Hand Pain

Disease or damage to any of the components of the hand can cause hand pain. Pain in the hands and wrists is commonly caused by carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive motion injuries and any form of arthritis of which the most prevalent are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Broken bones and other traumatic hand injuries are also common causes of hand pain. Another fairly common cause of hand pain is diabetes mellitus which can cause nerve damage. This condition is known as peripheral neuropathy and it presents with pain, numbness, or tingling in the extremities.
Read on to learn about hand anatomy, potential causes of pain, home remedies, and when to visit a doctor.

Hand Anatomy

The hand consists of various bones, muscles, and ligaments that enable a great deal of dexterity and flexibility. The three primary groups of bones in the hand are:

  • Carpals: These bones form the wrist and consist of eight bones. The carpal bones articulate to the ulnar and radius bones, which are the forearm bones.
  • Metacarpals: These are the five bones that lie in the area between the wrist and fingers.
  • Phalanges: These are 14 bones, and they make up the fingers of each hand. The thumb only has two phalanges, but each finger has three: proximal, middle, and distal.

The hand has a large number of muscles, tendons, tendon sheaths, and ligaments.

Common Hand Pain Symptoms

Hand pain symptoms depend on the underlying cause. The following can accompany pain:

  • Reduced dexterity and a proclivity for dropping things.
  • Pins and needles-like burning and prickling feeling in the hand.
  • Reduced sensations.
  • A painful cracking or popping feeling when you stretch or bend your hand.
  • A painful lump around the base of the palm of the affected finger.
  • Stiffness of the fingers or locking when they are in a flexed posture, etc.

Diagnosing Hand Pain

A doctor or specialized physiotherapist will want to know what symptoms you’ve had, how long you’ve had them, how they have been progressing, etc., in order to identify an issue with your hands and wrist. They will then conduct a physical examination on your hand and wrist, looking out for tenderness, range of motion, sensation, and strength.
The medical expert might order lab tests like blood work to check for signs of possible inflammation. Doctors may also order X-rays, ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to see the internal structures of your hand. Rarely, they may request a nerve conduction study that measures the functionality of nerves.

Common types of Hand Pain

The following are common causes of hand pain.

Painful Conditions of the Thumb

Thumb injury or misuse, basal joint arthritis, or carpal tunnel syndrome all constitute painful conditions of the thumb. Injuries to ligaments of the bottom portion of your hands and wrist can also produce pain near the base of your thumb.

Carpal Tunnel 

The median nerve runs through the wrist, supplying some areas of skin and muscle in the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome results when it becomes compressed or impinged.
Symptoms may appear progressively and are frequently more severe at night. Pain, abnormal sensations, and numbness in the hand and forearm are common symptoms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can also result in a loss of strength, and some persons may also lose proprioception (sensation of where the hand is in space). Because this condition might worsen with time, it’s critical to get it diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

Cubital Tunnel

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is a disorder in which the ulnar nerve is compressed or stretched, resulting in numbness or tingling in the ring and little fingers, forearm discomfort, and hand weakness. These symptoms usually present when the elbow is bent for an extended length of time. 

Trigger Finger 

Trigger finger describes a hand condition when one can’t properly straighten a finger or thumb. It most often affects the thumb, middle, and ring finger. When the issue occurs, it might cause you to need your other hand when straightening out the affected finger or thumb.
On rare occasions, the condition can cause a finger to become too painful to straighten, so it remains in the same position. The finger might make a clicking or popping sound, especially first thing in the morning. Swelling can sometimes accompany the stiffness and lead to the formation of nodules.

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis 

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis affects the tendons of the thumb. The region surrounding your tendons becomes inflamed due to swelling in the two tendons around the base of the thumb. Rest usually relieves pain, but exertion might make it worse. It can happen if tendons are overworked, such as after a long period of sports participation.

Arthritis of the Upper Limb

Hands, wrists, and elbows can all be affected by arthritic pain. Arthritis most commonly affects the thumb basal joint (CMC joint) when it manifests in the hand, but it can also affect other joints in the hand. The two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition in which the cushioning cartilage that covers the bone surfaces at joints wears away. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune illness of unknown cause where the body’s immune cells attack the joints. The wrist and knuckles are the most prevalent sites of this condition in the upper limb. Because the illness is symmetric, whatever happens in one hand generally occurs in the other.
All kinds of arthritis of the hand and wrist have the same symptoms: stiffness, swelling, and pain. 

Sports Injuries of Finger Joints 

Injuries to the fingers and joints in the hand are frequent in all sports. Contact sports such as football, rugby, and hockey are the most common causes of traumatic fractures. Athletes and non-athletes can both sustain hand and wrist injuries.
Sport injuries sustained include broken bones, dislocations, tendon, or ligament tears. The mechanism of damage and attention to hand dominance aids in the diagnosis of the underlying injury and the planning of future treatment.

Ganglion Cysts 

Ganglion cysts are fluid-filled masses that can form around joints and tendons of the hand and wrists. These cysts vary in size, but they are usually harmless and go away on their own. They can, however, be painful and impair a person’s ability to move their hand or wrist.
The majority of ganglion cysts do not usually need treatment. However, if a person experiences pain, discomfort, or difficulty moving a joint, doctors may suggest incision and drainage of the cyst or surgical removal.

Treatments for Hand Pain

Treatments for hand pain depend on the cause. They could be medical or surgical and include:

  • Rest
  • Activity modification
  • Splinting
  • Administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin.
  • Cortisone injections
  • Fluid aspiration
  • Surgery

When to see a doctor

If your hand pain does not improve with home therapy, you should see a doctor. Also, visit the hospital if you are experiencing severe, persistent, progressive, or recurrent pain and discomfort.
Another cue that you need expert attention is if other symptoms like fever, arm pain, and exhaustion accompany the hand pain.

Home Remedies

You can do the following at home:

  • Rest: Avoid using the affected hand as much as you possibly can. 
  • Ice: Apply a cold pack or ice to the damaged hand many times a day for 20 minutes.
  • Compression: Secure the area in a soft bandage, splint, or cast to achieve this.
  • Elevation: Keep the afflicted hand elevated above heart level, such as with a sling.

Other home remedies include massages, heat and cold packs, and over-the-counter painkillers.


How do I know if my hand pain is serious?
Hand pain is severe when it is enough to keep you up at night and significantly reduces functionality. If it is associated with symptoms such as fever and deformity, that is another pointer. Persistent, steadily worsening pain necessitates a visit to the doctor’s office.

What are the symptoms of tendonitis in the hand?
Symptoms of tendonitis in the hand include:

  • Joint pain when using the hand.
  • Fluid build-up resulting in joint swelling.
  • Grating feeling in the hand during movement.

What are the first signs of arthritis in your hands?
Early signs of arthritis in the hands involve the joints. These symptoms depend on the form of arthritis you have. They may include pain, swelling, warmth, and stiffness. 

Which exercise is best for hand pain?
Gentle stretching activities might help alleviate pain in the hand.

  • Rotate the wrists counter-clockwise and then clockwise to relieve pain and discomfort. Patients should repeat each movement ten times.
  • Open your palms as wide as possible, then stretch your fingers apart before closing them into a fist. You can repeat this up to 10 times or more.
  • For a mild wrist stretch, use one hand to gently extend the other hand’s fingers back toward the chest. Repeat the activity five to ten times more.