Hand pain can be caused by disease or injury affecting any of the structures in the hand, including the bones, muscles, joints, tendons, blood vessels, or connective tissues. Hand pain is one feature of joint inflammation (arthritis) that may be felt in the hand. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are the two most common types of arthritis in the hand. Repetitive motion injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome, can cause pain in the wrist and hand. Tumors of the structures in the hand are a very rare cause of hand or finger pain. Certain conditions such as diabetes can cause damage to the nerves, resulting in pain, numbness, or tingling of the arms and legs. This phenomenon, known as peripheral neuropathy, can also sometimes cause hand pain. DeQuervain's disease is a swelling and inflammation of the tendon around the thumb, causing pain in the thumb and lower arm. Trauma or injury to any of the structures in the hand is another common cause of hand pain.
Other causes of hand pain
- Bacterial Infection
- Bone Tumors
- Joint Dislocation
- Nerve Damage From Toxins
- Soft Tissue Tumors (Sarcomas)
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.Next Article
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Causes of Hand Pain
Arthritis (Joint Inflammation)
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, warmth, swelling, redness and pain. There are over 100 types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, gout, and pseudogout.
Broken Bone (Types of Bone Fractures)
A broken bone is a fracture. There are different types of fractures, such as: compressed, open, stress, greenstick, spiral, vertebral compression, compound, and comminuted. Symptoms of a broken bone include pain at the site of injury, swelling, and bruising around the area of injury. Treatment of a fracture depends on the type and location of the injury.
Bug Bites and Stings
Bug bites and stings have been known to transmit insect-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme disease. Though most reactions to insect bites and stings are mild, some reactions may be life-threatening. Preventing bug bites and stings with insect repellant, wearing the proper protective attire, and not wearing heavily scented perfumes when in grassy, wooded, and brushy areas is key.
Burns (First Aid)
Burn types are based on their severity: first-degree burns, second-degree burns, and third-degree burns. First-degree burns are similar to a painful sunburn. The damage is more severe with second-degree burns, leading to blistering and more intense pain. The skin turns white and loses sensation with third degree burns. Burn treatment depends upon the burn location, total burn area, and intensity of the burn.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which irritation of the wrist's median nerve causes tingling and numbness of the thumb, index, and the middle fingers. Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity of the symptoms and the nature of any disease that might be causing the symptoms.
Cellulitis is an acute spreading bacterial infection below the surface of the skin characterized by redness, warmth, inflammation, and pain. The most common cause of cellulitis is the bacteria staph (Staphylococcus aureus).
Corns and calluses are sometimes painful areas of thickened skin that appear between the toes and fingers or on the soles of the feet. Abnormal foot anatomy, ill-fitting footwear, and unusual gait can put increased pressure in specific areas, causing corns and calluses. Treatment may involve using over-the-counter salicylic-acid products, visiting a podiatrist to be fitted with an orthotic device, or surgical removal.
Cuts, Scrapes and Puncture Wounds
Cuts, scrapes, and puncture wounds are common, and most people will experience one of these in their lifetime. Evaluating the injury, and thoroughly cleaning the injury is important. Some injuries should be evaluated by a doctor, and a tetanus shot may be necessary. Treatment will depend upon the severity of the injury.
DeQuervain's tenosynovitis is inflammation of the tendon on the side of the wrist at the base of the thumb. DeQuervain's tenosynovitis can be caused by a simple strain injury to the extensor pollicus longus tendon. Typical causes include stresses such as lifting heavy grocery bags by the loops, and up lifting gardening pots. Treatment for DeQuervain's tenosynovitis includes any combination of rest, ice, antiinflammatory medication, and/or cortisone injections.
Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2)
Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes are referred to as type 1 (insulin dependent) and type 2 (non-insulin dependent). Symptoms of diabetes include increased urine output, thirst, hunger, and fatigue. Treatment of diabetes depends on the type.
Dog Bite (Infections, Symptoms, Treatment, Management)
A dog bites about 4.5 million people each year, and about 27,000 will need surgery. Dog bites often become infected, and will need medical treatment and management. Make sure that the dog’s rabies vaccination is current; if not, rabies treatment may be necessary. A dog bite may cause symptoms and signs like puncture wounds, lacerations, pain, swelling, and redness. Treatment and management of a dog bite in and infant, child, teen, or adult depends upon the severity of the wound. Dog bites can be prevented by not approaching stray or unfamiliar dogs, especially if the dog is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies; always ask the dog owner if you can pet the dog, and do not make eye contact, run, or scream if a dog if you are confronted with a dog.
A Dupuytren's contracture is a localized formation of scar tissue beneath the skin of the palm of the hand. The scarring accumulates in a tissue (fascia) that normally covers the tendons that pull the fingers to grip. Dimpling and puckering of the skin over the area eventually occur. Dupuytren's contractures occur more frequently in patients with diabetes, epilepsy, and alcoholism. Treatment of a Dupuytren's contracture depends on the severity of the condition. Treatment options may include reassurance and stretching exercises with heat application, ultrasound, and cortisone injections for local inflammation.
Eczema refers to skin inflammation. There are many different types of eczema that produce symptoms and signs that range from oozing blisters to crusty plaques of skin. Treatment varies depending upon the type of eczema the person has.
A ganglion is a fluid-filled cyst that forms from the joint or tendon lining. Ganglia are most frequently found in the ankles and wrists and are usually painless. A ganglion often resolves on its own. Aspiration of the ganglion fluid or surgery may be necessary.
Buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint causes gouty arthritis. Symptoms and signs include joint pain, swelling, heat, and redness, typically of a single joint. Gout may be treated with diet and lifestyle changes, as well as medication.
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis caused by inflammation, breakdown, and eventual loss of cartilage in the joints. Also known as degenerative arthritis. Osteoarthritis can be caused by aging, heredity, and injury from trauma or disease.
Peripheral neuropathy is a problem with the functioning of the nerves outside of the spinal cord. Symptoms may include numbness, weakness, burning pain (especially at night), and loss of reflexes. Possible causes may include carpel tunnel syndrome, shingles, vitamin or nutritional deficiencies, and illnesses like diabetes, syphilis, AIDS, and kidney failure. Peripheral neuropathy is diagnosed with exams and tests. Treatment for the condition depends on the cause. Usually, the prognosis for peripheral neuropathy is good if the cause can be successfully treated or prevented.
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to diseases of the blood vessels (arteries and veins) located outside the heart and brain. While there are many causes of peripheral vascular disease, doctors commonly use the term peripheral vascular disease to refer to peripheral artery disease (peripheral arterial disease, PAD), a condition that develops when the arteries that supply blood to the internal organs, arms, and legs become completely or partially blocked as a result of atherosclerosis. Peripheral artery disease symptoms include intermittent leg pain while walking, leg pain at rest, numbness in the legs or feet, and poor wound healing in the legs or feet. Treatment for peripheral artery disease include lifestyle measures, medication, angioplasty, and surgery.
Pseudogout, a form of arthritis, results when deposits of crystals collect in and around the joints. Symptoms of pseudogout include pain, stiffness, warmth, and joint swelling of the knees, ankles, hips, shoulders, and/or wrists. Treatment for pseudogout aims to decrease inflammation through the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, ice, and rest.
Psoriatic arthritis is a disease that causes skin and joint inflammation. Symptoms and signs include painful, stiff, and swollen joints, tendinitis, and organ inflammation. Treatment involves anti-inflammatory medications and exercise.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, as well as other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease. The 16 characteristic early RA signs and symptoms include the following. Anemia Both sides of the body affected (symmetric) Depression Fatigue Fever Joint deformity Joint pain Joint redness Joint stiffness Joint swelling Joint tenderness Joint warmth Limping Loss of joint function Loss of joint range of motion Many joints affected (polyarthritis)
Septic arthritis, or infectious arthritis, is infection of one or more joints by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Symptoms and signs of septic arthritis include fever, joint pain, chills, swelling, redness, warmth, and stiffness. Treatment involves antibiotics and the drainage of the infected joint.
Snake Bite (Snake Bite)
There are venomous (poisonous) and nonvenomous (nonpoisonous) snakes. A venomous snake bite penetrates the skin and injects, secretes, or spits a toxin into the penetrated wound. Symptoms of a venomous snake bite include: redness at the site of the bite, swelling at the site of the bite, severe pain at the site of the bite, nausea and vomiting labored breathing disturbed vision increased sweating and salivation, and numbness or tingling in the face or arms and legs. Treatment of a venomous snake is a medical emergency, and the person that has been bitten needs to be taken to an emergency department or other emergent care facility as soon as possible.
Sprains and Strains
An injury to a ligament is called a sprain, and an injury to muscle or tendon is called a strain. Sprains and strains may be caused by repetitive movements or a single stressful incident. Symptoms and signs include pain and swelling. Though treatment depends upon the extent and location of the injury, rest, ice, compression, and elevation are key elements of treatment.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition where symptoms are produced from compression of nerves or blood vessels because the passageway through the neck and armpit is inadequate. Symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome include neck, shoulder, and arm pain, and numbness or impaired circulation to the extremities.
Warts (Common Warts)
Common warts are skin growths causes by the human papillomavirus. There are many types of warts, including plantar warts, common hand warts, warts under the nails, mosaic wars, and flat warts. Over-the-counter treatments typically involve the use of salicylic acid products.
Examples of Medications for Hand Pain
- acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children's Fever/Pain)
- aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid, Bayer, Ecotrin, and others)
- ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Advil/Motrin, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever, and others)
- Ketorolac vs. diclofenac
- Ketorolac vs. ibuprofen (Advil)
- Ketorolac vs. naproxen (Aleve)
- naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn)
- Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
- Over-the-Counter Products