one time or another, everyone has had a minor injury to a finger, hand, or
wrist that caused pain or swelling. Most of the time our body movements do not
cause problems, but it's not surprising that symptoms develop from everyday
wear and tear, overuse, or an injury.
Finger, hand, or wrist
injuries most commonly occur during:
- Sports or recreational
- Work-related tasks.
- Work or projects around
the home, especially if using machinery such as lawn mowers, snow blowers, or
- Accidental falls.
The risk of finger, hand, or wrist injury is higher in
contact sports, such as wrestling, football, or soccer, and in high-speed
sports, such as biking, in-line skating, skiing, snowboarding, and
skateboarding. Sports that require weight-bearing on the hands and arms, such
as gymnastics, can increase the risk for injury. Sports that use hand equipment
such as ski poles, hockey or lacrosse sticks, or racquets also increase the
risk of injury.
In children, most finger, hand, or wrist injuries
occur during sports or play or from accidental falls. Any injury occurring at
the end of a long bone near a joint may injure the growth plate (physis) and
needs to be evaluated.
Older adults are at higher risk for injuries
and fractures because they lose muscle mass and bone strength (osteopenia) as they age. They also have more problems
with vision and balance, which increases their risk of accidental
Most minor injuries will heal on their own, and home
treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve symptoms and promote
Sudden (acute) injury
An acute injury may occur from
a direct blow, a penetrating injury, or a fall, or from twisting, jerking,
jamming, or bending a limb abnormally. Pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising
and swelling may develop soon after the injury. Acute injuries include:
- Bruises. After a wrist or hand injury,
bruising may extend to the fingers from the effects of gravity.
- Injuries to
ligaments, such as a skier's thumb injury.
- Injuries to
tendons, such as
- Injuries to joints (sprains).
- Pulled muscles (strains).
- Broken bones (fractures), such as a
wrist fracture .
injury, which can lead to
Overuse injuries occur when too much
stress is placed on a joint or other tissue, often by "overdoing" an activity
or repeating the same activity. Overuse injuries include the following:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on a nerve (median nerve ) in the
wrist. The symptoms include tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain of the
fingers and hand.
- Tendon pain is
actually a symptom of tendinosis, a series of very small tears (microtears) in
the tissue in or around the
tendon. In addition to pain and tenderness, common
symptoms of tendon injury include decreased strength and movement in the
- De Quervain's disease can occur in the
hand and wrist when tendons and the tendon covering (sheath) on the thumb side
of the wrist swell and become inflamed.
Treatment for a finger, hand, or wrist
injury may include first aid measures; medicine; "buddy-taping" for support;
application of a brace, splint, or cast; physical therapy; and in some cases,
surgery. Treatment depends on:
- The location, type, and severity of the
- How long ago the injury occurred.
- Your age,
health condition, and activities (such as work,
sports, or hobbies).
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.
First aid for a suspected broken bone
- If a bone is sticking out of the skin, do not
try to push it back into the skin. Cover the area with a clean
- Control bleeding .
- Remove all rings or bracelets . It may be hard to remove the jewelry once swelling occurs, which in
turn can cause other serious problems, such as nerve compression or restricted
- Free a trapped finger or hand from an object, such as a pipe, toy, or jar.
- Splint the injured area without trying to straighten
the injured limb. Loosen the wrap around the splint if signs develop that
indicate the wrap is too tight, such as numbness, tingling, increased pain,
swelling, or cool skin below the wrap. A problem called
compartment syndrome can develop.
Home treatment for a sore or sprained finger
rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) for pain and
- If you do not have
peripheral arterial disease, a sore or sprained
finger can be "buddy-taped" to the uninjured finger next to it. Protect the
skin by putting some soft padding, such as felt or foam, between your fingers
before you tape them together. The injured finger may need to be buddy-taped
for 2 to 4 weeks to heal. If your injured finger hurts more after you have
buddy-taped it, remove the tape. Then check your symptoms again. Caution: Never splint a
finger in a completely straight position, such as on a Popsicle stick. For
proper healing, the finger should be slightly bent and in a relaxed position.
- Stop, change, or take a break from activities that
cause your symptoms.
Home treatment for a minor hand or wrist injury
treatment may help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness.
- Remove all rings, bracelets, or any
other jewelry that goes around a finger or wrist. It will be harder to
remove the jewelry later if swelling increases.
rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) for pain and
- Do not use your injured hand or wrist for the first 24
hours after an injury, if possible. An elastic bandage can help decrease
swelling. The wrap will also remind you to rest the injured hand or wrist. A
wrist splint can help support an injured wrist. Talk
to your doctor if you think you need to use a splint or bandage for more than
48 to 72 hours.
- Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and
encourage blood flow. Do not massage the injured area if it causes
- For the first 48 hours after an injury, avoid things that
might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, or alcoholic
- After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply
heat and begin
gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help
restore and maintain flexibility. Some experts recommend alternating between
heat and cold treatments.
- Treat blisters.
Cast and splint care
If a cast or splint is applied,
be sure to keep it dry and to try to move your extremity as normally as
possible to help maintain muscle strength and tone. Your doctor will give you
instructions on how to
care for your cast or splint.
Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking slows
healing, because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more
information, see the topic
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
| Try a nonprescription
medicine to help treat your pain:|
- Acetaminophen, such as
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs):
- Ibuprofen, such as Advil or
- Naproxen, such as Aleve or Naprosyn
- Aspirin (also a nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drug), such as Bayer or Bufferin
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
| Be sure to follow these
safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:|
- Carefully read and follow all directions
on the medicine bottle and box.
- Do not take more than the
- Do not take a medicine if you have had an
allergic reaction to it in the past.
you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take
- If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other
than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
- Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
- Pain or swelling develops.
- Signs of infection develop.
tingling; or cool, pale skin develops.
- Symptoms do not improve with
- Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
The following tips may prevent finger,
hand, and wrist injuries.
- Do exercises that strengthen your hand and arm
- Learn safe hand and wrist movements to avoid an injury.
- Reduce the speed and force of repetitive
movements in activities such as hammering, typing, knitting, quilting,
sweeping, raking, playing racquet sports, or rowing.
positions when you hold objects, such as a book or playing cards, for any length
- Use your whole hand to grasp an object. Gripping with only
your thumb and index finger can stress your wrist.
- Consider wearing
gloves that support the wrist and have vibration-absorbing padding when working
with tools that vibrate.
- Use safety measures, such as gloves, and
follow instructions for the proper use of hand and power tools.
caution when using knives in preparing food or craft activities. Supervise a
child using knives or sharp scissors in craft activities.
protective gear, such as wrist guards, in sports activities. Be sure to learn what you can do to help prevent injuries for your child too.
your work posture and body mechanics.
- Organize your work so that you can change
your position occasionally while maintaining a comfortable
- Position your work so you do not have to turn excessively
to either side.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed when your arms are
hanging by your sides.
- When using a keyboard, keep your forearms
parallel to the floor or slightly lowered, and keep your fingers lower than your
wrists. Allow your arms and hands to move freely. Take frequent breaks to
stretch your fingers, hands, wrist, shoulders, and neck. If you use a wrist pad
during breaks from typing, it's best to rest your palm or the heel of your hand
on the support, rather than your wrist.
- Take steps to prevent falls and injuries in adults, such as removing any obstacles from your walking
- Take steps to prevent falls and injuries in babies and toddlers, such as not leaving your baby unattended in any infant seat or
General prevention tips
- Wear your seat belt in a motor
- Don't carry objects that are too heavy.
- Use a
step stool. Do not stand on chairs or other unsteady objects.
protective gear during sports or recreational activities, such as
roller-skating or soccer. Supportive splints, such as wrist guards, may reduce
your risk for injury.
- Warm up well and stretch before any activity.
Stretch after exercise to keep hot muscles from shortening and
- Use the correct techniques (movements) or positions
during activities so that you do not strain your muscles.
overusing your hand and wrist doing repeated movements that can injure your
bursa or tendon. In daily routines or hobbies, examine
activities in which you make repeated arm movements.
taking lessons to learn the proper techniques for sports. Have a trainer or
person who is familiar with sports equipment check your equipment to see if it
is well-suited for your level of ability, body size, and body
- If you feel that certain activities at your workplace are
causing pain or soreness from overuse, talk to your human resources department
for information on other ways of doing your job or to discuss equipment
modifications or other job assignments.
Keep your bones strong
- Eat a nutritious diet with enough
vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium.
Calcium is found in dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt; dark
green, leafy vegetables, such as broccoli; and other
- Exercise and stay active. It is best to do weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing, or lifting weights, for 2½ hours a week. One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. In addition to weight-bearing exercise, experts recommend that you do resistance exercises at least 2 days a week. Talk to your doctor about an exercise program that is right for you. Begin slowly, especially if you have not been active. For
more information, see the topic
- Don't drink more than 2 alcoholic
drinks a day if you are a man, or 1 alcoholic drink a day if you are a woman.
People who drink more than this may be at higher risk for weakening bones
(osteoporosis). Alcohol use also increases your risk of
falling and breaking a bone.
- Don't smoke or use other tobacco
products. Smoking puts you at a much higher risk of developing osteoporosis. It
also interferes with blood supply and healing. For more information, see the
Injuries such as bruises, burns,
fractures, cuts, or punctures may be a sign of
abuse. Suspect possible abuse when an injury cannot be
explained or does not match the explanation, repeated injuries occur, or the
explanations for the cause of the injury change. You may be able to prevent
further abuse by reporting it and seeking help.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
- What are your main symptoms?
- How long
have you had your symptoms?
- How and when did an injury occur? How
was it treated?
- Have you had any injuries in the past to the same
- Was your injury evaluated by a doctor? What
was the diagnosis?
- How was your injury treated?
- Do you
have any continuing problems because of the previous injury?
- What activities, related to sports, work, or your
lifestyle, make your symptoms better or worse?
- Do you think that
activities related to your job or hobbies caused your
- What home treatment measures have you tried? Did they
- What nonprescription medicines have you tried? Did they
- Do you have any
- Bruises and Blood Spots Under the Skin
- Nail Problems and Injuries
- Puncture Wounds