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Causes of Hand Pain and When to See a Doctor

Hand pain can happen for various reasons, including accidents or overusing the hand or wrist. However, persistent or recurring pain in the hand might be a sign of an underlying health condition, hence requiring professional treatment.

In this article, we are going to discuss some of the possible causes of hand pain and when is the right time to seek treatment from a hand specialist near me. So without wasting more time, let’s delve into them.

Causes of pain in the hand

Here are some of the main causes of pain in the hand.

  1. Hand injuries

The wrists and hands generally contain many different joints, bones, and connective tissues, such as tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves. An injury to your hand can damage these structures, leading to pain, bruising, swelling, etc.

The most common causes of hand injuries include:

  • Landing on the hands during a fall
  • Knocks and blows
  • Bending the fingers or wrist too far backward
  • Jamming finger
  • A repetitive strain like from long periods of heavy lifting, typing, or playing sport

Finger dislocations and fractures are also common types of hand injuries. The pain normally feels suddenly sudden and intense. It can develop into excruciating or soreness over the next several days.

Severe blows and falls can also fracture the wrist, causing excruciating pain and swelling. If you suffer a fracture, you may require a cast. In some instances, the doctor may need to set the bones back into place.

Injuries to ligaments, muscles, and tendons are known as soft tissue injuries. If you have a soft tissue injury, you may not require medical treatment; instead, ice and elevation can help relieve pain and swelling. You should also rest or immobilize your hand as it recovers.

  1. Overuse

Another common cause of pain in the hand is overusing your hand. Overusing your hand can cause the tendons, muscles, and nerves to become painful, tense, or sore. In addition to that, pain and tension from muscles may also exude down to your hands. This kind of pain usually results from performing monotonous or labour-intensive activities for a very long period. Holding your hands in an improper position for a very long time can also result in overuse injuries.

Causes include

  • Using tools
  • Typing for too long
  • Lifting heavy items
  • Playing sports

Overuse injuries tend to respond well to hot or cold packs, rest, and gentle stretching. Over-the-counter [OTC] medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can also help relieve pain and swelling.

In some instances, a doctor may recommend physiotherapy or adjust an individual’s working and training habits in order to prevent further injuries.

  • Arthritis

This is a general term for over 100 different disorders that cause swelling, pain, and stiffness in joints. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage that projects a joint wears away with time. This wear and tear makes the bones in the joint rub against each other. This leads to pain and stiffness.  Arthritis can affect any joint in the human body, including the joints in the hands. Arthritis has different treatments depending on the type of arthritis you are suffering. However, the treatment generally includes lifestyle changes, exercising, taking medications, and seeking physiotherapy or occupational therapy.

  • Raynaud’s phenomenon

This is a condition in which the blood vessels in the fingers or toes narrow temporarily. Raynaud’s phenomenon usually occurs in response to stress or cold temperatures. During a flare-up, blood flow to hands is reduced. This may cause fingers to become blue or lighten, and they may also feel painful and numb.

Once the blood flow starts to return back to normal, the hands may appear purple or red. The length of these attacks can vary from one minute to several hours. Conditions, such as scleroderma can also cause Raynaud’s phenomenon. However, the cause of Raynaud’s in many people isn’t often known.

It is worth mentioning that there is no cure for Raynaud’s. However, taking medications and lifestyle changes can help keep flare-ups at bay and reduce their severity. Dealing with any underlying condition can also go a long way in helping prevent flare-ups.

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

This condition happens when the median nerve becomes squeezed or compressed. The median nerve is the nerve that runs through the wrist. Symptoms usually start slowly and worsen at night. Its symptoms include tingling, numbness, and pain in the hand and arm. Carpal tunnel syndrome can also cause weakness in the hand that is affected.  The condition can worsen with time, making early diagnosis and treatment crucial. Treatment options may include wearing a splint, making lifestyle changes, taking medications [anti-inflammatory drugs and steroid injections], and having surgery.

When to see a doctor

There are many various causes of hand pain. Generally, you should see your doctor when you have severe, recurring, or persistent pain in the hands or wrists. See a doctor for hand pain that:

  • Gets steadily worse
  • Does not respond to treatment that the doctor recommends
  • Does not get better with home treatment
  • Pain that is as a result of a fall or other injury
  • Pain that occurs along with other symptoms, such as fever, pain, exhaustion, etc

The doctor will do some tests to identify what is causing the pain. Once he or she has made a diagnosis, he will prescribe medications to relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation. In some cases, when necessary, the doctor may recommend surgery.

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