There are various possible causes of hand pain, including injury to the hand, autoimmune conditions, arthritic conditions and damage to the nerves or tendons that serve the hands. The most common causes of hand pain are described in more detail in this article.
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. In most cases, patients with a fracture or dislocation of the hand will know the cause of the pain as there will be a particular incident that caused the injury.
X-ray showing fracture of middle finger.
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 pain.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome involves compression of the 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.
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. Some patients may also develop a bump at the base of the thumb, which can be particularly painful during activities that involve the hands, such as writing.
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. 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.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can lead to inflammation and destruction of the joints in the wrist and fingers, which can lead to hand pain.
A ganglion that develops close to a joint or tendon in the hands can cause pain in the area. In such cases, a small lump develops under the skin that is composed of encapsulated synovial fluid. This fluid is a viscous clear liquid that is secreted inside the joint cavities of synovial joints. It usually provides lubrication and cushioning to the joints. Ganglions most frequently develop on the wrists, hands, and fingers, causing hand pain.
Ganglion cyst on the back of hand.
Stenosing tenosynovitis, also known as trigger finger, is a condition that involves clicking or locking of a tendon when the connected finger or thumb is moved towards the palm. This can cause pain and stiffness in the hand, usually at the base of the finger that is affected.
Hand pain may sometimes be caused by tenosynovitis, which is a condition that involves inflammation of the fibrous sheath surrounding a tendon in the body, such as those that occur in the wrist or the fingers.
De Quervain’s disease
De Quervain’s disease is a condition that involves swelling and thickening of the sheath that surrounds the tendons of the thumb near the wrist. This can cause pain in the thumb, wrist and hand. It differs from tenosynovitis in that it is not caused by inflammation.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition that is brought about by the narrowing of the blood vessels that supply the peripheral areas of the body, such as the hands. This effect is worsened when the person is exposed to cold temperatures or stress. It can lead to discoloration, numbness, and pain in the hands.
Reviewed by Liji Thomas, MD