The Hand Doctor - What You Should Know

Hand Pain May Lead You to a Hand Doctor


Hand pain, numbness, and swelling are reasons patients regularly visit our hand doctors in Nashville, TN at Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics.

In this all-encompassing guide, we cover symptoms, causes, and treatments for a few of the most common conditions we treat, as well as address some questions our orthopedic specialists often receive.


Who Treats Hand Pain and Conditions?

Our orthopedic surgeons in Tennessee are subspecialized orthopedists. That means they treat a select few areas of the body to hone their surgical skills and knowledge of specific injuries.

We have two orthopedic hand and upper extremity specialists that treat conditions in the shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist, and hand.


Common Conditions That Cause Hand Pain


Hand Arthritis

Photo by SAM LIN from Pexels





Causes for your hand arthritis may vary by arthritis type. Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis generally associated with wear-and-tear.

While wear-and-tear does worsen your symptoms, there are several factors that can account for osteoarthritis including genetics, age, and injury.

Another type of hand arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. While the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, like osteoarthritis, genetics may play a role.



A hand specialist may begin treating your hand arthritis with symptomatic treatment like topical or oral anti-inflammatories.

Steroid injections are another form of conservative treatment; however, these injections provide only temporary relief.

If conservative treatment methods prove ineffective, an orthopedic surgeon may recommend surgery. Depending on the joint, you may need a joint replacement or joint fusion.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome





There is a misconception that typing or computer usage is the cause for carpal tunnel syndrome; however, current data does not support that claim.

While extended usage or improper hand or wrist positioning may bring on symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, it is not the cause.

Research does show that genetics may be a cause for carpal tunnel syndrome.



The first treatment your hand specialist may recommend is wearing a wrist brace at night for 2-4 weeks. If caught early, a wrist brace may help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome from worsening.

If a wrist brace does not work, your doctor may offer two stronger paths for relief.

Steroid injections: A steroid injection reduces inflammation in the carpal tunnel. While you may experience temporary relief following a steroid injection, your hand specialist will inform you this is not a permanent solution.

Surgical intervention: An orthopedic surgeon may offer surgery to permanently treat carpal tunnel syndrome. According to Dr. Thomas Dovan, one of Elite’s hand doctors in Nashville, TN and Franklin, TN, carpal tunnel surgery has one of the best outcomes among all hand and upper extremity surgeries.


Trigger Finger

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Trigger finger may develop from overuse of your finger. Other factors like genetics, sex, and overall health may lead to a higher risk of developing trigger finger.



Unlike arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome, steroid injections can cure trigger finger. Because of this, many patients opt for this treatment method prior to surgery. If the condition persists, patients may elect for a second injection or surgery. The cure rate for second injections is lower than that of the first injection.

If conservative treatment does not cure your hand pain, an orthopedist may suggest surgery for permanent relief.



Avoid Hand Pain With These Ergonomic Tips

If you work in an office or use a computer regularly, you may be experiencing hand pain, wrist pain, or even numbness and tingling in the hand or arm. According to Ergonomic Trends, 60% of office workers suffer from wrist pain. Here are some everyday tips you can implement at work to avoid hand pain and wrist pain:


Use Proper Keyboard Posture to Avoid Wrist Pain


Photo by Alejandro Escamilla from Pexels


Office workers commonly have improper hand and wrist placement when using a keyboard. When typing, always keep your wrist at the same level as your forearm. In addition, you can implement a palm rest to help keep your wrist in the proper position. Many employees are starting to purchase ergonomic keyboards. These keyboards help support the natural position of the hand and wrist by separating the left keyboard from the right.


Tips for Holding Your Mouse



Holding your mouse improperly can be just as critical to your hand health as keyboard misuse. When holding your mouse, make sure to lightly grasp it and take breaks from using it often. In addition, you should always guide your mouse with your elbow and never your wrist. If you feel comfortable, try switching your mouse from the right side to the left side during your workday. Implementing an ergonomic mouse into your daily routine can help keep your hand and wrist in the proper position and prevent hand pain, wrist pain, and conditions like carpal tunnel from occuring.



5 Excercises to Relieve Hand Pain


1. Thumbs Up - Relieve Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel



Start by bending your elbow so that your fingers are facing the ceiling. Make sure that your hand is straight. From there, move all your fingers down at once, making a fist. Hold this pose for 3-5 seconds and repeat on the other hand (if applicable).

If you are experiencing pain after this exercise, hold for less time and use a cold compress afterward.


2. "Okay" Excercise - Relieve Symptoms of Trigger Finger 



Start by bringing the finger in pain towards the thumb, forming an okay symbol, or a circle. Hold that pose for 3-5 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times on the affected hand.


3. The Claw Excercise - Relieve Symptoms of Hand Arthritis 



Start by making a stop sign with your hand (keep your hands and fingers straight). From there, gradually move your hand to make a C shape, or a claw shape. Hold this position and repeat 5 times on each hand.


4. Wrist Extensor Stretch - Relieve Wrist Pain 


Start with both of your arms in front of you. Then make a fist and move your fist down. Hold this stretch for 10-15 seconds.


5. Thumb and Upper Wrist Stretch - Relieve Wrist and Thumb Pain


Start with one arm straight out. Make a fist around your thumb. Bend your fist downward until you feel a stretch in your thumb and upper wrist. Hold for 15 seconds and switch hands. 



Signs You Need to See a Hand Doctor

We use our hands a lot, and hand pain tends to make life a little more difficult.

If you have been experiencing hand pain, you may need to visit an orthopedic surgeon with a specialty in treating hand and upper extremity conditions. These are 5 everyday signs that you need to see a hand doctor near you:


1. You Are in Pain

Anytime you are in pain, it is probably a good sign that you need to see a doctor. The same holds true for hand pain.


2. Your Hand is Numb

Most people do not realize that conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome do not necessarily require you to be in pain. Numbness can be brought on with or without hand pain.


3. You Are Having Trouble Sleeping

The way you sleep - or don’t sleep - may be a sign that you need to seen. Some people even report waking up before their hands do. If your condition is preventing you from getting a good night’s rest, or if you are having trouble waking up, you need to see a hand doctor.


4. Your Condition Seems to Be Getting Worse

If your hand pain or numbness is getting worse, you should see an orthopedic doctor before it becomes too late. The earlier your hand doctor can treat a condition, the higher chance of a favorable outcome.


5. You Can No Longer Enjoy Your Favorite Activities

Whether it is drawing, painting, playing video games, or working out, your favorite activity probably involves using your hands in some form or fashion. Don’t let your condition affect your everyday life.



3 Questions to Ask Your Hand Doctor


1. What Are the Options for Treating My Hand Pain?

Your doctor will outline potential treatment options following your diagnosis. Make sure you fully understand what each treatment plan looks like. Do not be afraid to ask questions and voice any concerns.


2. How Can I Prepare for Hand Surgery?

Your hand specialist may have a comprehensive packet of information that will help you prepare for surgery. If not, it may be a good idea to ask them if there is anything you should be doing to ensure a smooth pre-and-post-operation experience.


3. What Should I Do After Treatment?

Your hand specialist likely has a long list of dos and don’ts in conjunction with their treatment plan:

Do your physical therapy. Don’t do overdo it.

Ask your doctor what you can do to avoid future trips to see them.


Hand Doctor Education and Training

Undergrade and Medical School

Orthopedic specialists must complete an undergraduate degree in science and four years of medical school.

Orthopedic Residency

After medical school, orthopedic hand doctors spend five years rotating between eight orthopedic subspecialties.

Fellowship (Hand and Upper Extremity Specialists)

Following completion of their residency, an orthopedic surgeon may choose to complete a fellowship, where they acquire additional training in one orthopedic subspeciality.

Hand and upper extremity specialists will spend that year focusing on conditions that cause hand pain, as well as other conditions to the shoulder, elbow, and wrist.


Hand Doctor FAQ's 

Do I Need a Referral to See a Hand Specialist?

No, you can be seen by a hand specialist without a referral from another provider. This has become more common as we continue to shift towards a more digital world.


Where Can I Find a Hand Doctor Near Me?

Hand doctors can be found in a variety of clinics. Some physicians work in hospitals or medical centers, while others choose to practice privately.

The hand specialists at Elite have ortho clinics within medical centers and offices across Middle Tennessee.


Hand Doctors in Nashville, TN

Dr. Thomas Dovan

Dr. Dovan is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in surgery of the hand and upper extremity. He has been with Elite since 2007 and has been named a Castle Connolly Top Doctor seven times.

Here is what Dr. Dovan told us patients can expect working with him:

“I view the patient experience as a unique opportunity for me to help somebody. That patient got up in the morning, dressed, and took the time to come see us. We know they have a problem, and our job is to find a solution. By the time that patient leaves, they should feel comfortable knowing that what needed to be addressed has been addressed.”


Dr. Samuel Crosby

Dr. Crosby is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in surgery of the hand and upper extremity. He has been with Elite since 2015 and is known for his great orthopedic skills and personable approach to patient care.

Here is what Dr. Crosby told us patients can expect working with him:

“It’s important to me that I am accessible and able to communicate to patients as we move along their journey. There will always be questions or concerns that pop up after surgery that we cannot cover in a typical office visit. I want to be there for my patients.”


Success Stories from Our Patients

Natalie with Dr. Dovan 


Natalie broke arm her after jumping off a swing. She underwent two sugeries to fix her arm; however, it did not heal properly and her mobility was limited. As a ballet dancer, it was important that Natalie's arm was in top shape. 

She came to see Dr. Tom Dovan and he told her that he can fix it. After hearing that her arm could not be corrected by other specialists, there was hope for Natalie. 

Dr. Dovan successfully corrected Natalie's arm and she is now back to doing what she loves. 


Lillian with Dr. Sam Crosby 

Lillian came to see Dr. Sam Crosby because she had no use in her right arm and extreme pain. She recieved surgery on her left wrist and a trick finger.

She initially saw another surgeon in the area; however, was not looking forward to the wrist surgery they planned on performing on her. She then found out that the surgery she needs is done differently here at Elite. 

Lillian had a successful surgery with Dr. Crosby, stating, "I would not trust any other doctor". Since her first surgery, she has now seen Dr. Crosby for rotator cuff surgery. 




Book an Appointment with a Hand Specialist Near You

If you are experiencing hand pain or other symptoms, our hand doctors in Nashville, TN may be able to help. You can easily request an appointment with one of our orthopedic surgeons today.

For our friends outside of this area, we recommend scheduling an appointment with a hand doctor near you if your symptoms continue.




Cronkleton, E. (2018, September 16). 11 Trigger Finger Exercises to Try at Home. Healthline.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, June 14). Slide show: Hand exercises for people with arthritis. Mayo Clinic.

says, H., says, S., says, A., & says, M. (2020, July 7). Proper Typing Posture According to Ergonomists. Ergonomic Trends.

Sissons, B. (2021, January 24). The 7 best hand exercises for carpal tunnel. Medical News Today.

Nick Flory Nick is the Marketing Manager for Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics. He has been writing and reviewing medical content since 2018.

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