There is a unique and fragile relationship between all the structures of our hands. An injury or disease affecting any of the bones, ligaments, tendons, nerves, skin, joints, or blood vessels can completely restrict the use of our hands, wrists, forearms, and even our elbows. Knowing the multitude of purposes they serve, including eating, dressing, and performing our jobs, when trauma occurs it can be disabling and frustrating. Injury can be caused by work-related accidents or repetitive use of the fingers and extremities. If spending time doing hobbies or performing normal daily routines are interrupted by extremity pain, it is probably time you seek medical advice from hand surgeons.

An estimated 16 million people in the US seek out care for fist-related injuries each year. These hand surgeons are required to obtain an additional year of specialized training beyond their board certificates for orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, and general surgery. The need for this exclusive medical training dates back to World War II, when many soldiers sustained hand-related injuries and required military surgeons to obtain additional training. Up until this point, injuries and wounds rarely seriously damaged due to a lack of appropriate care.

A majority of these doctors also carry expertise in dealing with issues related to the arms, shoulders, and elbows. Common ailments these doctors treat are

– Sports-related injuries of the extremities and wrists
– Fractures, including in the wrists and forearms
– Tennis elbow
– Amputations
– Creating fingers from toes and other joints
– Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
– Arthritis, including that of the wrists and elbows
– Lumps on the hands and arms
– Tumors causing tingling, pain, and numbness
– Injuries to the nerves and tendons
– Congenital limb differences (birth defects)

A common misconception is that this field deals strictly with surgery. Hand surgeons try to heal a patient without resorting to surgery and often recommend non-surgical treatments including splints, physical therapy, injections, ice therapy, rest, and medications. Should surgery be necessary, it can be performed under either general or regional anesthetics. Over 90 percent of these procedures are performed under local anesthesia, where you receive an injection in your arm or upper chest area to numb the nerves running to the arm. Delays in both diagnosis and treatment can cause a reduction in your range of motion and even long-term disability. The gravity of these injuries is because as soon as pain or discomfort is felt in any of the lower extremities, you should consult a doctor.

Despite the high demand for these doctors, it is not an attractive surgical field of study. For a newly graduated medical students, the best route to landing positions as hand surgeons by working within that related medical environment. Additionally, internships often lead to secured positions within this field because the candidate has already gained insight into this specialty. These doctors are employed either in a private practice or within hospitals or clinics.