Chiropractor Chandler AZ

Hand Pain Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Everyone has had minor hand pain at one point in time. Generally, our body movements do not cause problems; however, it is not surprising that hand pain symptoms occur from everyday wear and tear or from overuse. Hand pain may also be caused by injuries or the natural aging process. Many treatments are available to relieve the pain, stiffness, or physical limitation caused by hand and finger arthritis.

Symptoms & Causes for Hand Pain

There are many different causes and types of hand pain, which can originate in different parts of the complex skeletal structure, including the bones, joints, connective tissues, tendons, and nerves.

Pain in the hands can be caused by several factors including fractures, sprains, strains, or arthritic changes. The location of pain and activities that led to the developing hand pain can change treatments. Stiffness, tightness, dull pain, and sharp pain with movement or gripping are often symptoms and signs of hand injuries.

hand muscles anterior labeled

While the most common hand pain is from muscle and tendon repetitive stress injuries, other causes of hand pain include:

  • Falls
  • Acute crush injuries (i.e. slams hand in door)
  • Trauma (i.e. falls and compresses ulnar nerve at tunnel of guyon or cubital tunnel)
  • Forearm crush of radial nerve, forearm, and upper arm
  • Fracture of humerus, radius, ulna, or carpal
  • Sitting at the computer with poor posture
  • Repetitive hand movements at work, home, or recreation

Risk of overuse injuries increase with repetition, time, vibration, and force. Even doing something simple over and over can lead to tendinopathy, tendinitis in a finger or wrist flexor, or extensor muscles tendinitis.

If hand pain is not treated as soon as symptoms first emerge, they can increase over time and lead to hand arthritis, degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and degenerative arthritis.

Typical hand pain symptoms include:

  • Hand pain becomes worse with movement
  • Swelling
  • Increased pain with hand gripping
  • Tenderness
  • Bumps or bruising
  • Finger or joint shaped different
anatomy of the hand
Anatomy of The Hand

Few structures of the human anatomy are as unique as the hand. There are 27 bones that make up the wrist and hand. The wrist contains 8 small bones called carpals that join the two forearm bones, forming the wrist joint. The carpals connect to the metacarpals (there are five of them), which form the palm of the hand. One metacarpal connects to each finger and thumb.

The main knuckle joints are formed by the connection of the phalanges to the metacarpals. These joints are called MCP joints, and they work like a hinge when you bend and straighten your fingers and thumb.

Each finger is made up of three phalanges that are separated by two joints, the IP joints and PIP joints. The IP joints also work like hinges when you bend and straighten your fingers and thumb.

hand muscles posterior labeled

The joints of the hand, fingers, and thumb are covered on the ends with articular cartilage, a white, shiny material that has a rubbery consistency. It absorbs shock and provides a smooth surface to facilitate motion.

Diagnoses & Evaluation of Hand Pain

The first step in diagnosing hand pain is to evaluate the pain and swelling. Try moving your fingers around, test the strength of your fingers for flexion and extension. Can you move all your fingers properly?

X-rays are a simple and easy evaluation tool used by physicians to diagnose hand pain. A physician can use an x-ray to evaluate the hand or wrist and look for breaks or fractures. MRIs are advanced imaging to evaluate soft tissue injuries such as sprains and strains as muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It can also show accumulation of scar tissue in trigger finger or dupuytren's contracture.

After ruling out fractures and possible surgery, a physician may suggest conservative or home treatments depending on the severity of the hand pain.

Numbness and tingling in the fingers depends on the location of symptoms and severity. Numbness and tingling in the thumb, index, and middle fingers could be from carpal tunnel syndrome. While sensation changes in the little and ring finger could be an entrapment of the ulnar nerve at the cubital tunnel or tunnel of guyon. When the entire hand feels numb or weak it could be caused by compression of the neurovascular bundle, resulting in thoracic outlet syndrome or T.O.S.

A person who is diabetic could be experiencing diabetic neuropathy symptoms. Idiopathic neuropathy can develop in people who are not diabetic.

cold laser wrist hand treatment
Home Treatments for Hand Pain

Home treatment may be all that is needed for hand pain. Remember the acronym PRICE:

  • Protect: Protect the area that is causing your hand pain symptoms by wearing a splint.
  • Rest: Rest the sore or injured area. Stop or take a break from any activity that is causing your pain or soreness.
  • Ice: Apply an ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 times a day to prevent or minimize swelling.
  • Compression: Wrap the sore area with an elastic bandage to decrease swelling.
  • Elevate: Elevate the injured or sore area anytime you are sitting of lying down. Keeping the area at or above the level of your heart will help minimize swelling.

If your hand pain does not improve in two weeks, seek professional treatment. The first line of defense is always conservative treatment. But the longer the pain persists, the longer and more difficult treatment becomes. Simple braces or splints can be found on Amazon to restrict hand motion and reduce aggravating movements. Example of hand brace on amazon.

Medical treatments for Hand Pain

Medications to ease hand pain, relieve inflammation, and muscle spasms are an important part of treatment for hand problems. Medications may include oral prescription, injections, or topical medications.

Oral pain medications temporarily relieve hand pain. Individuals with osteoarthritis often use oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen. Long term, everyday use of these medications, however, can cause damage to the stomach and cause negative side effects.

Injections like corticosteroids are typically used to control inflammation in arthritis patients. If inflammation is limited to one or a few joints, your doctor may inject a corticosteroid preparation directly into the joint.

Topical pain medications can temporarily alleviate hand pain. Most of these pain relievers come in the form of topical creams, gels, balms, patches, or sold over-the-counter. Certain topical medications require a physician's prescription.

Laser Therapy For Hand Pain

de quervain's tenosynovitis

Conservative Treatments for Hand Pain

Conservative treatment for wrist joint pain include:

  • Range of motion (ROM) exercise: Making a fist, finger bends and lifts, and wrist stretches are range of motion (ROM) exercises that are used to treat hand arthritis and pain in hands.
  • Graston technique: A type of manual therapy or active release, Graston technique is used to break up fascial adhesions and muscle compression of nerves.
  • Cold laser: Cold lasers, or low-level lasers, help "turn on" the healing and repair mechanisms within the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments. To enhance the overall healing and repair processes, cold lasers increase energy production, ramp up repair cells, and decrease scar tissue formation. Cold laser therapy is an excellent treatment for decreasing pain and inflammation caused by soft tissue injuries.

Conclusion:

There are many different types of hand pain that can be caused by overuse, fractures, sprains, or they are simply a sign of getting older.

While home remedies like ice and rest can temporarily alleviate symptoms of hand pain, sometimes it's not enough. Chiropractic treatments like Graston technique and cold laser offer conservative treatments for hand pain. And in severe cases, oral prescription, injections, or topical medications can do the trick.

Our Chandler Chiropractic and Physical Therapy Clinic treats patients with hand pain associated with a variety of conditions including hand arthritis, degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and degenerative arthritis. We work with all ages and abilities of the residents in Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert, Mesa, and Chandler AZ.