In this high technological age of computers and sedentary lifestyles, we need to learn how to keep our bodies strong and healthy. We all have aches and pains from time to time, but how do we know when these are more than day-to-day wear and tear? Ideally, we never want to have to visit the doctor, but poor choices or bad luck can land us in the hospital for a variety of reasons. Hand surgeons can share some helpful tips about how to recognize that you've pushed your body too far.

One common issue is arthritis, or the degeneration of cartilage between the bones in our joints. There are a variety of types of this joint disease, which can stem from either genetics, disease, or overuse. Common symptoms include having difficulty moving your hands. They will be stiff, and it will probably hurt when you try to use them. A strong sign will come when you notice that you can not return your joints to a normal, resting position.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is what we all think of when we consider computer-related injuries. It is caused by the compression of the wrist's median nerve and advances the area from sending messages to the brain. As a result, symptoms include numbness, pain, and a “tingly” sensation in fingers, wrists, and arms. It may be most clear that you are suffering from CTS when your arms are weaker than usual and you have trouble holding on tightly to objects or completing simple tasks. Surprisingly, there is little research actually connecting CTS to repetitive use of the hands. While the exact cause is unknown to hand surgeons, it has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis, joint dislocation, and fractures and hormonal changes in women, particularly during pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome, or menopause.

There are a variety of sports injuries that can contribute to degeneration of our elbows, which also fall squarely into the realm of the hand surgeon as well. They mostly stem from cumulative wear and tear and do not necessarily directly refer to sports, even with such names as golfer's elbow (cumulative trauma to the inner elbow), tennis elbow (cumulative trauma to the outer elbow), and skier's thumb (hyperextension of the thumb). The last of these has the simplest cause: you probably landed on your thumb and it went the wrong way. You may wonder if you have golfer's elbow when the inside of your elbow is tender and in pain, particularly when you flex your wrist and / or try to hold objects. The symptoms for tennis elbow are much more severe and include a burning pain and tenderness on the outside of your elbow joint and down your forearm. This pain often increases over the course of many weeks.

If you find yourself suffering from any of these conditions, you should see your local surgeon for a diagnosis as soon as possible. If you can not see one quickly, ice is may calm the symptoms and make them more bearable. Heat is okay as well, but only for short periods and when interchanged with ice. Regardless of home treatments, it is important to get in touch with a medical professional ensuring that you will quickly regain full mobility in your hand.