Conditions of the Hand
Hand pain can be caused by disease or injury affecting any of the structures in the hand, including the bones, muscles, joints, tendons, blood vessels, or connective tissues.
The hand and wrist consist of dozens of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles that need to work together seamlessly in a variety of positions hundreds of times a day. As such, they often require highly specialized medical care when they become injured.
Hand pain is one feature of joint inflammation (arthritis) that may be felt in the hand. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are the two most common types of arthritis in the hand.
The fingers may become stiff, painful and swollen, and bumps may develop on the finger joints. Over time, the pain may decrease and eventually disappear altogether, although the bumps and swelling can still remain.The fingers may bend sideways slightly at the affected joints. Painful cysts may develop on the backs of the fingers.In some cases, a bump may also develop at the base of the thumb, where it joins the wrist. This can be painful, making it difficult to perform manual tasks such as writing, opening jars or turning keys.
Osteoarthritis also commonly affects the knees and hips, so is probably the cause if you have pain in other joints as well.
The hands and wrists can also be affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means that your immune system (which usually fights infection) attacks the cells that line your joints by mistake, making them swollen, stiff and painful. The hand pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis is usually a throbbing and aching pain. It is often worse in the mornings and after a period of inactivity.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a relatively common condition that causes pain, numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand and fingers.
These sensations usually develop gradually and start off being worse during the night. They tend to affect the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger.Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the nerve that controls sensation and movement in the hands. It will sometimes get better on its own. Otherwise, wrist splints and corticosteroid injections are often recommended.
Surgery (carpal tunnel release surgery) is usually only recommended for severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, when symptoms last for more than six months or other treatments have not been effective.
A ganglion is a fluid-filled swelling that develops near a joint or a tendon, ranging in size from a pea to a golf ball. It looks and feels like a smooth, soft lump under the skin. It is made up of a thick, jelly-like fluid, called synovial fluid, which surrounds joints and tendons to lubricate and cushion them during movement. Ganglions are most common on the wrists (particularly the back of the wrist), hands and fingers.
They are generally harmless, but can sometimes be painful, especially if they are next to a nerve.
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. The cause isn't understood. Some sources claim it is a type of tenosynovitis (see below) or tendonitis, but this is not true. De Quervain's disease is not associated with inflammation.
Some mild cases get better on their own after a few weeks of rest and avoiding the activity that triggered it. A wrist splint or a corticosteroid injection may help. Severe cases may need to be treated with surgery, which involves widening the tunnel through which the tendon passes.
Trigger finger is a condition that affects the tendons in the hand. When the affected finger or thumb is bent towards the palm, the tendon gets stuck and the finger clicks or locks. The exact cause is not known.
The symptoms can include pain, stiffness, clicking and a small lump in the palm at the base of the affected finger or thumb. If you think you may have trigger finger, make an appointment to see your GP, so they can examine your hand and offer advice about treatment. In some people, trigger finger may get better without treatment.