Located on the top of the hand directly underneath the skin, the primary purpose of Extensor tendons is to aid in the straightening of your fingers and thumb. Thin and flat, they are an extension of the muscles in your forearm that sit directly on top of your bones in your hand.
There isn’t much that protects your extensor tendons, making them easy to injure. Even minor lacerations to the back of the hand or fingers can result in injury. Other injuries occur when a finger is jammed, when the muscles around the tendons are injured and even through the development of arthritis. Arthritis, especially at the wrist level, can lead to erosion of the tendons causing them to rupture.
Extensor tendon injuries present themselves in several different ways. If you suspect that you have an extensor tendon injury and notice any of these symptoms, contact your doctor for an evaluation:
Even if you’re not experiencing pain in the finger you suspect is injured, it is always best to see a doctor and let them evaluate. The time between the injury and the repair determines the outcome in term of functionality and recovery time.
Treatment for extensor tendon injuries is dependent upon the type of injury you sustain. After being evaluated by a doctor, you’ll find out whether it is necessary to have surgery, or if a splint will suffice. If the tendon is split in two, surgery is necessary to stitch the ends back together to perpetrate healing. If the tendon is torn, however, your doctor may not opt to do surgery and may instead fit you in a splint that will allow your tendon to heal naturally.
If it is necessary to have surgery, your hand will be bandaged and placed in a splint afterwards. This keeps the tension on the tendon minimal and allows it to heal properly. Your surgeon is also likely to prescribe an exercise plan that slowly exercises the tendons without placing them under too much stress.
Physical therapy is necessary after an extensor tendon injury to help the patient regain motion in their fingers without putting unnecessary tension on the tendon. Physical therapy may last between one and two months for simple injuries and even longer for extreme injuries where bone or muscle damage occurred as well. Physical therapy consists of a range of motions that help your tendon regain its strength and mobility.
Because the extensor tendon repair surgery is less invasive than a flexor tendon surgery, the healing period is rather quick. After surgery, you can reasonably expect to remain in the splint for two weeks and then with the aid of physical therapy regain full motion in a matter of two months. Some injuries are more extensive than others and may take several months, other injuries may result in full or partial loss of motion.
Please call our office at (703) 574-2588 for more information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Fadi Nukta in Northern Virginia.