Overuse of the hand, an injury, and certain health conditions can cause pain in all parts of the hand, including the palm, fingers, and wrist.

A person’s hands and wrists consist of many different structures, such as bones, muscles, and joints.

These structures work together to enable a person to perform various tasks. Hand pain can affect a person’s ability to carry out these tasks and reduce their quality of life.

This article will cover some potential causes of hand pain, possible treatments, and when to see a doctor.

There are numerous causes of pain in the palm.

Injury

Injuries to the palm can cause pain, swelling, bruising, and other symptoms.

Causes of palm injuries can include:

  • knocks and blows
  • landing on the hands during a fall
  • cuts
  • burns
  • repetitive trauma from sports or other activities

Soft tissue injuries

A person’s palm contains various soft tissues, such as muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Symptoms of soft tissue damage include:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • inflammation
  • bruising

Sometimes, a person can initially treat soft tissue injuries using the Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE) protocol. The RICE protocol involves:

Rest: Rest the injured area and avoid the activity that caused the injury.
Ice: Apply ice to the area for 20 minutes, several times a day. A person can try using cold packs or frozen bags of vegetables. A person should never apply ice directly to the skin.
Compression: Wear a compression bandage to prevent swelling and additional blood loss.
Elevation: While resting, raise the injury above the heart to help reduce swelling.

If the RICE protocol does not help reduce pain and swelling, a person should speak with their doctor.

Learn more about the RICE protocol here.

Fractures

A person’s palm contains five long bones called metacarpals. These bones connect the finger and thumb bones to the wrist bones. Trauma to the palm can result in breaks to one or more of the metacarpals.

The most commonly broken bone in the hand is the metacarpal that supports the little finger.

Generally, hand fractures heal well without surgery. Doctors can treat broken bones using splints or casts. More serious fractures may require surgical treatment. For example, some metacarpal fractures require surgery if the fractures affect the fingers’ alignment and range of motion.

Symptoms of a fractured hand include:

  • swelling
  • bruising
  • tenderness
  • pain
  • inability to move a finger
  • deformity

When does it hurt?

If a person injures their palm, they may experience pain when:

  • lifting things
  • holding things
  • making a fist
  • playing certain sports, such as basketball or golf

Learn more about fractures here.

Overuse

Overuse, also known as repetitive strain injury (RSI), occurs when repetitive movements cause the hand to become painful or tense. Pain and tension from muscles in the arms and shoulders can also radiate down to the hands.

Carrying out repetitive or high-intensity activities for long periods or holding the hands in awkward positions for too long can cause RSI.

RSI can occur in several different places in the hand, including the palms, though it is more common in the fingers or wrists.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), RSI can cause:

  • pain
  • stiffness
  • throbbing
  • tingling
  • numbness
  • weakness
  • cramp

Treatment for RSI in the palm includes:

  • identifying the cause and modifying it to reduce repetitive motions
  • stopping the activity responsible altogether if necessary
  • taking rain relieving medication, such as acetaminophen
  • taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
  • using hot or cold packs

A doctor may also recommend physical therapy to treat RSI.

When does it hurt?

Repetitive motions can cause palm pain for a person with an RSI when they:

  • grip objects
  • push or press with the palm
  • do certain sports

Playing golf can cause a person to develop Hypothenar hammer syndrome. This condition occurs when repeated blows from a golf club handle cause blood vessel damage in the palm.

A person should seek evaluation by a doctor before taking any pain medication.

Learn more about acetaminophen and ibuprofen here.

Other causes of palm pain

Other causes of pain in the palm may include:

  • carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that causes pain and numbness due to a trapped nerve
  • other forms of nerve damage
  • infection
  • inflammation

There are numerous causes of finger and thumb pain.

Trigger finger

Trigger finger, also called stenosing tenosynovitis, occurs when the ring of connective tissue at the base of a thumb or finger becomes swollen.

Swelling of this connective tissue can make it difficult for the tendon passing through it to move. Inflammation of the tendon due to rubbing against the swollen tissue can cause nodules to form. These nodules can cause a sensation of popping or snapping when a person bends their finger.

In severe cases, trigger finger can result in a person being unable to straighten their finger.

Treatment options for trigger finger may include:

  • resting the finger
  • immobilizing it with a splint
  • gentle stretching exercises
  • NSAIDs
  • having steroid injections
  • surgery

When does it hurt?

Trigger finger can cause pain when a person tries to straighten or bend their finger. Tender nodules at the base of the finger may also be sore to touch.

Learn about exercises to help trigger finger here.

Scleroderma

Scleroderma is an autoimmune condition that causes a person to produce an abnormal amount of collagen. Collagen is a protein that helps provide structure and strength to skin and connective tissues. However, too much collagen can lead to skin and connective tissues becoming hard and thick.

Scleroderma can cause the skin of the fingers to thicken and tighten, which can make them difficult to move.

A form of scleroderma called systemic scleroderma can narrow the blood vessels of the hand. This can lead to pain and tingling, which doctors call Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Early symptoms of scleroderma include:

  • swollen or puffy fingers
  • numbness and tingling in fingers or toes
  • joint pain
  • weight loss
  • hands and feet are sensitive to cold

Scleroderma can also cause sores on the fingers and toes as it progresses.

Scleroderma is a chronic condition with no cure. However, steroids, blood pressure medications, and immunosuppressants can help relieve symptoms and prevent the condition from progressing.

When does it hurt?

Scleroderma can affect each person in different ways. Some people with scleroderma may have mild symptoms, while others will experience severe side effects.

Learn more about other autoimmune conditions that affect the skin and connective tissue here.

Raynaud’s phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon occurs when blood vessels in the fingers or toes temporarily narrow. This narrowing of blood vessels can lead to finger and toes becoming:

  • cold
  • numb
  • blue or white

Raynaud’s phenomenon often occurs due to cold temperatures or stress. A flare-up can last minutes or hours, and pain levels can vary. Once a flare-up passes, a person’s skin may tingle or burn.

Doctors are currently unsure of what exactly causes Raynaud’s phenomenon. However, it can be a symptom of other conditions, such as scleroderma.

There is no cure for Raynaud’s phenomenon. Most people with the condition can prevent symptoms by keeping warm. Some people may find that certain medications or surgeries help with symptoms.

Raynaud’s phenomenon caused by another condition may regress if the underlying cause is treated.

When does it hurt?

Raynaud’s phenomenon causes a person to experience pain in cold or stressful situations. This can include taking something out of a freezer or holding a glass of cold water.

Learn about what conditions can turn the nails blue.

Arthritis

Arthritis is a general term for damage to the cartilage. More than 100 different disorders can cause damage to the cartilage and pain, swelling, and stiffness in joints.

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that protects a joint wears away over time. This wear and tear cause the bones in the joint to rub against each other, leading to pain and stiffness.

Another common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It is an autoimmune condition that occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks the tissues in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation and pain. Over time, this inflammation can lead to permanent joint damage.

RA commonly affects the joints of the fingers and wrists.

Common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • swelling
  • pain
  • stillness
  • reduced range of motion

Treatment depends on the type of arthritis but can include:

People with symptoms of RA may need to see a rheumatologist who can prescribe medications to help preserve their joints.

When does it hurt?

Different forms of arthritis may cause pain at other times. Arthritis may cause pain when:

  • bending or straightening fingers
  • trying to grip objects
  • performing repetitive motions, such as typing or texting
  • trying to pinch objects
  • in cold weather

Learn more about arthritis in the hands here.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs through the wrist, becomes compressed or squeezed.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • numbness, tingling, burning, or pain, especially in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers
  • shock-like sensations in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers
  • pain or tingling that travels up the forearm to the shoulder
  • weakness or clumsiness of the hand
  • dropping things

Most of carpal tunnel syndrome cases begin gradually and without a specific injury. As it progresses, symptoms may occur more frequently and for longer.

As carpal tunnel syndrome can worsen over time, early diagnosis is important.

Treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome can include:

  • wearing a splint or brace
  • NSAIDs
  • modifying activities that aggravate the condition
  • nerve gliding exercises
  • physical therapy
  • steroid injections
  • surgery

When does it hurt?

A person may experience pain due to carpal tunnel syndrome during tasks that bend the wrist, such as:

  • during sleep
  • using a phone
  • driving
  • reading a book

Learn about the best exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome here.

Other causes of finger pain

Other causes of pain in the fingers may include:

  • extensor tendonitis, also known as mallet or baseball finger, happens when a sudden blow causes a person’s fingertip to droop
  • ganglion cyst, which is a lump that forms on the finger or wrist
  • RSI

Learn about other causes of pain in the finger joints here.

There are numerous causes of pain in the wrist. Some may occur anywhere on the body, and some are specific to the hand and wrist.

Ganglion cyst

Ganglion cysts are fluid-filled lumps that can develop near joints and tendons in the hand and wrist. These cysts can vary in size but are often harmless and disappear without treatment. Ganglion cysts often develop on the back of the wrist.

Although ganglion cysts usually do not need treatment, they can become painful or limit activity. A doctor can treat a ganglion cyst by:

  • using splints and anti-inflammatory medication
  • removing fluid from the cyst and compressing it
  • surgery

Doctors do not know what causes ganglion cysts. However, they may occur alongside conditions such as:

  • arthritis
  • joint or tendon irritation
  • injury
  • changes in motion

When does it hurt?

A ganglion cyst may cause pain if it is pressing against a nerve in a person’s wrist.

Learn more about lumps on the wrist here.

Other causes of wrist pain

  • fractures
  • injury
  • arthritis
  • RSI

Learn about wrist tendonitis here.

A person should talk with a doctor for severe, persistent, or reoccurring pain in the hands or wrists or pain that:

  • does not get better with home treatment
  • gets steadily worse
  • does not respond to treatment that a doctor recommends
  • may be due to a fall or other injury
  • occurs along with other symptoms, such as arm pain, a fever, or exhaustion

A person should seek immediate medical attention for:

  • intense, sudden, unbearable hand pain
  • a suspected broken wrist or arm
  • a visible injury to the hand that causes very intense pain

The kind of treatment a person can use to soothe hand pain can depend on the cause of the issue.

Injury and overuse

It is possible to treat minor hand injuries to the palms, fingers, or wrists can using the RICE protocol.

Thoroughly wash and disinfect any minor cuts and cover them with a Band-Aid or another dressing.

Taping an injured finger to the one beside it can help keep the finger still. This can help the finger to heal and prevent pain from movement.

Anti-inflammatory pain medication can reduce pain in the fingers, palms, and wrists.

Learn about different types of finger splints here.

Arthritis

There are certain treatments a person can use at home to soothe arthritis pain in the wrists, fingers, and thumbs, including:

  • using topical NSAID gels
  • applying hot or cold packs to affected areas
  • NSAID oral medication
  • using a paraffin wax bath, which coats the hand in wax as a form of heat therapy
  • exercising

Learn about CBD and arthritis here.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Home treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • doing hand and wrist exercises daily
  • increasing physical activity and exercise
  • weight loss
  • stopping smoking cigarettes or tobacco products
  • modifying activities that cause or worsen symptoms
  • reducing computer use

Learn about natural and home remedies for carpal tunnel syndrome here.

Scleroderma

The following home remedies may help a person relieve scleroderma hand pain:

  • keeping affected areas warm
  • stopping smoking cigarettes
  • exercising hands

If a person finds that home treatments do not relieve their hand pain, they should speak to their doctor.

Learn about ways to quit smoking here.

There are many possible causes of hand pain. They range from injuries and overuse to degenerative conditions, such as arthritis.

Home remedies for hand pain include gently stretching, trying RICE therapy, and taking over-the-counter medications.

A person should see a doctor for severe, persistent, or reoccurring pain in the hands or wrists.