Hand pain

Hand pain can be caused by a number of conditions. You can ease hand pain with simple steps at home. See a GP if the pain doesn't go away.

How to ease hand pain yourself

Try these things first:

  • avoid activities that cause pain, if possible
  • use an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) on the painful area for up to 20 minutes every two to three hours
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen

If you have pain after an injury, don't take ibuprofen for the first 48 hours, as it may slow down healing. For suspected sprains and strains see PRICE therapy.

When to seek medical attention

A pharmacist can offer practical advice to help you deal with hand pain. They may suggest:

  • taking a painkiller – this may be tablets, or a cream or gel you rub on the skin
  • things you can buy to help, like cold packs and splints
  • seeing a GP, if you need to

You should see your GP if:

  • you see no improvement after treatment at home
  • the pain gets worse
  • the pain keeps coming back

Go to an emergency department if you think you have a broken bone in your hand.

Symptoms of a broken bone include:

  • having extreme pain after an injury
  • your wrist or finger is a funny shape
  • a snap or grinding noise at the time of injury
  • having difficulty moving the hand, wrist or fingers

Common causes of hand pain

Your symptoms might give you an idea of what's causing your hand pain. But don't self-diagnose – see a GP if you're worried.

Below are health conditions that are linked with common causes of hand pain.

These include:

  • carpal tunnel syndrome – symptoms of which include, tingling and numbness in the thumb-side of the hand and fingers
  • sprains and strains - symptoms of which include, pain, tenderness and swelling in the wrist or thumb
  • tendonitis symptoms of which include, throbbing, tingling, numbness or cramp in the wrists and hands
  • repetitive strain injury (RSI) - symptoms of which include, throbbing, tingling, numbness or cramp in the wrists and hands
  • osteoarthritis - symptoms of which include, swelling and stiffness in the joints of the wrist, hand or near the fingernails
  • rheumatoid arthritis - symptoms of which include, stiffness, warmth and swelling – especially early in the morning – in the joints of the knuckles, wrists or fingers
  • ganglion - symptoms of which include, a soft round lump or swelling at the back of the wrist or between the fingers 
  • tendonitis or arthritis - symptoms of which include, pain moving your thumb, and swelling and creaking near the base of your thumb                

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

This page was published March 2018

This page is due for review November 2020

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