Hand Pain | Causes | Diagnosis | Treatment
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Hand Pain - Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Published on May 24, 2022 and last reviewed on Jan 19, 2023   -  5 min read


Hands are an important part of the body. However, any pain or discomfort in the hands may resist daily work. Read the following article to learn about hand pain.


The upper limb of a human body comprises the shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand (palm, backhand, and fingers). They are supported by various muscles, bones, and joints for movements. The primary function of a hand is to manipulate objects according to requirements. Therefore, pain in the hand may bring impairment in work and decrease participation in social activities.

What Is Meant by Hand Pain?

Hand pain is an unpleasant feeling that hinders your hand movement and activity. Hand pain may be mild or severe. It is usually a response to any underlying problem. Therefore, identifying the cause and treating the condition can alleviate hand pain.

What Are the Causes of Hand Pain?

The two primary reasons for hand pain are trauma and any underlying disease. The pain can occur in the wrist, thumb, fingers, palm, or back of the hand. Swelling, wound, redness, nerve injury, mineral or vitamin deficiency, numbness, tingling sensation, muscle spasms, finger stiffness, or erection are contributing factors to hand pain. Some of the following causes of hand pain are briefed below -

1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS):

The numbness, tingling sensation, or pain caused by a compressed nerve is called carpal tunnel syndrome. The condition occurs when pressure is applied to one of the major nerves of the arm, the median nerve (which carries sensations and activity signals of the arm).

A carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in the wrist surrounded by carpal bones (tiny bones that make up the wrist). The median nerve travels through the carpal tunnel and innervates the thumb, index, middle, and ring finger. Therefore, narrowing of the passage or exertion of abnormal force on the nerve by the swelling of surrounding tissues causes pain.

The risk factors for this condition may be hereditary, hand-wrist position, repetitive hand use, and other health conditions. Giving rest to the hand and wrist, pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and physical therapy may provide some relief.

2. Arthritis:

Arthritis is swelling and tenderness of joints that causes pain and stiffness. Arthritis is usually age-related (osteoarthritis - wear and tear of tissues in bones and joints) or autoimmune (rheumatoid arthritis - immune system attacking the joints). The hand and wrist have multiple small bones and joints which work together to bring movements. Therefore arthritis can occur in many hand areas, causing pain and swelling. Medicines, self-care, and physiotherapy are proposed to treat arthritis.

3. Vitamin D Deficiency:

Vitamin D is a crucial component of bone health. Research suggests that low levels of vitamin D cause muscle and joint pain.

4. De Quervain Tenosynovitis:

De Quervain's tenosynovitis or tendonitis is the pain caused in the thumb's tendons (the tissue that connects muscle to bone). The pain may travel through the thumb and extend up to the forearm. The condition resists the thumb and wrist from holding, grasping, or fisting.

5. Ganglionic Cyst:

A small, round, non-cancerous swelling rising in the tendons of the wrist and hand are called ganglionic cysts. The cyst might cause mild pain and weakness in the hand. Such cyst may drain itself or be removed professionally.

6. Raynaud’s Disease:

Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition where smaller arteries constrict excessively, resulting in cold-causing numbness and pain in fingers and toes. The hand may change color in such a situation, and the pain may last from a few minutes to extended hours.

7. Scleroderma:

Stiffness of the skin and other organs due to abnormalities in the immune system, connective tissue, and small blood vessels is called scleroderma. Scleroderma patients have thick and swollen fingers that cause stiffness in the hands, especially in the mornings.

8. Trigger Finger:

Irritation of the tendon causing the fingers or thumb to bend and lock in the same position is called trigger finger or tenosynovitis. Removing the trigger or pulling the finger may straighten the affected digit.

9. Fracture:

Any fracture of a bone in hand due to trauma causes extreme pain until the fracture is stabilized and healed. Then, the joints will become stiff and lack free movement.

10. Sprain:

A sprain is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments (band of elastic tissue around the joints). For example, a wrist or hand sprain may occur when there is a direct blow, hit hard with an object, sudden fall, or twist on the hand.

How to Diagnose Hand Pain?

A complete patient history and laboratory investigations reveal the cause of hand pain. The following are the tests recommended for diagnosing hand pain.

Blood Test:

The following tests rule out the presence of inflammation in the body:

  • ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate).

  • CBC (complete blood count).

  • CRP (C-reactive protein).

  • RF (rheumatoid factor).

  • ACPA (anti-citrullinated peptide antibody).

Apart from the tests mentioned above, the levels of vitamin D and uric acid in the blood also contribute to finding the source of hand pain.


An X-ray is used to visualize the injured hand or wrist for fracture.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging):

MRI is performed to rule out neuritis (inflammation of the nerve) or sprain.

CT Scan (Computed Tomography):

CT scan can provide detailed information on hard and soft tissue structures.

How to Treat Hand Pain?

The treatment of hand pain relies on identifying the cause and treating the condition. Some conservative management includes:

  • Medication: NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) reduce joint swelling, stiffness, and pain.

  • Rest: Minor injuries, overuse, or stress-related pain resolves with adequate rest.

  • Ice Packs: Applying ice packs to the injured area reduces inflammation.

  • Heat Therapy: Applying heat loosens stiff joints and soothes the achy muscles.

  • Physiotherapy: Physical therapy is recommended to reduce stiffness and improve hand movements.

  • Therapeutic Ultrasound: The application of ultrasound to an area increases the blood flow and reduces the tingling and numbness of the hand.

  • Surgery: In major fractures, ligament injury, and unresolved carpal tunnel syndromes, surgery is preferred.


The hand remains a crucial part of the body for everyday activities, and therefore hand pain can be debilitating. Damage to any part of the hand, such as tendons, ligaments, bones, or joints, severely hampers the routine lifestyle. It is advisable to seek a physician’s help if the pain limits the daily work plan. Hand pain can be cured with simple solutions when detected and treated early.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Can I Do to Eliminate My Hand Pain?

- Avoid tasks that aggravate the discomfort. 
- Avoid tasks that are creating or exacerbating the pain.
- Pain reliever medications. Pain relievers such as Paracetamol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen can be used.
- Warm and ice compression
- Splints can be used for stabilizing. 
- Maintaining movement in the hands and wrists.


How Do I Know if My Hand Pain Is Serious? How Can I Tell Whether My Hand Pain Is Severe?

The pain is becoming worse or reoccurring. Despite two weeks of home treatment, the pain has not decreased. If the patient has any tingling or loss of sensation in her hand, contact the healthcare provider. Along with hand pain, if the patient is having diabetes, then it is more serious.


Should I Be Concerned about Hand Pain?

Yes. Along with hand pain, if the patient is having diabetes, then it is more severe and should be treated immediately.


Is Hand Pain Linked to Heart Problems?

Pain in the left arm is a common symptom of a heart attack. Nerves branching from the heart and from the arm send messages to the same brain cells. Nevertheless, it is not the sole indicator of a heart attack, and most discomfort in the left hand is caused by something else, most typically trauma. Chest pain, jaw pain, numbness, nausea, trouble breathing, and dizziness are also heart attack symptoms.


What Are the Types of Hand Pain? What Are the Many Kinds of Hand Pain?

Several illnesses can produce pain in the hand, such as Arthritis, tendonitis, trigger finger syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, and trigger finger syndrome. Hand pain might arise from the bones, nerves, tendons, connective tissues, or joints. These can result from inflammation, sprains and fractures, nerve damage, repetitive movement injuries, and chronic health issues.


What Are the Signs of Hand Nerve Pain?

- Numbness, prickling, or tingling in the hands can progress up into the arms.
- Pain that is sharp, pricking, throbbing, or searing.
- Touch sensitivity to touch.


What Are Some Common Hand Issues?

Four of the most frequent disorders in the hands include trigger finger/thumb, carpal tunnel syndrome, Arthritis at the base of the thumb, and Dupuytren's disease. Other causes include cubital tunnel syndrome, DeQuervain's syndrome, and osteoarthritis. 


What Are the Early Symptoms of Arthritis in the Hand?

Early signs of hand arthritis comprise joint pain and discomfort that may seem dull or burning sensation, swelling, warmth, crepitation, looseness, and some cysts.


Which Vitamin Is Beneficial for Hand Pain?

Vitamin B complex is suitable for hand pain. However, we still need to fully understand how this type of vitamin may cure disorders related to Arthritis. However, data from clinical trials show that vitamins B3, B9, and B12 may be beneficial in treating osteoarthritis, particularly in enhancing joint mobility and hand grip.


What Is the Most Effective Home Treatment for Hand Pain?

Therapeutic use of heat. Temperature management is the application of heat or cold to alleviate pain. Massage the area to relieve pain. Stretching and exercise. Splinting. Rest the hand. Apply capsaicin topical ointment. Wear compression gloves. Elevate the hand. 


At What Age Does Arthritis Start?

It most usually begins between the ages of 40 and 60. It affects more women than males. Some medications help suppress a hyperactive immune system, reducing joint pain and swelling.


Is Hand Pain Normal?

No. Several causes of hand pain might arise from the bones, nerves, tendons, connective tissues, or joints. Inflammation, sprains and fractures, nerve damage, and repeated traumas can all lead to them.


Will High Blood Pressure Cause Hand Pain?

Yes. High blood pressure can affect the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, leading to malfunctioning of the kidneys. This can lead to fatigue. Ankles, feet, or hands that are swollen (due to retention of the water).


Which Hand Will Suffer from Pain Due to Heart Problem?

The most well-known sign of a heart attack is a pain in the left arm. When a person is experiencing a heart attack, this pain appears quickly, worsens with exercise, subsides at rest, and is usually accompanied by additional symptoms.


Which Hand Will Suffer from Pain Due to Heart Problem?

The most well-known sign of a heart attack is a pain in the left arm. When a person is experiencing a heart attack, this pain appears quickly, worsens with exercise, subsides at rest, and is usually accompanied by additional symptoms.

Last reviewed at:
19 Jan 2023  -  5 min read




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