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Common Causes of Hand Pain and How to Find Relief

patient holding hand due to pain

From gripping a steering wheel to typing on a keyboard and everything in between, your hands and wrists are a part of nearly everything you do on a daily basis. These repetitive motions have the potential to create weakness, stiffness, and pain.

There are 27 bones, over 120 ligaments, 29 joints, 48 nerves, and 17 muscles in each hand. This complex system allows your hands the wide range of motion and functionality that you use every day, but that complexity makes the hand and wrist prone to dysfunction and injury.

Some common causes of hand pain include:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The small opening through the bones which make up your wrist and the base of your hand is called the carpal tunnel. It is through this pathway that the tendons that control your fingers and the median nerve, which provides feeling and function to your thumb, run. In carpal tunnel syndrome, that opening becomes narrowed, and the median nerve is compressed, resulting in numbness, tingling, and pain.

Trigger Finger

Tendons in your hand work like ropes, pulling through a series of sheaths at the joints to move your fingers. With trigger finger, your tendon develops a thickened area, preventing it from sliding smoothly through the tendon sheath. This results in the finger locking at a certain point when attempting to straighten it.

Arthritis of the Hand

All joints, including those in the hand, are susceptible to arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the smooth cartilage covering the ends of the bones in a joint erodes, leaving bones rubbing against each other and causing pain. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that affects the joints and commonly attacks the hands, causing pain and inflammation.

Sprained Ligaments

Ligaments are the thick connective tissues that connect two bones to form a joint. Hands are full of ligaments, all of which can sustain injury. A sprain is simply an injury to a ligament and can be caused by a fall or other traumatic event.

Treatment and Relieving Hand Pain

The following nonsurgical methods can help relieve hand and wrist-related pain:

  • If you spend much of your day with your hands in the same position – typing at a computer for example – take the time to shake your hands out and let them rest. Setting a timer every 30 minutes or so allows your hands to relax and can relieve the tingling sensation that sometimes accompanies wrist pain.
  • If your hand is swollen or injured, apply an ice pack to relieve your symptoms. Swelling puts excessive pressure on the tendons and nerves in your hand, often resulting in discomfort or tingling. After icing the affected area, apply a compression bandage to stabilize the joint and reduce future swelling.
  • Exercise your hands and wrists just as you would exercise other muscles in your body. With stronger hands and wrists, you are less prone to overuse injuries. It doesn’t require complicated gym equipment, either. With just a resistance band under your foot in the standing position, grasp each end with one hand and pull them taught. With your elbow at a 90-degree angle and your forearm stretched out in front of you, pull upward with your wrist, and release. Start out with three sets of 10 repetitions.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication is great for occasional mild to moderate pain. Not only do these drugs help manage pain levels, but they reduce swelling and inflammation in the affected area as well. If your pain levels don’t improve, see a specialist to explore additional treatment options.

If you’re experiencing hand and wrist pain or suffer from another orthopaedic condition, request an appointment online or call (904) 825-0540 to meet with one of our hand and wrist specialists. Following diagnosis and of your condition, our physicians may refer you to our skilled physical and occupational therapists as part of your treatment plan.

Alexander Lampley, MD
Board Certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.