What is hand problems and injuries?

Hand Problems and Injuries
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Finger, hand, and wrist problems, noninjury: Overview

Everyone has had a minor problem with a finger, hand, or wrist. Most of the time our body movements don't cause problems. But sometimes 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 they may 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's needed to relieve your symptoms.

Overuse problems

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. This is caused by pressure on a nerve (median nerve) in the wrist. The symptoms include tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain of the fingers and hand.
  • Tendon pain. This is actually a symptom of tendinosis, a series of very small tears (microtears) in the tissue in or around the tendon. Besides pain and tenderness, common symptoms include decreased strength and movement in the affected area.
  • De Quervain's tenosynovitis. This can occur in the hand and wrist when tendons and the tendon covering (sheath) on the thumb side of the wrist swell and cause pain.
  • Repetitive motion syndrome. This 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. These are caused by repeated hand or finger motion, such as writing or typing.
  • Trigger finger or trigger thumb. This occurs when the flexor tendon and its sheath in a finger or thumb thicken or swell.

Bone, muscle, or joint problems

  • Dupuytren's disease. It causes tissue to thicken beneath the skin in the palm of the hand or hands and sometimes in the soles of the feet. Over time, the thickened skin and tendons (palmar fascia) may limit movement or cause the fingers to bend so that they can't be straightened.
  • Ganglion cysts. These are small sacs (cysts) filled with clear, jellylike fluid. They often appear as bumps on the hands and wrists. They also can form on feet, ankles, knees, or shoulders.

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 delivery.
  • 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.
  • 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's a form of arthritis that occurs when uric acid crystals form in and around the joints. It often affects the big toe joint.
  • 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. This causes numbness, tingling, swelling, pain, and pale color.
  • Infection can cause pain, redness, and swelling that occur with red streaks, 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.

Caring for a minor finger, hand, or wrist problem

Try the following tips to help relieve finger, hand, or wrist pain, swelling, and stiffness.

  • Remove all jewelry.

    Remove rings, bracelets, watches, and any other jewelry from your finger, wrist, or arm. It will be hard to remove the jewelry after swelling starts.

  • Rest.

    It's important to rest and protect the affected area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.

  • Use ice.

    Put ice or a cold pack on the affected area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake).

  • Wrap the affected area.

    Compression, or wrapping the area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help reduce swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, because that can cause more swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, and swelling in the area below the bandage.

  • Elevate the affected area.

    Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling. Prop up the area on pillows while you apply ice and anytime you sit or lie down.

  • Avoid things that might increase swelling.

    For 48 hours, avoid things that might increase swelling. These things include hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, and drinks that contain alcohol.

  • Apply heat.
    • After 2 or 3 days, you can try applying heat to the area that hurts. Types of heat therapy include microwavable packs and disposable heating patches.
    • Apply heat for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.
    • You might also try switching between cold and heat.
  • Treat hands that are sensitive to cold.

    Avoid and protect your hands from the cold. For example, wear gloves or blow warm air onto cold hands.

  • Avoid sleeping on your hands.

    This may decrease blood flow to your fingers.

  • Treat blisters on fingers or hands.

    Use a loose bandage to protect them.

If you need to use a wrap for more than 48 hours, you may have a more serious injury that needs to be checked by a doctor.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.