An injury or certain conditions cause pain in the hand. The hand contains different parts such as bones, ligaments, tendons, nerves, skin, and other structures.
The hand contains 27 bones that allow movement. Major bones in the hand are-
Phalanges– There are 14 bones in the fingers of each hand and toe The thumb only has two phalanges, but each finger has three (the distal, middle, and proximal).
Metacarpal bones– This group of five bones forms the middle portion of a hand.
Carpal bones– The wrist is made up of 8 bones. The ulnar bone and the radius bone, two arm bones, are joined by the carpal bones.
Let’s discuss some of the reasons for hand pain.
Arthritis– Arthritis in the hand is the leading cause of hand pain, although it can happen anywhere in the body. In arthritis, joints lose cartilage which allows smooth movements. A painful, sometimes debilitating swelling occurs as cartilage deteriorates. It mostly occurs in the base of the thumb, middle joints of fingers, and end joints.
- The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. As a result, the cartilage gradually degenerates. It happens after an injury or with age. It mostly affects older people. It causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. Bony nodules form in the finger (at the middle or end joints)
- A chronic (long-term, ongoing) inflammatory condition called rheumatoid arthritis causes the joint lining to expand, which results in pain, stiffness, and function loss. Inflammation eventually erodes the bone itself and damages the cartilage at the ends of bones. The tendons and ligaments that surround the bone weaken and strain, which causes the joints to lose their shape and alignment. It commonly affects small joints of the hand and fingers and usually affects the same joints on both sides of the body.
- Psoriatic arthritis affects the skin and joints. It is similar to rheumatoid arthritis. Your fingers swell, and you may also feel joint pain and morning stiffness.
Symptoms of arthritis are –
- Pain in joints of finger or wrist
- Pain after gripping or repetitive motions
- Morning stiffness and pain
- A sensation of grinding or looseness
- Joint swelling
Common arthritis treatments include
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Physical therapy
- Splinting of joints
- Occupational therapy
Carpal tunnel syndrome– At the base of your hand, there is a little ligament-and-bone tunnel called the carpal tunnel. It contains the median nerve and tendons responsible for the movement of fingers. The median nerve becomes compressed by a narrowing carpal tunnel, resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome. This narrowing can be caused by inflammation, thickening of irritated tendons, or anything else that might cause swelling in this area.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel include-
- Pain and stiffness of hand in the morning
- Trouble gripping objects
- Pins and needles feelings
- The fingers feel swollen
- Burning in the fingers
- Inability to distinguish between warmth and cold
Treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome are –
- Wrist splints
- Oral anti-inflammatory medications
- Ice or cool packs
- Injections of anesthetic or steroids
- Oral steroids
Ganglion cysts– On the back or front of the hand, soft cysts filled with fluid can form for no obvious reason. These fluid-filled cysts can rapidly appear, disappear, or change size. You can feel pain, tingling, or numbness in the wrist or hand if your ganglion cyst grows large enough to stress on neighboring nerves.
Symptoms may include-
- Wrist pain that worsens with usage or irritation over time
- A smooth, firm, rounded, or sensitive apparent cyst
- Mild aching and weakness in the wrist
Ganglion cysts may resemble other conditions. For a diagnosis, always consult your doctor. Treatment is not needed if the cyst is small and painless. Its treatment may include-
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Cortisone injections
De Quervain’s Tendinitis – It causes pain on the thumb sides and is also called de Quervain’s tendinosis. The area around your tendons becomes inflamed when the two tendons at the base of your thumb swell. The pain may develop gradually and travels up the forearm.
In de Quervain’s tendinitis, it is painful to make a fist, grasp objects, and make a wrist. Pain is caused by irritated or inflamed wrist tendons near the base of the thumb. Repetitive activities cause De Quervain’s Tendinitis. Its treatment includes-
- Splint for thumb and wrist
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Cortisone shots
Gout– Gout is a complex form of arthritis and is extremely painful. You may experience sudden, severe pain in the joints. Gout can occur anywhere in the feet, knees, hands, and wrists, but it most frequently affects the joint near the base of the big toe. You will feel frequent attacks of extreme pain, burning, redness, and tenderness if you have gout in your hands or wrists. It is common for people with gout to wake up at night. Your hand could feel like it’s on fire at times.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and colchicine are two drugs that can be used to treat extremely painful gout attacks. Additionally, there are drugs that help in avoiding attacks and difficulties in the future.
Fractures– Besides pain, a fracture may have swelling, stiffness, and loss of movement. There are various fractures, including-
- Simple- Fractured bone is aligned and stable
- Complex- Treatment may become more difficult if a break causes a bone to shift or become displaced.
- Comminuted- Several broken bones are present.
- Compound- Skin is torn by a broken bone.
Casts and splints are used for simple breaks, and pins, wires and plates for complicated fractures. Surgery can also be required to completely set the broken bone.
Lupus– Since lupus is an autoimmune condition, your immune system mistakenly targets healthy cells and damages healthy tissue. Joint pain and stiffness are symptoms of lupus. Lupus causes inflammation throughout the body. A thin lining around the joints thickens due to inflammation, causing pain and swelling in the hands, wrists, and feet. Other symptoms are-
- Muscle pain
- Hair loss
- Pale or purple fingers
- Red rashes
- Swelling around eyes and legs
Treatments are available to manage symptoms of lupus. For pain and stiffness, use a warm or cold compress, OTC pain medications, NSAIDs, and physical therapy.
Peripheral neuropathy- This condition causes numbness, pain, and weakness in the hands or feet. When your peripheral nerves are injured, you have peripheral neuropathy in your hands. Diabetes, traumatic injuries, and infections can cause peripheral nerve damage.
Common symptoms include-
- Feelings of numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Sharp, throbbing, or burning pain
- Muscle weakness
Treatment includes OTC pain relievers, prescription painkillers, antidepressants, and nerve pain prescription medicine.
Trigger Finger– Medically referred to as stenosing tenosynovitis. It results in the thumb or fingers locking in a bent position. This may hurt when you bend or straighten the affected finger or thumb, in particular. The condition arises from irritation of the flexor tendons, which regulate the motion of the fingers and thumb. In turn, this causes the tendon sheath surrounding the flexor tendons to thicken. Additionally, nodules may develop on the injured tendons.
Trigger finger has no known cause, according to doctors. If you have diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout, it’s more likely to occur. It mostly affects people between 40 to 60years.
Rest, splint, and over-the-counter medication ease pain. Surgery is the last option.