A hand surgeon is a doctor who specializes in treating conditions and injuries of the hands, wrists, and forearms. Some of the most common problems a hand surgeon treats include arthritis, fractures, burns, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you’re experiencing any type of hand pain, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a hand surgeon. Here’s what to know about hand surgeons and how they can help you alleviate your pain.
Different Ways to become a Hand Surgeon
So, what qualifies someone as a hand surgeon? A hand surgeon has had to complete medical school and surgical residency first. While there are different groups of subspecialists such as general surgeons, plastic surgeons, and orthopedic surgeons that have enough training in their respective residencies to perform hand procedures, most hand surgeons practicing in the United States have also gone on to doing a hand surgery fellowship. Hand surgery fellowships take 1-2 years to complete, depending on the program, and require completion of a residency first.
Hand surgeons often work closely with orthopedic surgeons and plastic surgeons. This allows them to provide comprehensive care for their patients. These doctors may treat a wide range of issues. Some of those include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Nerve injuries
- Congenital hand differences
In addition to non operative treatments such as medication, injection, and/or physical therapy, a hand surgeon may also perform surgical procedures. This could include microsurgery (operating on tiny blood vessels or nerves) or joint replacement.
What Does a Hand Surgeon Treat?
What does a hand surgeon do and what types of injuries and conditions do they treat? We’ve briefly gone over this above, but hand surgeons treat conditions such as:
- Arthritis of the fingers, hands, and wrists
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Tendon or ligament tears
- Complex fractures
- Nerve damage
- Trigger finger
- Elbow dislocations
- Elbow fractures
- Sports injuries
- Tennis elbow
- Golfer’s elbow
In some cases, hand surgeons may also perform surgeries to correct abnormalities present at birth. They can also treat conditions to improve the function of the hands.
If you’re experiencing chronic pain or limited mobility in your hands, it’s worth considering a visit to a hand surgeon for an evaluation and potential treatment plan.
From finger joint replacements to microsurgeries on nerves and tendons, a hand surgeon has the skills and expertise to address issues related to the delicate structures of the hand.
What Training Do Hand Surgeons Receive?
As mentioned above, all hand surgeons must complete at least one year of specialized training in hand surgery. This comes after completing their five-year to seven-year internship and residency program.
This means that after completing medical school and a surgical residency program, they go on to do a specialized hand surgery fellowship. During this fellowship, they’ll focus on conditions and treatments related to the hand and upper extremities.
And to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in their field, hand surgeons also participate in continuing education courses and often belong to professional organizations such as the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (otherwise known as the ASSH).
In addition, a physician can apply for certification through their respective medical board but it is not necessary to practice hand surgery.
All in all, it takes a lot of training and dedication, but for those who are passionate about helping patients regain function in their hands and arms, it’s worth it. So next time you see a hand surgeon, know that they’ve put in the hard work to become experts in caring for you.
When to Visit a Hand Surgeon
When it comes to hand injuries, it can be difficult to know when to see a doctor and when to just let it heal on its own. When in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and consult a hand surgeon.
Some red flags that indicate the need for medical attention include:
- Severe pain or inability to move a joint
- Numbness or tingling in fingers
- Obvious deformity or misalignment of bones
- Open wounds that won’t stop bleeding
Hand surgeons receive training to treat a range of acute and chronic conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome, fractures, tendonitis, and arthritis.
It’s better to address an issue early on rather than risk long-term complications down the road. Even something as seemingly minor as persistent numbness or tingling in your fingers can indicate nerve damage. If you’re experiencing those symptoms then you should see a professional.
When it comes to your hands and wrists, keep an eye out for any unusual symptoms. Don’t hesitate to call a hand surgeon for clarification or treatment.
Hand Surgeon Guide: What to Expect From Your First Visit
When you visit a hand surgeon for the first time, expect to talk about your medical history, current symptoms, and overall concerns.
The doctor will also likely perform a physical exam of the affected hand or wrist, checking the range of motion and observing any swelling or abnormal positioning.
Depending on the specific issue, they might also order imaging tests such as X-rays or MRIs. This allows them to get a better look at the bones or soft tissue. With this initial information gathered, the hand surgeon can then determine the best treatment plan for you.
It’s helpful to come prepared with a list of questions and information about any previous injuries or surgeries. By being open and honest during your first visit, your hand surgeon can work toward finding an effective solution for your individual needs.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options From Hand Surgeons
Just because hand surgeons are, well, surgeons doesn’t mean that they will always recommend surgery. They are specialists in their field with years of training and experience regarding issues, injuries, and conditions of the hand, wrist, and elbow.
This means that if they evaluate your case and find that you don’t need surgery then they can recommend other treatment options. What are some non-surgical solutions to common hand and wrist pain and ailments?
Hand therapy is a specialized form of physical therapy that focuses on rehabilitating injuries or conditions that affect the hands, wrists, and forearms. A hand surgeon will help you formulate a plan to improve strength, range of motion, and coordination.
You will go through a treatment plan that involves exercises and manual therapy techniques. They also provide education on how to protect and prevent future injuries, as well as fitting patients for splints or adaptive equipment.
Did you know that steroid injections in the hand and wrist can provide significant relief from pain? These injections, known as hand injections, can treat conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and arthritis.
The steroid helps to reduce inflammation in the affected area. This eases discomfort and improves mobility. In some cases, the steroid is combined with a local anesthetic for even greater pain relief.
Hand injections can also work in conjunction with physical therapy to promote healing and strengthen the muscles in the hand and wrist. So if you’ve been dealing with persistent hand or wrist pain, talk to your doctor about the possibility of hand injections as a treatment option.
No-Stitch Carpal Tunnel Surgery
While we’re talking about treatment options from a hand surgeon, it’s worth mentioning our no-stitch carpal tunnel surgery. With a 98% success rate, we have found that this treatment option is great for those interested in relief with minimal downtime.
Our hand surgeons will use a camera to guide them through the surgery process. They will make a half-inch cut where necessary and conduct the minimally-invasive surgery within about ten minutes.
This ensures that you won’t require stitches and will be able to enjoy a healed hand within a week. This treatment option has been selected by over 15,000 people in the Houston area and it’s a part of what makes continuing education and expertise so important in a hand surgeon.
We have perfected this technique over the years. We believe in our endoscopic carpal tunnel release procedure and its effectiveness in treating this ailment.
Do different Hand Surgeons have areas of expertise?
While most hand surgeons are trained to perform any and all procedures, there are certain hand surgeons that will specialize in very specific areas or issues pertaining to the hand, or become experts in that area. For instance, child born with hand defects otherwise known as congental hand disorders should see a hand surgeon that routinely sees patients with congenital hand problems in their practice. There are certain regional centers that have practices dedicated to such fields such as Shriner’s Hospital in Dallas. Other hand surgeons may have more experience in autoimmune abnormalities affecting the hand. For instance, Dr. Khorsandi, double board cetified in Hand and General Surgery, sees patients with hand related problems associated with Scleroderma in addition to treating common hand problems.
Selecting a Hand Surgeon
So how do you select the best doctor for you?
Consider their experience and training in hand surgery, and years of experience or practicing hand surgery. Look into their credentials and ask about their professional societies and memberships related to this field. Some doctors will hold a certificate of added qualifications (caq) in hand surgery.
It’s also important to select a surgeon who does a high volume of hand surgeries, as this indicates familiarity and expertise with the procedure.
Also, make sure that your values align with the surgeon’s approach. For example, if you prefer minimally invasive procedures, select a surgeon who offers those options.
Word of mouth. Friends or families that have had similar problems or experiences, and have seen a particular physician can give valuable information to a potential patient about their experience and outcome.
By thoroughly researching surgeons and choosing one with relevant experience and a compatible approach, you can select the right fit for your hand surgery needs.
Work With Houston’s Trusted Hand & Wrist Center
At the Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas, we work with hands. Our team of highly-qualified physicians has years of training and experience treating issues related to the hands, wrists, and elbows. From our non-invasive carpal tunnel surgery to general consultations, we’re here to help treat you.
With five locations across the Houston Metroplex, we’re always close to you, too. Whether you’re interested in an initial telehealth consultation or would like to schedule your surgery, get in touch. Click here to book your appointment.
Don’t hesitate to reach out with other questions as well or to speak with a hand surgeon. For emergencies, we are available 24/7. Please call (713) 714-5591 for urgent issues.