Did you know that carpal tunnel syndrome affects 1 to 5 percent of the adult population? Especially those who use their hands often at work, such as athletes, gardeners, musicians, and people who work an office job, are likely to get carpal tunnel or suffer from other kinds of hand pain.
If you’re one of these people suffering from hand pain, then you might be worried about the pain. You might be asking questions such as:
“Is it going to get worse?”
“Should I be worried enough to see a doctor?”
“What’s causing my pain? Is it a condition?”
Especially if your hand pain is getting in the way of your daily tasks, you might not only be worried, but also frustrated because you can’t work fast, type your memos, or practice guitar as often as usual.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide. By helping you understand what might be causing your hand pain, when you need to see a doctor, and how to treat your hand pain, you can get back to all your daily tasks in no time. Read on to learn more.
Potential Causes of Your Hand Pain
When you’re suffering from hand pain, there are several causes that might be leading to that pain. By helping you come up with a diagnosis, you can decide if it’s worth seeing a doctor or even getting surgery.
If you’re having difficulty grasping because your joints feel weak and your hand is in pain anytime you grab onto something firmly, then you might have arthritis. Especially if you’re over 60, this is a common ailment among people your age, because it’s a natural part of the aging process.
If your joints often hurt or ache when you use them, this is a sign of arthritis. The good news? If you’re able to catch arthritis early on, then you can use simple treatments instead of having to get surgery.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Another potential cause of hand pain can be carpal tunnel syndrome. If you use your hands often at work, using the same motions over and over, it’s likely you’re suffering from this syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome affects your carpal tunnel, which is in your wrist to protect the median nerve that runs from your palm to your forearm. When your carpal tunnel is overused, it can become inflamed, thicker, or be injured. This in turn affects the median nerve.
When your median nerve is under pressure, you can feel certain side effects in your hand, such as numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness. Your hand might also feel like it’s burning, or you might have trouble telling the temperature of what your hand touches.
Keep in mind that women are three times as likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome. So, if you’re a woman, you should seriously consider carpal tunnel as the cause of your hand pain.
Additionally, if you work in a factory, as a cleaner, or in data entry, where you’re often using repetitive motions, you should also consider carpal tunnel syndrome to be the reason for your hand pain.
It’s best to address carpal tunnel early on. Otherwise, you may end up having to get surgery.
Hand pain can also be caused by DeQuirvain’s tendinopathy. This is when the tendons present in your wrist and hand feel pain, swelling, or stiffness due to the tendons’ protective covering—also known as the sheath—becoming inflamed.
This often happens as a result of playing sports. Additionally, arthritis can cause tendinopathy, as well as tendon infections. However, these infections are rare, and generally the pain will go away on its own as long as you rest the area and don’t use it often.
A ganglion cyst, which forms on the back of the wrist, can be another cause of your hand pain. This is a bump filled with fluid that isn’t usually painful—but if it’s pressing on nerves, then you might have unpleasant pain, tingling, or numbness in your hand.
Usually, ganglion cysts simply go away, but if you’re suffering from a great amount of pain, you can go to your doctor, who will drain it for you.
Injury, Sprain, or Trauma
Sometimes, injuries, trauma, or sprains cause your hand pain. If you recently hurt your hand while doing intense exercise or doing something dangerous at work (if you’re a construction worker, for example), then this is the cause of your hand pain.
Depending on how hard you hurt your hand, you might have to see a doctor. If it’s a minor sprain or a small injury, then you won’t have to see a doctor. Instead, you can do exercises at home to help treat your injury, sprain, or trauma.
However, if the pain persists, we recommend you go to a doctor who can treat your injury, sprain, or trauma properly, whether that means giving you a splint or making you a cast.
Tendonitis and Trigger Finger
Tendonitis can happen when there’s inflammation around your tendons. This makes it more difficult for you to move your fingers and hands. There’s often a telltale sign of swelling in the affected area.
Additionally, the tendons in the fingers themselves can become swollen. When this occurs, your finger can’t move back and forth properly because of the modular swelling in your fingers. This is commonly called trigger finger.
There are other additional causes of hand pain that are rarer than the ones covered above. For example, there’s Reynaud’s phenomenon, which makes your fingers feel numb and cold when you’re feeling cold or stressed. Additionally, lupus can cause hand pain.
Because autoimmune disease such as lupus can cause other issues, if you suspect you have it or don’t know what the cause of your hand pain is, we recommend getting in touch with your doctor.
Signs You Should See A Doctor
Speaking of getting in touch with your doctor, there are some signs you should definitely see your doctor. Even though many causes of hand pain will go away on their own and not cause any long-term damage, you should see a doctor if you experience:
- Any signs of an infection, such as chills, fevers, and redness
- Your fingers or hand being deformed after your recent injury
- Being unable to make a fist or move your fingers at all
- Numbness getting worse in your fingers and hand
- Pain not going away after ordinary treatments
If you have any of these issues, then your condition is likely more serious than a simple hand injury or problem with your wrist or fingers. It could worsen, leaving lasting damage. So, if you see any of these signs, see your doctor immediately.
Treatments for Hand Pain
There are some treatments for hand pain you can do yourself at home. From rest to heat application to hand therapy, these are sure to solve mild hand problems without you having to do invasive surgery.
The first treatment for hand pain is rest. By simply using your hand less, the pain will go away. This is especially the case if you use your hand often when working, whether that’s typing away at your desk or using the same motion when hammering nails in at the construction site.
You may have to speak with your employer about this. See if you can get some time off from work. If they’re resistant, you may have to go to a doctor so you can get a note explaining the injury to your hand. Even if it’s mild, this doesn’t mean it should go untreated.
Ice and Heat Application
By applying an ice pack or warm compress to the area experiencing pain, you can significantly diminish the pain. If you’re experiencing a lot of inflammation in the area, we recommend you use an ice pack. Remember to wrap it in a cloth so it doesn’t stick to your skin.
Heat can also be comforting, especially if you have sore tendons or mobility issues. Heat up a compress with water and place it on the area, or simply warm run water over the sore area.
Splint or Brace
If the pain really is persistent, even when you move your hand or wrist slightly or by accident, using a splint or brace can be a way to avoid your symptoms persisting. This way, you can avoid moving your hand, which will make symptoms subsist.
If the inflammation in your hand or wrist really bothers you, you can take anti-inflammatory medication. This medication is also used to reduce pain, so you’ll be beating two symptoms with one dose of pills.
However, these medications—called NSAIDs—can interact negatively with other medications. Read the labels carefully when taking them, and consult your doctor if needed. You can also take natural painkillers or Tylenol for a less risky alleviation of pain.
Go To A Hand Therapist
If none of these solutions work, then you can go to a hand therapist. They’ll work with you, teaching you exercises that you can do at home to alleviate your hand pain. Additionally, they’ll know if you need additional help from a doctor or surgery.
Yoga is another alternative. Check out yoga centers near you to find out if they specialize in lessening hand, tendon, and joint pain, in which case you can learn how to use yoga to treat your hand pain.
Exercises to Improve Your Hand Flexibility
If you know your hand pain isn’t serious, or you’ve gone to your doctor and there’s no need for surgery or another invasive treatment, there are some exercises you can do to improve your hand flexibility. That way, you can lessen the pain and get back to your daily tasks quickly.
Put a rolled up towel or cloth on top of the edge of a table so that it’s about three to four inches from the surface. Then, place your hand on top, and wave. This will help with your wrist mobility.
Bend your arm so that there’s a ninety-degree angle between your forearm and arm. When doing this, ensure that your palm is facing down toward the floor. Then, rotate your palm to face up, then down, then up, and keep going. This will help with your wrist mobility.
Just like you did with the hand wave, place a rolled up towel or cloth on the edge of a table so it’s three to four inches from the surface. Then place your arm on the table, with your wrist resting on the towel or cloth. Move your hand up and down, so that you flex your wrist.
For this stretch, hold your hand as if you’re waving—but don’t move your hand. Instead, keep it exactly where it is, moving your thumb against your palm. Then move it back out, and then against your palm again. This stretches the tendons in your thumb and wrist.
Need More Help?
Do you need more help with your hand pain? Maybe you’re looking for additional treatments you can use, or you want to speak with a professional expert on hand pain before you take the next steps.
We can help you. Here at Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas, we’re experts when it comes to hand pain. We can help you deal with your hand pain, offering you the right exercises or determine if you need hand surgery. Visit our contact us page to learn more.