How to Know if Hand or Wrist Pain is a Ganglion Cyst

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Know if Hand or Wrist Pain is a Ganglion Cyst
Know if Hand or Wrist Pain is a Ganglion Cyst (Image: http://madeinrichmond.net, http://healthlibrary.epnet.com, http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00006)

Have recurring hand or wrist pain that you've just chalked up to tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome? It could be a ganglion cyst in your joint--something that's more common than you might think. In my case, it took 10 years of on and off pain until I finally discovered that I had a recurring ganglion cyst. Here's how to figure out if your pain is in fact a ganglion cyst...

Ganglion Cysts, also called "Bible Bumps" because they used to be "cured" with a firm whack from a bible or other heavy book, are fairly common fluid-filled sacks that form in wrist (and sometimes ankle) joints. The balloon-like cysts are non-cancerous and can flare up at various times. Ganglion cysts are basically sacks of synovial fluid (otherwise known as joint fluid) typically attached to a tendon in the joint. They can cause significant pain and restrict joint movement, but the cause or trigger for these cysts is still unknown. They are more common in women than men.

To determine if your hand or wrist pain is due to a ganglion cyst, take a good look at your wrist in question. Bend your hand down so you can look at the top of your hand just in front of the wrist joint. Is there a bump that forms when your hand is bent forward? That's most likely a ganglion cyst.

If there's no bump on the top of your hand, try bending your wrist back and checking the underside of your joint. Sometimes the ganglion cyst will manifest on the bottom of the joint. The bump may be rather sensitive when pressure is applied, especially if it's directly on top of a tendon or nerve.

If it does appear that you have a bump, head to your doctor to discuss treatment options. Typically they will try to drain the ganglion cyst by inserting a needle and drawing out the synovial fluid--a fairly quick and painless procedure. Unfortunately, in most cases, the cyst will reform again. If this happens, your doctor will probably recommend having an orthopaedist surgically remove the cyst.

Tips & Warnings

  • Compare the wrist or hand you're having pain in with your other hand so you can see the normal bumps present in the wrist joint to make sure you're actually seeing a ganglion cyst.
  • A wrist brace, which you can pick up at the local drug store, can help prevent excessive wrist movement and reduce pain until you can get appropriate treatment.
  • Always check with your doctor in order to verify your condition.

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