Human hand is made up of 27 bones and 15 joints, which together enable movement of hands, fingers and wrist. People may come across hand pain and aches that can be temporary or long lasting.
Everyone has had a minor problem with a finger, hand, or wrist. Most of the time our body movements do not cause problems, but it’s not surprising that symptoms occur from every day wear and tear or from overuse. Finger, hand, or wrist problems can also be caused by injuries or the natural process of aging.
However, if hand and wrist pain persists or is accompanied by tingling, numbness, or weakness that interferes with important daily tasks, such as gripping items or typing on a keyboard, then an underlying medical condition might exist.
Your fingers, hands or wrists may burn, sting or hurt, or feel tired, sore, stiff, numb, tingly, hot, or cold. Maybe you can’t move them as well as usual, or they are swollen. Perhaps your hands have turned a different color, such as red, pale or blue. A lump or bump might have appeared on your wrist, palm, or fingers.
Hand and wrist pain are common complaints. These are often caused by sprains or fractures from sudden injuries. But wrist pain can also result from long-term problems, such as repetitive stress, arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Hand pain can happen for many reasons, from accidents to conditions that are ongoing. It can often be treated so that your symptoms ease up.
Hand and wrist pain are associated with each other. Both have almost the same etiology and can be differentially diagnosed on the basis of examination procedures.
Hand and wrist pain are very prevalent among the office workers, nursing staff, laborers, pregnant ladies and sportsman in India. Different factors contribute in the development of these painful conditions.
Cause of Hand and Wrist Pain
Hand and wrist almost shares the same causes. The major etiological factors comprises of:
- Fractures, dislocation or injury: A fracture or dislocation of one of the bones in the hand is a common cause of hand pain. This is usually associated with severe pain, and often there is inflammation and tenderness in the area.
- Gout: Gout is a type of arthritis that involves the formation of monosodium urate crystals in the body, due to the accumulation of excessive uric acid in the bloodstream. When these crystals are formed near or inside the joints of the fingers or wrist, they can cause severe hand and wrist pain.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: Carpal tunnel syndrome involves compression of the median nerve that carries messages of sensation and movement to the hand. This can lead to sensations of pain, numbness, or tingling in the hands and fingers. In most cases the thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger, are affected. It tends to develop gradually and is often worse at night-time.
- Osteoarthritis: Hand pain can be caused by osteoarthritis, which is a condition involving inflammation, swelling and bending of the joints. It can affect any joint in the body and commonly affects the joints at the middle and end of the fingers and the base of the thumb, leading to pain in these areas.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that involves the destruction of the cells that line and support the joints, which can lead to pain and inflammation in the hands and wrists. Hand pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis is often described as throbbing or aching and is usually worse in the morning, or when the joints have been inactive for an extended period of time.
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can lead to inflammation and destruction of the joints in the wrist and fingers, which can lead to wrist hand pain.
- Ganglion: Ganglions most frequently develop on the wrists, hands, and fingers, causing pain.
- De Quervain’s disease: De Quervain’s disease is a painful condition that affects tendons where they run through a tunnel on the thumb side of the wrist. The sheath surrounding the tendon becomes swollen and thick, and moving your thumb will be very painful.
- Tenosynovitis: Tenosynovitis is pain and inflammation of the sheath that surrounds a tendon. It’s a relatively rare cause of hand pain that can affect the wrist or the fingers.
Other causes include:
- Cervical Vertebrae problems (radiculopathy, degenerative disc diseases, etc)
- Muscle dystrophy
- Repetitive work
- Sports participation
Symptoms of Hand and Wrist Pain
Symptoms of hand and wrist pain may vary, depending on what’s causing it. For example, osteoarthritis pain is often described as being similar to a dull toothache, while carpal tunnel syndrome usually causes a pins-and-needles feeling, especially at night. The precise location of your hand and wrist pain also can give clues to what might be causing your symptoms. Usually hand and wrist pain may be accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Swollen fingers
- Difficulty making a fist
- Difficulty in gripping objects
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the hands
- Pain, numbness or tingling that gets worse at night
- Sudden, sharp pain in the hand
- Swelling or redness around the wrist
- Warmth in a joint near the wrist
- Difficulty in combing, writing other activities of daily living
Precautions of Hand and Wrist Pain
It’s impossible to prevent the unforeseen events that often cause hand and wrist injuries, but these basic tips may offer some protection:
- Adopt good working posture
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce weight
- Quit alcohol and smoking
- Take healthy diet and adequate amount of calcium daily
- Light up your living space to prevent any injury
- If you spend long periods at a keyboard, take regular breaks. When you type, keep your wrist in a relaxed, neutral position.
- Wear wrist guards for high-risk activities, such as football, snowboarding and rollerblading.
- Avoid sleeping on your hands, which may decrease blood flow to your fingers.
Home Remedy of Hand and Wrist Pain
Not every cause of wrist pain requires medical treatment. For a minor wrist injury, you may need to try some home remedies like:
- Icing: Ice your wrist for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, once or twice an hour. Cold therapy is good for those suffering from hand arthritis. You can use ice packs, a plastic bag filled with crushed ice or a bag of frozen vegetables.
- Heat Therapy: Heat can also ease pain by relaxing muscles. Soak your hands and wrists in warm to hot water for 12 to 15 minutes before you go to bed each night.
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar has anti-inflammatory and alkaline-forming properties that help reduce pain and stiffness in the hands from arthritis.
Drink a glass of warm water mixed with one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar and some honey every day.
- Honey and Cinnamon: The combination of honey and cinnamon powder is a good natural way to treat hands and wrist pain. Mix one tablespoon of honey and one-half teaspoon of cinnamon powder.
Eat this mixture every morning on an empty stomach for several weeks or until you get encouraging results.
- Massage: Do gentle massage on the painful area with upward strokes.
- Gloves: If your peripheral neuropathy is due to CTS (carpal tunnel syndrome), osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, the use of gloves can be effective. Lumino Cielo provides highly specialized gloves that are effective in relieving pain, stiffness and swelling.
Treatment of Hand and Wrist Pain
Treatments for hand and wrist problems vary greatly, depending on the type, location and severity of the injury, as well as on your age and overall health. Treatment mainly comprises of:
- RICE therapy (rest, ice, compression and elevation) for pain and swelling.
- Wear a wrist splint at night to keep your wrist in a neutral position and relieve pressure on your median nerve.
- Over the counter medications like Ibuprofen, acetaminophen etc.
- Prescription medicines with strong analgesia
- Surgery if pain is not relieved conservatively
- Physical therapy (to improve muscle strength, circulation, movement, reducing inflammation, pain and chances of muscle dystrophy)