I work with my hands, and they start to ache before my shift is over. What can be done to help?

How to recognize symptoms before permanent damage occurs.

Anyone who has ever worked at a job with repetitive hand motions, grasping, awkward hand positioning, gripping, vibration, or stress can tell you about the toll it takes on their upper extremities – specifically their hands, wrist, elbows and shoulders.

Most people who work in these positions rely on their hands for their livelihood. It’s very important for them to recognize the warning signs of severe symptoms before nerve damage occurs. If pain, stiffness or numbness in the hand, elbow, shoulder or wrist are to the point where a person needs to regularly pause, or stop, working it is important that they have their ailment assessed by a specialist.

Warning Signs

  • Having to “shake your hand out” to relieve feelings of numbness during the day
  • A constant ache
  • Hand or wrist feeling weak
  • Fingers feeling stiff, harder to perform normal movements with ease
  • Loss of coordination/dropping things

The examples I see in my office most often are those from assembly line workers who can’t keep up the pace of the repetitive actions needed to complete a task. For example, these are hairstylists who still have pain even when regular breaks have not been enough, and drivers who drive for extended periods of time grasping the steering wheel. I also see many crafters and knitters whose hobbies are getting the best of their hands. But mostly, heavy laborers tend to suffer the most with these symptoms.

People who work in these professions or participate in these activities seem to realize the important of hand health, but some wait until permanent nerve damage occurs before calling our office. Fear of a diagnosis should never be a barrier for calling to make an appointment. With an early diagnosis and proper treatment, most of our patients return to normal function.

The diagnosis of carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, tendinitis, or trigger finger does not mean the end of doing the activities a person loves – or needs to do to make a living. It only means they need the help of an orthopedic hand or upper extremity specialist. The professionals in our office can asses your situation to determine what exactly is causing your pain.

Treatments as simple as wearing a wrist splint or support can help significantly. The brace immobilizes the wrist to prevent hyperextension, releasing pressure from the nerve. Cortisone injections are very effective and safe. Injections help to control symptoms in the hand and wrist for many months or years prior to needing surgery.

When all other treatments have failed, a surgical procedure may be needed. Luckily, recent studies have shown that 88% of patients had significant reduction of symptoms after carpal tunnel surgery. It is important to see a specialist right away if your work is being interrupted due to pain, stiffness or numbness.


Dr. Zimmer is the founding director of Ohio Hand to Shoulder Center with locations in Beachwood, Chardon, Concord. For more information, or to make an appointment call 844-542-6363.

The Ohio Hand to Shoulder Center provides care for the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder treating conditions such as fractures, sports injuries, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow and many other painful disorders. Patients receive expert diagnosis, imaging and testing; advanced surgical services and rehabilitation. Both traumatic and arthritic conditions are treated with the latest reconstructive and arthroscopic techniques. Non-operative care is always the first line of treatment before considering any surgery.