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Common causes of hand and wrist pain from horse riding

Whilst horse riding can bring much fun and contentment to many, it can also bring with it hand and wrist pain. You may have seen someone with a painful wrist whilst riding, or experienced this yourself. There are many ways people can become injured either when riding, or when around horses but we are here to share with you some of the most common ones that we would see.

Carpal tunnel syndrome: There is a lot of myth around what carpal tunnel is. Pain in the hand and wrist does not mean you have carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel occurs when the median nerve that runs from your neck down to your fingers, becomes squashed in the tunnel on the palm side of your wrist. It can be squashed for a number of reasons. If the shape of the tunnel changes after an injury, such as a broken bone, or if you have swelling in the wrist from a repetitive injury. Carpal tunnel can also be common in pregnant people when hormones increase the swelling around the wrist and hand. When the nerve in the carpal tunnel gets squashed, it does then not work well. Once it is squashed, you will commonly experience some or all of the following: numbness or tingling into the thumb, index, and middle fingers of your hand or pain radiating up into those same fingers. Carpal tunnel syndrome is often worse at night time because of the position we sleep in with our wrists.

Broken bones: These can easily occur from a fall from a horse, or from falling over yourself in a paddock or yard. They can also occur during events such as jumping if your finger or hand receives a knock from your horses neck or a jump pole. Another common way that fingers are broken around horses is when they are caught in lead rope when a horse pulls back. There are many myths about broken bones. Firstly, people think if you can move your fingers or wrist, then it is not broken – wrong! You can certainly still move your fingers and wrist even if you have a broken bone. A broken bone is different to a fracture – wrong! They mean the same thing. Oh well, it’s just a finger, they can’t do anything about it anyway – wrong! There are fantastic easy treatments for broken bones nowadays. You get a lot of strength from your fingers, so leaving a broken little finger is not a great idea. The little and the ring finger of your hand give you the most amount of grip strength. It if does not heal well because you didn’t do anything about it, you can have an ongoing painful and weak grip. There are many custom made splints that we can make that support healing bones and still allow you to function well.

Wrist pain: The wrist is a complex part of the body. It is moved by tendons that originate near the elbow. But the wrist is also supported by very small ligaments that attach the bones together. If you experience wrist pain, it can be from a large number of reasons. Firstly, it can be caused by tendons overworking. This causes tendon irritation, pain and inflammation of the tissues around the tendon. Other causes of wrist pain can be from ligament laxity – that is the ligaments in your wrist are not as taut as those in other people and therefore your wrist bones move more during heavy activity or when using force (such as carrying water buckets, lifting show jumping poles, or doing up a girth). Sometimes this may not bother your wrists ant other times the wrist may feel weak, painful or like it will give way. The best thing you can do if you have wrist pain is to come and have an appointment. We can assess your wrist and work out exactly what is causing the pain and provide solutions. Often the solutions are easy once you know what is causing the pain in the first place.

Degenerative changes over time. As we get older, our bodies change. Bones can experience wear and tear at the joints, which can make our joints painful and inflamed. This is what we call degenerative changes, (aka osteoarthritis). These changes can occur from years of use, or can come on a little earlier if you have had a previous injury that alters the way your joints might move. The other structure in the body that can deteriorate over time are our ligaments. This is commonly seen in the wrist with people who have been involved in lots of manual heavy work over many years. If the ligaments deteriorate they are often not then doing a great job at supporting your joints, and this can cause significant pain. Common places for degenerative changes to occur for horse riders is at the base of the thumb (called the CMC joint) and the wrist (at the TFCC ligament, and the scapho-lunate ligament). Again, getting a thorough assessment is the first place to start to work out the cause of your pain and plan a solution to get you back to pain free use.

If you have experienced pain in the hand, wrist or arm whilst horse riding, or caring for your horse, we can help!


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