Your upper body’s complex network of bones, joints, muscles, and ligaments enables fluid movement. If an accident has affected the mobility in your hand or an animal bite has impacted a nerve in your arm, an orthopedic surgeon can treat and restore function. In this article, our team at The Hand and Wrist Institute in Dallas, Texas, explores some of the general conditions our orthopedic surgeons treat, both surgically and non-surgically. From animal bites to fractures, we explore the symptoms to watch out for, the various treatments available, and when to seek urgent medical attention.
Below are some of the most common general upper extremity conditions we see in our practice. Follow the links below to learn more details and information on each condition, including causes, symptoms, and surgical and non-surgical treatments. If you need assistance determining your potential condition, our free Where Does it Hurt?® interactive tool can help. The tool will ask you to select your symptoms and, in return, will provide potential conditions you may be experiencing. This tool is not intended to be used as a diagnostic measure. To get an official diagnosis and a treatment plan, please make an appointment with Dr. Knight at The Hand and Wrist Institute‘s Dallas or Southlake office. Appointments can be scheduled online or over the phone.
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
- Cumulative Trauma Disorder
- Forearm Fractures
- Human Bites
- Sports Injuries
Animal bites on the arm can cause serious injury and infection. They require immediate care and can have long-term consequences without prompt and proper treatment. These injuries vary depending on the animal involved and the severity of the bite. You may face complications, such as an infection, nerve or tendon damage, and scarring, particularly if the bite is deep or from an animal with a strong jaw or infectious saliva.
Symptoms from an animal bite typically include the following:
- Pain: Animal bites cause immediate pain, ranging from mild discomfort to intense pain, especially if the bite is deep or has damaged the nerve.
- Bleeding and puncture wounds: The animal may have broken through the skin, causing bleeding and visible puncture wounds or lacerations.
- Swelling and redness: The affected area may swell and become red or inflamed.
- Bruising or discoloration: You may notice bruising around the bite site from damage to blood vessels.
- Signs of infection: It’s vital to pay attention to increased pain, warmth, redness spreading from the bite area, pus, fever, and swollen lymph nodes.
- Difficulty moving the arm: Severe bites or those affecting the muscles, tendons, or bones can make it difficult to move the arm or limit your range of motion.
- Numbness or tingling: If the bite affects nerves in the arm, you may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness extending from the bite site down the arm.
An orthopedic surgeon will assess and treat animal bites on the arm, especially if there’s damage to bones, joints, or surrounding structures. We treat these injuries by cleaning the wound, administering antibiotics, and applying pressure to control bleeding. Cleaning the wound thoroughly to prevent infection is essential, as animal bites carry a high risk of bacterial infection. In severe cases, reconstructive surgery or specialized wound care may be necessary. Rehabilitation and follow-up care are important for restoring full function and minimizing the risk of long-term issues.
Arm fractures are common injuries that can occur because of falls or accidents. They can affect various parts of the arm, including the humerus (upper arm bone) or the radius and ulna (forearm bones). Prompt medical attention and proper treatment can influence the recovery process and the likelihood of restoring full function to the injured arm.
If you fracture your arm, you’ll probably notice the following symptoms:
- Pain: You may have intense pain at the site of the fracture, especially if the bone fractures or breaks in multiple places.
- Swelling and bruising: The area around the fracture may swell from soft tissue damage, and bruising may be noticeable when blood vessels are affected.
- Visible deformity: You may see visible deformity or abnormal alignment of the arm.
- Limited mobility: You may find it difficult or be unable to move the arm.
- Tenderness and sensitivity: The area around the fracture site can be tender to the touch and might feel sensitive or painful, even with slight movement.
- Numbness or tingling: If the nerves are affected, you may notice numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arm or hand.
Orthopedic surgeons treat fractures by immobilizing the arm with a cast or brace to allow the bone to heal properly. More complex or displaced fractures may require realignment through manipulation or surgery, which involves setting the bones back into their correct positions using pins, plates, or screws to stabilize them during the healing process. Rehabilitation plays a crucial role in recovery. Physical therapy helps restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the affected arm. It’s important to follow medical advice to ensure proper healing and prevent long-term stiffness or weakness in the arm.
Cervical radiculopathy is a condition that occurs when a nerve root in the neck region of the spine is compressed or damaged. Injury, a herniated disc, bone spurs, or degenerative changes in the spine can cause this condition.
Symptoms can vary depending on which nerve root is affected but typically include the following:
- Neck pain: You may have pain that radiates to the shoulders, arms, or hands.
- Numbness or tingling: These sensations may affect the shoulder, arm, or fingers.
- Weakness: Reduced strength in the muscles linked to the affected nerve can lead to difficulty with gripping, lifting, or other arm movements.
- Changes in reflexes: You may have diminished reflexes in the affected area.
If necessary, orthopedic surgeons can treat this condition with physical therapy, medication, or surgery. We’ll usually begin with conservative measures, such as rest, physical therapy, pain management, and specific exercises to improve neck strength and flexibility. We’ll perform a comprehensive examination to diagnose the underlying cause, including assessing symptoms, conducting physical exams, and sometimes employing imaging studies such as MRIs or CT scans to visualize the cervical spine. These help us establish what’s causing nerve compression.
In some cases, we may recommend immobilization using a cervical collar to reduce movement and allow the nerve roots to heal. For persistent or severe cases that don’t respond to conservative treatments, we may consider surgery to alleviate pressure on the affected nerve root. Surgical options include discectomy (removal of part of a herniated disc), laminectomy (removal of bone spurs or parts of vertebrae), or a spinal fusion to stabilize the cervical spine.
When To Seek Medical Attention
Seeking immediate medical attention is key when an injury, accident, or animal bite affects your hands and arms. If you have severe or persistent pain, a visible deformity, restricted mobility, open wounds with bleeding, or signs of infection, we recommend seeking urgent care. Our Dallas hand surgeons can give you a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan to prevent complications, ensure proper healing, and address potential risks to safeguard against long-term consequences. Contact us to book an appointment today.