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Surgeon Dr. Kory Reed marvels at the complexity of the human hand

The hand has 29 bones, the same number of major joints and at least 123 ligaments.

Thirty-five muscles help move it: 17 in the palm and 18 in the forearm.

It has 48 nerves, 30 named arteries and nearly as many smaller named branches.

You’d think you might need to be a biomedical engineer to figure one out.

Lucky for patients of Dr. Kory Reed, the hand and shoulder surgeon happens to have a bachelor’s degree in that major from Cornell University.

Reed, 34, who grew up outside Rochester, joined Excelsior Orthopaedics last September after completing medical school at the University at Buffalo, and his residency and orthopedic surgery fellowship in Buffalo, as well. The practice has looked to him to make his greatest imprint in the Southtowns, where he spends much of his time at the branch office at 240 Redtail Drive, off Milestrip Road, in Orchard Park.

Amherst-based Excelsior later this year plans to announce specifics of a plan to build a larger facility in southern Erie County that will include an Urgent Care Express Center, digital X-rays and more health providers, company spokesman Mark Wolbert said.

It’s a bit of a drive to and from work for Reed, who lives in Clarence with his wife, Jodie, their two sons, 5½ and 3½, and daughter, 18 months. Still, he couldn’t be happier. As the first doctor in the family – his mom is an elementary school principal, his dad is a business executive – he still gets to work with his hands.

“My grandfather was a contractor and I spent summers laying blocks and framing houses,” he said recently. “Swinging a hammer was very near and dear to me.”

Q. After medical school, you ended up specializing in hands and shoulders?

I think that’s more of the detail aspects to my personality. I like the intricacies of technology. In the same way, I like the intricacies of how the body works. There’s nothing more intricate or more essential to human function than the hand. I view it as a series of pulleys and cables with hydraulic cylinders hooked up to it. I view it very mechanically and I like that. That’s intuitive to me.

Q. What are the most common hand and shoulder injuries you treat?

The biggest thing that I see patients for is hand, elbow and shoulder pain, weakness, numbness and tingling. From the pediatric side, it would be more fractures of the upper extremities: broken collar bones, broken humerus, broken elbow, broken wrist and broken hand. Any hand surgeon will tell you that the most common things that they deal with are carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger fingers and thumb arthritis. Any shoulder surgeon would tell you the most common things you treat are rotator cuff impingement and tendonitis.

Q. What sports or other activities tend to lead to the most hand and shoulder injuries?

More chronic shoulder injuries tend to come from the overhead throwing sports, like baseball. With hand issues, it’s volleyball and basketball. With football, all bets are off. Anything goes.

Q. What are some of the symptoms of repetitive stress injuries that people should look out for?

Numbness and tingling in the fingers and pain in the palm. Usually both of these issues are worse at night. If you wake up multiple times in the middle of the night because your shoulder hurts, or your hand hurts or is numb, you should probably see someone about that.

Q. What would you say to people who fear that these aches and pains signal the need for surgery?

I do a lot of stuff that involves soft tissue, swelling, tendonitis – a lot of stuff there isn’t a quick fix for. There’s a lot of options and surgery is not always the best option. … My first line of treatment is nonsurgical. I tell a lot of patients, “I’m not interested in doing surgery right now,” and they look at me like I have four heads. I say, “trust me, I like doing surgery but there’s a lot of ways to treat upper extremity issues without surgery.” The first thing I do, when the patients leave here, they have some form of educational material in their hand. They have an X-ray. They’re often given a nerve test, if necessary. I’m also cognizant that if this is their neck, I send them to people for neck-related issues. And I send them to physical therapy. The next visit, they might get an injection or MRI, or we talk about a surgery.

Q. How important is proper form in the gym and what would you say to the guys and gals who are lurching with heavy weights when it comes to some of their arm exercises?

I’ve been counseled by people at the gym, I think inappropriately, on my form, so I never approach anyone at the gym and give them advice.

But sometimes I cringe in the worst way, but I say to myself, ‘There’s another patient.’

The biggest thing is that you see these young kids who don’t have any shoulder problems, don’t have any issues, and they’re doing a lot of repetitive, high-weight activity with the bar away from their body. You want to keep things close. You don’t want to be doing things with exercises way out in space. That’s affecting your shoulders. It’s affecting the muscles in your forearms, in your back. It’s affecting everything in a negative way. So lurching, and uncontrolled movements with weight that’s heavier than it should be, is absolutely dangerous, and you’re probably going to end up in someone’s medical office for that.

email: refresh@buffnews.com

On the Web: Read more about hand and shoulder surgery at refresh.buffalonews.com; see photos of Dr. Kory Reed performing carpal tunnel surgery at galleries.buffalonews.com.