Hand pain is not a one-size-fits-all type of problem. Sometimes, we can attribute hand pain to a direct injury. However, there are also times when pain is subtle or chronic in nature. The cause and severity of symptoms can vary, making it difficult to know what to do about hand pain. The thing is, we need to determine what is happening within the muscles, bones, and nerves of the hand in order to support your ability to enjoy the activities you love.
Common causes of hand pain include:
- Arthritis. There are two types of arthritis that could cause pain in the hands. One is rheumatoid arthritis and the other is osteoarthritis. In addition to pain, arthritic conditions also usually cause stiffness and swelling that may make it difficult to hold objects. Some people also experience numbness and tingling. Treatment for arthritis-related hand pain usually involves non-surgical modalities such as oral medication or injections to reduce inflammation. Temporary relief may also come from splinting.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. This compression syndrome occurs in the carpal tunnel, which is located in the wrist. However, symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness are often felt in the hand. If you were to assume that carpal tunnel pain would localize in the wrist only, you may not receive the treatment you need to resolve your symptoms. Treatment for carpal tunnel usually begins with modalities aimed at reducing inflammation. Limiting hand and wrist movement with a splint may also reduce compression on the nerve that travels through the carpal tunnel. In some cases, surgery is needed to release compression.
Injury to the wrist or hand may not cause pain right away. In some cases, pain occurs over time. Diagnostic imaging such as x-rays can help us determine if the pain is related to an injury such as a fracture to one or more of the bones in the hand. Injuries such as this can usually be treated with a splint or a cast. However, some injuries require surgery for optimal repair.