bones in place and allow for function of the hand. Injuries to these connective tissues can be caused by trauma, as with the bones, and must be treated or they can cause lasting problems.

De Quervains Stenosing Tenosynovitis – de quervain’s is caused when the tendons at the base of the thumb become constricted as the result of trauma or repetitive motion injury. This type of injury can greatly affect grip strength and restrict use of the thumb and hand.

Extensor Tendon Injuries – extensor tendons run from the top of the forearm along the hand to the fingers, and are integral in the motion of extending the fingers. Injuries to these tendons can take many different forms, but can be very debilitating in any form.

Finger Joint Injuries – the joints of the fingers, or knuckles as the layman knows them, are particularly prone to injury, as the bones are small and the connective tissues are delicate. Trauma is the most common cause of these injuries, but underlying congenital problems may also contribute.

Flexor Tendon Injuries – the counterpart of extensor tendons, flexor tendons run along the underside of the forearm and the palm and fingers. They are responsible for the flexion, or drawing in of the fingers.

Gamekeepers Thumb – gamekeepers thumb occurs when the UCL or ulnar collateral ligament at the base of the thumb becomes detached from the proximal phalanx of the thumb. This is most commonly caused by a fall onto the outstretched and open hand, and is also a common injury to skiers who don’t release their poles while falling onto the hand.

Golfer’s Elbow – medial epicondylitis is an injury the medial epicondyle tendon of the elbow, caused by violent rotation of the joint, which creates small tears in the tendon. It got its name because the motion of hitting a gold ball is the most common type of movement that causes this injury.

Intersection Syndrome – Intersection syndrome is an injury commonly associated with athletic, particularly rowing, tennis, and lifting weights. When the tendons and muscles rub together as the result of chronic use, it causes inflammation, which then leads to pain and difficulty using the hand.

Mallet Finger – mallet finger occurs when the extensor tendon on the finger becomes severed from the outermost bone of the finger, the distal phalanx, causing the joint to go limp, and the fingertip to droop, resembling a mallet. It can be caused by trauma, such as a crush injury, but is most common as a repetitive use injury, and is easily reparable with splinting, although surgery may be necessary if the injury that caused the tear is severe.

Metacarpal Boss – metacarpal bosses occur when the connective tissue of the metacarpal joints is worn away by repetitive use or trauma. this causes a “boss” or a bony growth, which is the body’s attempt to defend itself from irritation, but which has the opposite effect, and must be handled by steroid injection or surgical removal.

Mommy Thumb – mommy thumb, or “blackberry thumb” is a repetitive use injury to the tendon sheath of the lower thumb. Overuse of the thumb leads to irritation and inflammation in the sheath and causes pain and swelling. Treatment of this condition is difficult, because the best way to reduce the symptoms is to stop the activity that caused them, but phones are integral to modern life, and a mother cannot be asked to stop feeding her child. As a result, medication and splinting are necessary to counteract the symptoms until the doctor determines that a surgical solution is necessary.

Medial Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injury at the Elbow – The elbow is a complex joint, hingelike in structure, and the tendons that comprise it are susceptible to injury and trauma, particularly the elbows of athletes, who overuse their joints to a great extent. MUC ligament injury is associated with overhead throwing motion, and causes pain, numbness, and calcification. Like many elbow injuries, it can be treated conservatively, but sometimes surgery is necessary.

Olecranon Bursitis – a bursa is a fluid filled sac that protects soft tissues from bones, and in this case, the skin of the elbow from the olecranon process, which is the bony prominence at the elbow. Bursitis occurs when the fluid in the sac becomes irritated or infected, causing the sac to swell and rub against the tissues in the area, which can cause irritation or sometimes pain.

Sagittal Band Tear – The sagittal bands run along the back of the hands, perpendicular to the extensor tendons, and effectively hold them in place. Most commonly, trauma to the knuckle leads to injury of the sagittal band, which is why these are so often called “boxer’s knuckle.”

Swan Neck Deformity – the swan neck deformity is a very specific and identifiable malformation of the finger as the result of the extensor and flexor tendons growing lax, and not properly holding the fingers in tension, leading to the deformity. Most often caused by rheumatoid arthritis, this can be treated conservatively with a special metal ring splint that holds the finger in the correct position, or by surgery if the injury is very severe.

Tennis Elbow – when the outside tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the elbow become inflamed, that is known as tennis elbow. Despite its name, this condition can be cause by any number of repetitive motion activities, ranging from leisure to business activities.

Triceps Tendonitis – the triceps is the muscle that runs along the back of the upper arm from the shoulder to the elbow. Triceps tendonitis occurs when the tendon that connects the triceps to the olecranon process of the elbow becomes inflamed as the result of repetitive use.

Trigger Finger – trigger finger occurs when the flexor tendons of the fingers develop nodules that keep them from smoothly sliding in and out of the pulleys that connect them to the phalanges. These nodules can trap the fingers in a flexed position, which gives the condition its name.

Wrist Sprain – sprain injuries are common in all joints, and can range in severity from slight inconvenience to extreme pain that limits mobility, but all are the result of injury to the ligaments that hold the carpal bones together. In more severe cases, the sprain can involve a tear of the ligament, which can sometimes require surgical repair.

Hyperextension Injury of the Elbow – hyperextension is a common injury to the various joints of the upper extremity, and occurs when the tendons and connective tissue of the joint is stretch beyond its natural range of motion. Hyperextension most often leads to sprains or soreness, but in more severe cases can also lead to tears and even severing the connections of tendons to bones.

Digital Mucoid Cysts – digital mucoid cysts are benign growths that occur when the fluid between the phalanges of the fingers becomes irritated and leaks out of its proper location, and develops into a round growth on a stalk. These cysts can impede regular function of the finger and cause unsightly bumps and can usually be lanced and drained unless surgical removal is indicated.

Ganglion Cyst – similar to a digital cyst, ganglion cysts occur at the wrist joint, and the diagnosis, structure, and treatment is the same. Draining of the cyst is most common, but not a guaranteed solution, as the fluid may not be entirely drained, and the cyst can grow back.

Glomus Tumor – glomus tumors are benign neoplasms that most often occur under the nail bed, and their causes are unknown, although a genetic etiology is suspected. Due to the nature of their structure and composition, surgical excision is the only reliable method of treatment.

Hand Tumors – the majority of tumors in the hand are cysts, which are fluid filled nodules that can affect the motion of the joints in the hand. Giant cell tumors can also occur along tendon sheaths, and they are painful and can inhibit function, although they are non-cancerous.

Burns of the Hand – due to the integral nature of the hand in all basic activities of life, burns to the hands are very common, and can range from minor first degree burns to debilitating fourth degree burns. Depending on the severity and location of burns to the hand, they may be treated in many different ways, ranging from topical therapy to surgery.

Cumulative Trauma Disorder – Cumulative trauma disorder is a blanket term that encompasses many different conditions of the upper extremity, all of which are caused by constant and repetitive use of the arm, elbow, wrist and hand. Many of them have been defined in this list, but include Carpal Tunnel, Cubital Tunnel and Radial Tunnel Syndromes, as well as bursitis and trigger finger.

Dupuytrens Contracture – Dupuytrens contracture is a congenital condition that affects the fascia, or subcutaneous tissue, of the hand. It causes the flexor tendons of the hand to pull inward, making the fingers claw towards the palm. Most commonly, the little and ring fingers are affected, but in severe cases all fingers can be affected.

Hand Rejuvenation – the hands can often display signs of aging, whether prematurely or not, and so hand rejuvenation is a procedure wherein a gel is injected into the hand to reverse this process and cause the hand to “fill out.”

Kienbocks Disease – Kienbock’s disease is a condition that affects the lunate bone, which is right in the middle of the wrist. As a result of the condition, the blood supply of the bone is cut off and the bone tissue dies, which means that the only way to repair the damage is for the bone to be replaced with a special piece of technology that serves the same purpose as the dead bone.

Nail bed Injuries – nail bed injuries are most commonly caused as the result of trauma to the fingertip. While other conditions such as tumors can affect the nail bed, injuries are often cuts or blunt force trauma, often associated with workplace and manual injuries.

Overuse Injuries of the Elbow – the elbow is a complex and very heavily used part of the arm, and as a result injuries to this joint are very commonplace. The most common elbow injuries, such as Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow, are discussed above, and their names indicate that these athletic activities are most commonly associated with overuse of the elbow.

Sports Injuries – as discussed above, sports are one of the most common causes of injuries to the upper extremity. They can take the form of overuse injuries, wherein strain is places on the bones, muscles, and tendons of the arm due to constant strain through athletic activity. Sports can also be the cause of traumatic injury, such as the many wrist fractures that are caused by falling into the outstretched, but the varied equipment associated with athletics and also play a part, such as dropping weights on ones hand, or getting a finger caught in a piece of equipment of rigging.

Humerus – also known as the “funny bone” the humerus is the longest and most robust bone in the arm. It is the bone of the upper arm, and connects the shoulder to the elbow.

Radius – the radius is one of two bones that make up the forearm. The radius runs along the inner, thumb-side of the forearm, and so this part of the arm and its associated components are referred to as “radial”

Ulna – the counterpart of the radius is the ulna, which makes up the other, outer half of the forearm. All of the tendons and nerves and processes that pertain to this bone, and to the outside of the arm, are referred to as “ulnar.”

Carpals – the eight bones that make up the wrist are known as the carpals. They form the connection between the long bones of the forearm and the metacarpals, which form the main body of the hand. They are as follows: lunate, capitate, hamate, triquetrum, trapezium, trapezoid, and scaphoid. Fractures to these individual bones are addressed in the list discussed earlier.

Metacarpals – the metacarpal bones are the long, thin bones that make up the hand. Along with the tendons and fascia that connect them, the large area of the hand that includes the palm is built around these bones.

Phalanges – the phalanges, or finger bones, are separated into three parts. The proximal phalanges are closest to the hand, the intermediate phalanges are one step removes, and the distal phalanges are the tips of the fingers.
The bones of the hand are connected to one another by a series of ligaments: the ulnar collateral, the radial collateral, and the annular ligaments.

Biceps – the biceps is the large muscle that makes up the main part of the upper arm, and is probably the most well-known of the arm muscles. The biceps everts force to help rotate the forearm and to move the elbow.

Triceps – the back of the upper arm is made of the triceps muscle, whose purpose is to help in the extension of the arm

Extensor carpi radialis longus – this muscle is integral to the movement of the wrist.
The muscles of the hand are all very delicate and important to the function of that extremity, and include the following: Abductor pollicis longus, Extensor carpi radialis longus, Extensor pollicis longus, Extensor carpi radialis brevis, Extensor pollicis brevis, Extensor indicis, Extensor digiti minimi, Extensor carpi ulnaris, and Extensor digitorum communis.

Radial Nerve – one of three nerves that enervate the arm and hand, the radial nerve is responsible for the function of the biceps, and runs along the radial side of the humerus, the radius itself, and into the thumb side of the hand.

Ulnar Nerve – the Ulnar nerve is the nerve responsible for the humerus’s reputation as the “funny bone,” that sensation that one feels in their arm when they hit their funny bone is actually the ulnar nerve. Like the radial nerve, it extends from the shoulder to the hand, but in this case it is along the ulnar or outside of the arm and enervates the outermost fingers.

Median Nerve – the median nerve is the third and central nerve of the arm. It is of particular importance because it is the nerve associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.