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Hand Doctor's Guide - 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

Photo by 42 North from Pexels





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.



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 – Ballet Dancer and Dr. Dovan Patient

Natalie jumped off a swing and broke her arm when she was eleven years old. After two unsuccessful surgeries at another orthopedic practice, Natalie’s arm healed poorly and limited her mobility. She has been a very dedicated ballet student from a young age, and a deformed arm would limit her potential. We took Natalie to see one of the most well-respected arm surgeons in the Nashville area, who told us that her arm could not be corrected and that we should encourage her to see ballet only as a hobby.  Our pediatrician recommended that we get a second opinion from Elite, where we met Dr. Dovan.

At our first consultation, Dr. Dovan said, "I can fix it. It may take me a while, but I can fix it." After three successful surgeries, her arm is now corrected and she is off to New York City this summer to study ballet!  

Dr. Dovan is, in our minds, a miracle worker!  He is an amazing surgeon unafraid to try something unconventional. On top of that, he is reassuring with children and their parents.  Dr. Dovan really listened to Natalie describe what she needed from her arm to be able to succeed in ballet.

Every person we have encountered at Elite, from Dr. Dovan to the Physical Therapists, to the Front Desk Team, is extremely professional and warm. Dr. Dovan's staff even came to watch one of Natalie's ballet performances!

We are now able to watch our daughter pursue her dreams. We cannot express how grateful we are. If it must be right or anyone else says it cannot be done, go to Dr. Dovan with Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics.


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.


Nick Flory

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