What causes hand and wrist pain?
We use our hands for countless purposes, not the least of which is to communicate with the world. However, we rarely realize how much we rely on them until something goes wrong. Hand and wrist complications can be the result of common conditions like:
- Hand nerve entrapment, including carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome: occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand is compressed. It causes pain, numbness and tingling in the hand or arm.
- Dupuytren’s contracture: Tissue underneath the skin thickens and tightens, causing the fingers to be pulled inward.
- Trigger finger (or stenosing tenosynovitis): Part of the tendon sheath in the finger becomes inflamed, leading to pain, stiffness and locking when you bend or straighten the finger.
- DeQuervain’s tendonitis: Tendons on the thumb side of the wrist are inflamed, causing pain while grasping or making a fist. This is the most common form of tendonitis in the wrist.
- Osteoarthritis: A common source of hand pain that results from the loss of cartilage cushion between joints.
Symptoms include numbness or tingling, pain, reduced range of motion and swelling. These may be also exacerbated by activities that require pressure directly on the wrist, like cycling or yoga. Additionally, texting, typing or certain sleeping positions can irritate joints in the hand and wrist.
“Don’t ignore early signs of pain, numbness and tingling or stiffness. The sooner you address your symptoms with a healthcare professional, the quicker your recovery and return to your valued activities will be.” – Nicholas Maroldi, Director of the Hand and Upper Extremity Therapy Center at HSS
How can you prevent hand and wrist pain?
Setting up your work space properly can be helpful in preventing hand and wrist discomfort. This includes your desk at work or home and in your kitchen. Also, “pay attention to how you use your body on a daily basis during common activities,” says Nicholas Maroldi, Director of the Hand Therapy Center at HSS. “Sitting with your shoulders forward, gripping your phone tightly with one hand or keeping your limbs in an awkward position for an extended time can lead to discomfort. Make sure to take regular breaks, stretch and move throughout the day.”
What are the treatment options for hand and wrist pain?
Physical therapy: Gentle stretching and exercise may help decrease stiffness, build strength and restore normal range of motion and function. A physical therapist may recommend the use of splints or braces, special devices to help with normal daily activities, and exercises to regain strength and promote normal function.
Oral medications: Over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medications may help to reduce pain with certain conditions.
Injections: Cortisone injections may be used to treat some conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, arthritis and tendonitis.
Surgery: Depending on the type and severity of the condition, conservative treatment options may not always relieve symptoms. Consult an orthopedic surgeon to see if surgery might be the right treatment option for you.
To learn more about common hand conditions, check out these videos from the HSS Public & Patient Education Department Health Video Library:
Or check out the Public and Patient Education YouTube Playlist for topics such as meditation, exercises, education and more.
HSS Education Institute’s Public & Patient Education Department (PPED) offers programming on musculoskeletal conditions and other health and wellness topics for patients and the general public through community lectures, workshops, outreach programs, injury prevention programs, exercise classes, publications and digital programming.
HSS HealthConnection Fast Facts, produced by the PPED, is a convenient resource designed to provide the public with fast, current and accurate musculoskeletal and general health information.