QUESTION: A 38 year old woman has found a large soft lump on her wrist. It is painful and hindering full motion of the joint. What is the issue? Should she see her hand therapist?
What Is It?
Ganglion cysts are fluid filled sacs which can develop over joints or tendons. The most common location for a ganglion cyst is on the back of the wrist or fingers. The cysts are generally soft lumps that can range from a few millimetres to a few centimetres in size.
The cysts can be painful and may increase in size over time or following certain aggravating activities. If the cyst becomes large enough, it may even reduce joint motion. Treatment is recommended if the cyst is painful, increasing in size or limiting joint motion.
Causes of Ganglion Cysts
Ganglion cysts can result due to trauma or damage to tendons or joints. However they can also come about randomly with no apparent cause.
There are a few risk factors that are thought to contribute to ganglion cysts appearing. These include:
• Age – Although they can appear at any age, they are most common between ages 20-40
• Sex – They are more common in women
• Osteoarthritis – Arthritis near the end of the fingers can contribute to the development of cysts near those joint
• Injury of joints and tendons – Vulnerable joints or tendons from past injury can increase the risk of developing cysts
Luckily, in some cases, the ganglion cyst can resolve by itself. However in cases of painful or large cysts, treatment is generally required.
Conservative treatment involves using a splint to rest the joint affected by the cyst in order to reduce inflammation in the area. Your hand therapist may also recommend compression to help reduce swelling. Your therapist will provide information regarding the condition and will discuss various activities which should be avoided for 4-6 weeks.
Surgical removal may be required in some cases. This process is known as a ganglionectomy. Your hand therapist can discuss with you and your GP and arrange a referral to a surgeon if required.
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, or any other issues with your hand, arm or fingers, please feel free to get in touch with the Hand Therapy Group here, as we would be more than happy to help.