Hand pain

Hand pain can be the result of a variety of disorders and diseases that affect the bones, joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles of your hand and wrist. Your hand is extremely intricate, composed of 19 bones, 15 joints (including the wrist joint) three nerves and numerous muscles and ligaments. They all work together to give you a range of intricate movements and a high degree of skill in performing tasks. Hand pain symptoms can range from a throbbing pain from osteoarthritis to a burning sensation from nerve disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome.


There are specific disorders and diseases that can cause mild discomfort or moderate to severe hand pain and interfere with simple activities such as opening a jar or enjoying your favorite sports or hobbies. The most common causes of hand pain include:

  • Arthritis – Arthritis consists of more than 100 rheumatic diseases and other conditions that can cause inflammation of the joints and connective tissues in your hand and wrist which, in turn, cause hand pain, stiffness and swelling. Hand pain symptoms from arthritis can range from throbbing pain to tenderness to the touch. The types of arthritis that most often affect the hands are:
    • Osteoarthritis, also known as "wear and tear" arthritis, a degenerative joint disease that progresses slowly.
    • Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints, and in severe cases, deformity of the joints.
    • Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after an injury such as a broken bone, torn ligament or moderate sprain and cause progressive hand pain in the joints.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome – This condition occurs when the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. The compression is a direct result of inflammation and swelling of the protective tendon sheath surrounding the median nerve. Since the median nerve provides sensory and motor functions to the thumb and three middle fingers, various hand pain symptoms may result including pain, numbness, "pins and needles" feeling, burning, tingling and a swollen feeling.
  • Ganglion cysts – Soft, fluid-filled cysts can develop on the front or back of the hand for no apparent reason. Ganglion cysts are the most common; these benign, soft-tissue tumors of the hand and wrist cause symptoms such as wrist pain, localized swelling, mild aching and weakness in the wrist.
  • Fractures and sprains – Traumatic injuries to the hand can result in a variety of symptoms ranging from a throbbing ache to the extreme pain of a broken hand.
  • Tendon problems – Tendonitis in the wrist and fingers causes the tendons to become inflamed, painful and swollen. Tenosynovitis is the inflammation of the lining of the protective tendon sheaths that enclose the tendons.
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome – This condition occurs when the ulnar nerve in your elbow is pinched in one of several locations in the back of your elbow. This nerve condition causes symptoms such as numbness, tingling and pain in your elbow, forearm, hand and fingers.
  • Dupuytren's disease – This disease causes a thickening of the skin on the palm of your hand. It can develop into a hard lump and eventually cause the fingers to contract or pull into the palm.

Whether you are experiencing chronic hand or wrist pain, it is important to consult an orthopedic specialist. The experienced hand and wrist specialists at Northwell Health Orthopaedic Institute diagnose and treat a large variety of hand pain disorders as well as a broad range of conditions affecting the hand and wrist.

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