Everyone has had a minor problem with a finger, hand, or wrist. Most of the
time our body movements do not cause problems, but it's not surprising that
symptoms occur from everyday wear and tear or from overuse. Finger, hand, or wrist
problems can also be caused by injuries or the natural process of aging.
Your fingers, hands, or wrists may burn, sting, or hurt, or feel tired, sore,
stiff, numb, tingly , hot, or cold. Maybe you can't move them as well as usual,
or they are swollen. Perhaps your hands have turned a different color, such as
red, pale, or blue. A lump or bump might have appeared on your wrist, palm, or
fingers. Home treatment is often all that is needed to relieve your
Finger, hand, or wrist problems may be caused by an
injury. If you think an injury caused your problem, see the topic
Finger, Hand, and Wrist Injuries. But there are many
other causes of finger, hand, or wrist problems.
- 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. See a picture of
de Quervain's disease .
- Repetitive motion syndrome is a term
used to describe symptoms such as pain, swelling, or tenderness that occur from
repeating the same motion over and over.
- Writer's cramps develop with repeated hand or finger
motion, such as writing or typing.
- Trigger finger or trigger thumb occurs when the flexor
tendon and its sheath in a finger or thumb thicken or swell.
Bone, muscle, or joint problems
- Dupuytren's disease is an abnormal thickening of tissue beneath the skin in the palm
of the hand or hands and occasionally the soles of the feet. The thickened skin
and tendons (palmar fascia) may eventually limit movement or cause the fingers
to bend so that they can't be straightened. See a picture of
Dupuytren's contracture .
- Ganglion cysts are small sacs (cysts) filled with
clear, jellylike fluid that often appear as bumps on the hands and wrists but
can also develop on feet, ankles, knees, or shoulders. See a picture of a
Problems from medical conditions
- Tingling or pain in the fingers or hand
(especially the left hand) may be
signs of a heart attack.
- Diabetes may change how the hands normally feel or
sense touch. Decreased feeling in the hands is common because of decreased
blood flow to the hands or damage to
nerves of the hand .
- Pregnancy may cause
redness, itching, swelling, numbness, or tingling that often goes away after
- Osteoarthritis is the progressive
breakdown of the tissue that protects and cushions joints (cartilage). It may
cause stiffness and pain with movement.
- Rheumatoid arthritis may cause stiffness and pain with
movement. Over time, deformity of the fingers may occur. See a picture of
rheumatoid arthritis .
- Lupus is a long-lasting autoimmune
disease in which the immune system attacks normal body tissues as though they
were foreign substances. It may cause joint pain.
- Gout is an inflammatory joint disease that causes
acute pain and swelling. It is a form of arthritis that develops when uric acid
crystals form in and around the joints, commonly affecting the big toe
- Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition in
which some areas of the body, usually the fingers or toes, have an extreme
response to cold temperature or emotional stress. During an attack of
Raynaud's, the blood vessels in the affected areas tighten, severely limiting
the flow of blood to the skin, causing numbness, tingling, swelling, pain,
and pale color.
- Infection can cause pain, redness, and
swelling that occur with red streaking, heat, fever, or the drainage of pus. An
infection often causes tenderness to the touch or pain with movement at the
site of the infection.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.
Home treatment may be all that is
needed for a finger, hand, or wrist problem.
- Remove all rings , bracelets, watches,
or any other jewelry from your finger, wrist, or arm as soon as you notice
swelling. It will be harder to remove the jewelry after swelling
rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) for pain and
- Treat hands sensitive to cold by avoiding and
protecting your hands from the cold.
- Avoid sleeping on your hands,
which may decrease blood flow to your fingers.
- Treat blisters on fingers or hands.
- Stop, change, or take a break from your activities.
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 continue despite
- Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
The following tips may prevent finger,
hand, and wrist problems.
- Do exercises that strengthen your hand and arm
- Stop, change, or take a break from activities that cause
- Reduce the speed and force of repetitive movements
in activities such as hammering, typing, knitting, quilting, sweeping, raking,
playing racquet sports, or rowing.
- Change positions when holding
objects, such as a book or playing cards, for any length of
- Use your whole hand to grasp an object. Gripping with only
your thumb and index finger can stress your wrist.
- When you work
with tools that vibrate, consider using special gloves that support the wrist
and have vibration-absorbing padding.
- Wear protective gear, such as
wrist guards, in sports activities.
Protect your hands from cold
- Wear gloves anytime it is cool
- Use an insulated cover when you drink from a cold
- Avoid caffeine (coffee, cola, tea, chocolate) and tobacco
products. Nicotine and caffeine cause blood vessels to narrow, which decreases
blood flow to the hands.
- Eat a hot meal before going out. Eating
raises your body temperature and helps keep you warm.
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.
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?
- Have you had this problem in the past? If so, do
you know what caused the problem at that time? How was it treated? What do you
think is causing your symptoms now?
- What activities make your
symptoms better or worse? Have you started any new activities, sports, or
- Do you think that activities related to your
job or hobbies caused your symptoms?
- What home treatment have you
tried? Did it help?
- What nonprescription medicines have you tried?
Did they help?
- Have you started any new medicines, or have you had
a change in the dosage of a medicine?
- Do you have any
- Allergic Reaction
- Finger, Hand, and Wrist Injuries
- Pregnancy-Related Problems
- Rash, Age 11 and Younger
- Rash, Age 12 and Older
|By: ||Healthwise Staff ||Last Revised: October 11, 2012|
|Medical Review: ||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
David Messenger, MD