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Why am I Having Hand Pain and What to Do?

Apr 16

The hand is a complex and delicate part of our body that we use for all aspects of our daily activities and livelihood.   It is composed of bones, muscles, and ligaments which all have to work in balance for the hand to be an effective part of our day.  There are many things that can cause pain in the hand including trauma and injuries, repetitive use, and arthritis.   When the pain is persistent and does not go away with simple treatment and rest, seeking out the opinion of a physician or medical professional may be necessary.

Signs and Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms related to hand pain may include limitations in motion,  decrease in strength and coordination of the hand, and inflammation or swelling of the wrist and hand.  These symptoms may be related to diagnoses such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, tennis elbow and tendinitis, Dequervain’s, ganglion cysts, nerve injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome, fractures and injury, and chronic pain.  Pain can be described as burning, stabbing, aching, dull,  throbbing, sharp and intense.  With some pain symptoms, they may respond to rest and immobilization with splinting using over the counter supports that  can be bought at  a local pharmacy. Others may require custom splinting by a hand therapist. The use of heat and ice, or topical creams may be helpful in relieving pain symptoms.  Adapting the use of the hands during aggravating activity may decrease the strains and stresses that are leading to the pain.

Common Diagnosis

Common causes of hand injuries can include an injury from a fall or blow to the hand, repetitive use with work or household activities, or jamming or hyperextension of the wrist or fingers. With fractures and dislocations, seeing a physician is needed to place the hand in a cast or splint to heal the bones properly. Soft tissue injuries often include an injury to the ligaments or tendons of the hand. Most times these injuries will get better with rest, ice, and controlled and progressive movements. If not, it may be important to immobilize the injury with a splint or cast. Repetitive use injuries may cause the hand and wrist to become painful and tender. These injuries usually respond to rest, heat or ice, stretching, and flexibility exercises.  A therapist will be able to recommend adjustments to work and daily activities to help recovery and prevent reinjury.  If your symptoms do not improve or you are not responding to current treatment, it is important to seek advise from a physician or therapist.

How Therapists Can Help

Hand and arm pain can be due to a variety or reasons and causes.  Home remedies and treatment can improve some of these symptoms and injuries. But when they don’t, and the pain is persistent, severe, or due to injury, a visit to the physician  and therapist is recommended  to put you on the path to the right treatment and recovery. A Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) is specifically trained and has advanced knowledge in the treatment of hand and arm injury and pain. An evaluation by a CHT will include assessment of the injury or pain, and development of a treatment plan to best address the problem, and provide intervention specifically to treat the area of need.  Treatment may include heat, cold and electro modalities, fabrication of a custom splint, instruction in therapeutic exercises, education in the management of the symptoms, and activities to maximize use and function of the painful hand and arm.


Newsletter Medical News Today, reviewed by Dr. Wiliam Morrison, MD,   written by Zawn Villines February 28, 2019.


Written by Jean Gress  OTR/L, CHT OIP PT West