Read below about hand pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your hand pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Hand Pain Symptoms

Did you feel discomfort or fumbled with your keyboard as you typed in our web address? What about when you just tried to pick up your drink? If so, you are likely suffering from hand pain. The hands are intricate parts of our daily life and, when they hurt, even the simplest tasks can become difficult. Without even noticing, your hands are subjected to frequent stresses and strains throughout the day.

Hand pain can range from minor discomfort to crippling and is demonstrated by the following hand pain symptoms:

  • Burning, tingling, and/or itching

  • Stiffness

  • Swelling

  • Reduced strength

  • Bruising or discoloration

  • Misalignment of fingers

Our hands are a complex collection of 19 bones, 15 joints, three nerves, and many muscles and ligaments. Bones form the hardened infrastructure of the hand while ligaments hold the bones together and keep them in place. Working in concert, these components come together to allow the hand to perform highly skilled operations. Each one of these components is susceptible to bangs, bruises, aches, and strains.

Hand pain symptoms can be from something benign, like a small bruise, but can also be indicative of a range of disorders and diseases that can target any part of the hand.

Hand Pain Causes Overview

"Hand pain" is such an all-encompassing phrase that deciphering the cause can be critical in determining the treatment. Pain can result from everyday accidents or be the product of a variety of syndromes and disorders. Common hand pain causes include:

Environmental hand pain causes:

  • Trauma: Bruises, sprains, dislocations, and breaks occur when the hand and/or fingers are struck and damaged. Repetitive actions can lead to undue stress on the joints and muscles. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a product of repetitive hand motions.

Inflammatory hand pain causes:

  • Autoimmune: Several diseases cause joints to inflame. Arthritis, for example, which causes joint inflammation, is a leading cause of hand pain. Several types of arthritis, including rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, typically affect the hand, each causing pain in different joints and tendons.
  • Infections: Bacterial infections can spread through the bloodstream and affect the joints of the hand. Infectious, or septic arthritis, is an example of such a condition.

Systemic disease hand pain causes:

  • Metabolic: The body's normal function is disrupted by metabolic diseases causing pain. Thickening of tissue and swelling of the tendons can occur from diseases such as Dupuytren's Contracture and DeQuervain's Disease.
  • Tumors: Growths, both cancerous and noncancerous, can affect all components of the hand, compressing nerves and causing pain.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Hand Pain

Updated on Aug. 29, 2018

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced hand pain. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

    The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway filled with ligament and bones at the base of your hand. It contains nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the nerve to be compressed. Symptoms usually start gradually, and as they worsen, grasping objects can become difficult.

    Recovery time varies depending on treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous shoulder pain, hand weakness, wrist pain, weakness in one hand, pain in both hands
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Ulnar Nerve Entrapment of Elbow

    Ulnar Nerve Entrapment of Elbow is the compression of the ulnar nerve, causing numbness and/or weakness in the hands.

    Mild symptoms resolve on their own, severe disease resolves with surgery

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    hand weakness, weakness in one hand, numbness in one hand, pain in one elbow, pain in one forearm
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Bruised Hand

    A bruise occurs when small blood vessels break and leak their contents into the soft tissue beneath the skin, which causes the purple color of the bruise.

    1-2 weeks

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    hand injury, hand pain from an injury, pain in one hand, swelling of one hand, palm bruise
    Symptoms that always occur with bruised hand:
    hand injury, hand pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it is caused by the immune system incorrectly attacking the joints when it shouldn't.

    RA is a chronic disease which requires lifelong control.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, joint pain, muscle aches, daytime sleepiness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Hand Pain Checker

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  5. 5.Repetitive Strain Injury of the Hand

    Repetitive strain injury of the hand is caused by consistent repetitive use.

    Resolves with rest

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    hand numbness, hand weakness, hand pain from overuse
    Symptoms that always occur with repetitive strain injury of the hand:
    hand pain from overuse
    Symptoms that never occur with repetitive strain injury of the hand:
    hand injury, severe hand pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  6. 6.Normal Hand Pain

    Hand pain not caused by injury or surgery that is a variation of normal.

    1-2 days

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    hand pain
    Symptoms that always occur with normal hand pain:
    hand pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  7. 7.De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

    De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. If you have de Quervain's tenosynovitis, you will feel pain upon turning your wrist, grasping anything, or making a fist.

    4-6 weeks with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    hand numbness, thumb pain, hand weakness, weakness in one hand, numbness in one hand
    Symptoms that always occur with de quervain's tenosynovitis:
    thumb pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Broken Hand

    A fracture (break) in one or more of the hand bones. Some hand fractures require wearing a splint or a cast. Some need to be repaired with surgery.

    1-2 months with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    hand injury, hand pain from an injury
    Symptoms that always occur with broken hand:
    hand pain from an injury, hand injury
    Symptoms that never occur with broken hand:
    spontaneous hand pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

Hand Pain Treatments and Relief

Left untreated, persistent hand pain symptoms can lead to surgery. Conversely, minor pain may be treated at home. Pain relief may be achievable, but the underlying cause could be something that requires attention from a doctor.

It is advisable to schedule an appointment with your doctor for any of the following hand pain symptoms:

  • Hand pain accompanied by fever and signs of infection especially following a puncture wound
  • Inability to move or bend fingers or wrist
  • Pain that does not improve over several weeks

Hand pain symptoms can be debilitating and greatly impact your daily life. Several steps can be taken to treat the pain, particularly if you have a known condition like arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome:

At-home hand pain treatments:

  • Immobilization: Limiting the use of the affected areas by employing splints or braces provides support to the wrist or fingers, which, in turn, helps relieve pain.
  • Rest and ice: Sometimes the simplest treatment is an ideal home remedy for minor traumatic hand pain symptoms. Ice applied for approximately 15, 20 minutes throughout the day will help reduce swelling. It is often easier said than done to rest your hands, but doing so allows time to heal.
  • Over-the-Counter Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil, or Tylenol help reduce inflammation and pain.

Professional hand pain treatments:

  • Prescription Medications: Your doctor may prescribe pain medications for advanced hand pain. Corticosteroids can be taken orally or injected to control inflammation.
  • Surgery: Procedures of varying degrees may be required to repair damaged bones or ligaments. Arthroscopic or minimally invasive surgical techniques are sometimes used for arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapists can develop programs to help strengthen muscles and tendons. Qualified doctors and physical therapists will recommend specific exercises to lessen the strain on joints and reduce hand pain symptoms.

Hands are critical components in both our work and personal lives. Everything from typing a report to picking up our children to preparing a meal relies on our hands. It can be debilitating when our hands hurt, but by exercising preventative measures and seeking appropriate treatment, the hand pain symptoms can often be managed.

FAQs About Hand Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about hand pain.

Is left hand pain a symptom of a heart attack?

Typically, left arm pain can be a symptom of a heart attack. It is, however, not the only sign of a heart attack, and most cases of pain in the left hand are from some other cause — most commonly, trauma. Other signs of heart attack include chest pain, jaw pain, numbness, nausea, difficulty breathing, and dizziness. If you know you are at risk for a heart attack and suspect a heart attack is occuring, you should seek urgent evaluation in the nearest medical center and call 911.

Where is the pain located in carpal tunnel?

Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause numbness and burning, particularly within the distribution of the median nerve. This includes the thumb, forefinger, middle finger and thumb half of the ring finger as well as the palm. Other areas that may be affected include the wrist, forearm, and less commonly the upper arm and the shoulder. The neck is never affected.

Can diabetes cause hand pain?

Yes, diabetes can cause an increased chance of carpal tunnel syndrome. This is usually associated with the duration of diabetes. Diabetes can also cause a neuropathy, which more commonly manifests in the lower limbs that causes a painful burning sensation. Diabetes can also cause "complex regional pain syndrome," or reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which is characterized by severe pain or burning sensation.

What does rheumatoid arthritis feel like in your hands?

Usually, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) involves morning stiffness of multiple joints, including the first and second joints of the hand (MCP and PIP). It may also affect elbows, knees, shoulders, and ankles. It is most commonly associated with stiffness in the morning in conjunction with pain. Generally, the pain in the hands (which is commonly an ache or a burn) may improve with time.

Why are my hands numb?

Numbness in the hands can come from a variety of causes. Some the most common are exposure to a cold environment. Blood vessels in the hands tend to constrict and allow less blood to conserve heat in cold environments. This decrease in blood flow couples with the fact that nervous impulses travel more slowly, which leads to decreased sensation and numbness. Any disorder that affects the nerves that carry sensation too or from the hands can cause numbness. The most common of these is carpal tunnel syndrome.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Hand Pain

  • Q.Where exactly is your hand pain?
  • Q.What is your body mass?
  • Q.Do you work in food production as a chef, baker, or caterer?
  • Q.Have someone feel for your pulse (at the wrist) on the side of your body that hurts. Now, turn your head to that side. Does the pulse go away? (This is known as the Adson's test.)

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our hand pain symptom checker to find out more.

Hand Pain Quiz

Hand Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced hand pain have also experienced:

    • 10% Forearm Pain
    • 9% Wrist Pain
    • 8% Shoulder Pain
  • People who have experienced hand pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 29% Over a Month
    • 28% Less Than a Week
    • 24% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced hand pain were most often matched with:

    • 42% Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
    • 42% Ulnar Nerve Entrapment of Elbow
    • 14% Bruised Hand
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having hand pain

Hand Pain Quiz