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What is Dupuytren's Syndrome

Dupuytren’s syndrome (DS) is a hand condition where scar-like tissue grows beneath the skin of the palm, pulling one or more fingers into a bent position. 

As a chiropractor with over 25+ years of experience treating hand and wrist issues, I have seen many patients with this frustrating condition.

In this post, I aim to explain Dupuytren’s syndrome – from underlying causes to symptoms and treatment options – to help spread awareness and education.

Understanding Dupuytren's Syndrome

Baron Guillaume Dupuytren, the French surgeon who first described Dupuytren’s Disease in 1831, gave the condition its name. This condition involves thick bands of collagen-rich tissue developing underneath the palm’s skin. The two primary tissue abnormalities are:
  • Nodules – trim, firm lumps beneath the skin
  • Cords – rope-like strands of tissue that can attach to the finger tendons
These cords tighten and shorten, pulling the attached fingers towards the palm. The actual cause is unknown; however, it is most likely related to genetics and unusual wound repair. Those with northern European ancestry seem most at risk. While not immediately dangerous, Dupuytren’s contractions can badly impact hand function over time. As the bending gets worse, it becomes difficult to straighten the fingers out fully. Everyday tasks requiring a flat hand – like putting hands in pockets, wearing gloves, shaking hands, washing hands, typing, playing sports, etc. – grow challenging. Severe cases can leave fingers crossed over the palm. Dupuytren’s syndrome mainly targets the ring and little fingers. It advances slowly, so early diagnosis and treatment provide the best outcomes.

Early Symptoms and Signs

The earliest signs are mild, painless lumps or bands beneath the skin that don’t restrict finger movement. Most appear in the palm nearest the ring and little fingers. Skin puckering and pitting, along with tenderness, may occur too. These gradual changes often go unnoticed at first.

Many patients seek medical care only when bending sets in and daily tasks become frustrating. Nodules developing later in life likely progress faster.

Risk Factors and Prevalence

Multiple factors can raise one’s risk of developing Dupuytren’s syndrome:
  • Age: Most common after age 40; prevalence rises with age
  • Sex: Up to 5 times more common in men than women
  • Genetics/Ethnicity: Those of northern European descent are at highest risk
  • Diabetes: ~42% of people with diabetes develop Dupuytren’s disease
  • Smoking: Heavy smokers have a 3-5 times higher risk
  • Alcohol: Long-term heavy alcohol use raises the risk
  • Epilepsy: Anti-seizure medications may play a role
Hand Trauma/Injury: Can trigger an abnormal healing response

Gender-Specific Aspects and Impact on Women

Most patients improve significantly after 3 sessions scheduled 1 week apart. Some only need 1-2 treatments for complete relief, while others may benefit from 5-6 sessions for optimal results. I re-evaluate progress and adjust the plan if needed.

Progression of Disease

In Dupuytren’s syndrome, nodules slowly become cords underneath the palm’s skin. The cords attach to the finger tendons and shorten over months to years. Little by little, it pulls the attached finger(s) towards the palm.

Fingers rarely lock in a fully bent, rigid position but lose the ability to straighten completely. How far and at what rate they bend varies greatly, but severity often aligns with the number of nodules/cords present. Most cases progress slowly and result in mild-moderate contractures within five years.

Impact on Hand Function and Quality of Life

As the palm cords contract and finger(s) stiffen into a bent position, many normal hand functions grow difficult, such as:
  • Grasping large objects
  • Putting hands flat in pockets
  • Wearing gloves or rings
  • Shaking hands
  • Washing hands effectively
  • Safely handling knives, tools, etc.
  • Playing sports requiring a stiff hand/fingers
  • Typing or writing for long periods
The partial finger stiffness causes substantial problems with everyday tasks most take for granted. It can take a heavy toll on one’s work life and mental health over time.

Personalized Treatment Protocols and Management

As a chiropractor, I focus heavily on personalized, non-invasive protocols to help Dupuytren’s patients maintain hand function and flexibility. While surgery has its place in advanced cases, most patients can manage symptoms for years with conservative therapies.

I educate my Dupuytren’s patients thoroughly on sensitive tissue care to prevent rapid disease progression. We work together to find the best sequence of chiropractic therapies to suit their individual needs and contracture severity.

1. Chiropractic Adjustments

Gentle finger, hand, and wrist adjustments help mobilize stiff joints and keep surrounding tissues flexible. I perform specialized manipulations using precise vectors and degrees of force to improve mobility without stressing delicate hand anatomy. It also increases blood flow to nourish damaged skin and soft tissues.

2. Rehabilitation Exercises

Custom hand stretches and exercises are a core of Dupuytren’s treatment protocol in my practice. These help counter tissue tightening to keep fingers straight between visits. I demonstrate the proper techniques and positions to avoid skin injury during self-care between adjustments. Patients also learn how to self-massage painful nodules.

3. Assistive Devices

I often recommend nocturnal finger splints for challenging cases to provide prolonged, gentle traction on bent digits. Daytime thermoplastic splints also help reduce further joint deformities from contractures. 

Special gripping devices can also make writing, typing, and opening jars easier. I customize regimens to each patient’s occupation and hobbies.

4. Lifestyle Modifications

Finally, essential lifestyle tweaks like smoking cessation, alcohol reduction, and tight blood sugar control in people with diabetes can slow Dupuytren’s progression substantially. I coach at-risk patients on dietary changes and daily habits to optimize hand health amidst this condition.

In most cases, consistent chiropractic treatments enable patients to manage Dupuytren’s syndrome effectively while avoiding risky surgery and injections. 

After a reasonable trial, I always reserve those options for advanced contractures failing more conservative care. I aim to help patients adapt while retaining the hand strength and flexibility needed for a whole life.

Dupuytren's Syndrome

Patient Perspectives and Experiences

To personalize all the medical terminology about Dupuytren’s syndrome, I often share testimonials from my patients about how this condition has impacted their daily lives. As a chiropractor, I understand the frustrations of worsening hand function, which can also affect emotional well-being.

Many patients first notice the effects of Dupuytren’s when handshake grip strength weakens, or they struggle to button shirts. Over time, more activities like typing, exercising, and writing require adjustments. Something as simple as placing hands palm-down on a table grows increasingly tricky.

As finger joints stiffen, my patients talk of losing independence – needing spouses to open jars or turn keys in ignition switches. Embarrassment and frustration set in when others notice their bent fingers. Anxiety and depression often emerge as cherished hobbies like golf, sewing or playing instruments become difficult.

The semi-rigid fingers also cause problems with personal care tasks like washing the palm or cutting fingernails. For those still working, tools and equipment require grip changes. Parents talk about helping their little ones dress, prepare food, etc. Even wearing rings or a watch poses challenges.

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The Final Words

What is Dupuytren’s Disease? Dupuytren’s syndrome causes disabling finger contractures from abnormal palm tissue thickening. As a chiropractor, I have successfully treated it for 25+ years using focused adjustments, custom exercises, splinting, and lifestyle counseling – thereby avoiding surgery risks. 

Early intervention with these conservative therapies contains substantial progression if applied diligently.

Safe, effective options exist to retain quality of life despite this frustrating condition. Please reach out with questions or concerns – I’m happy to discuss tailored treatment plans so your hands can serve you for years.


Meet Dr. Craig Eymann, a dedicated chiropractor and yoga enthusiast with over two decades of expertise in spinal health, sports chiropractic, and personalized care, prioritizing misalignment correction for swift injury resolution.

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Dr. Craig Eymann

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