Common Causes of Hand Pain

Whether you’re holding a child’s hand, typing an email, gripping a burger, or clapping for your favorite team, your hands are essential for countless everyday tasks and expressing yourself. So when pain grips your hands, it can affect everything you do.

If your hands are hurting, come see our team of pain management experts at CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center, with multiple locations in Maryland. We specialize in identifying the root causes of pain, so we can treat it at its source rather than simply mask the symptoms. 

Pain in your hands can involve the joints, tendons, nerves, bones, or connective tissue, and it can be caused by injury, disease, genetic conditions, or lifestyle habits. If your hands hurt and you don’t know why, here are some of the most common types of hand pain that may be the culprit.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

If you use your hands a lot every day, particularly if you repeat the same motions over and over, you’re at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. The carpal tunnel is a long narrow passageway that runs through your wrist to protect the median nerve that travels from your forearm into your palm. If anything happens to that passageway — such as inflammation, injury, or thickening of the tendon inside — this may cause your median nerve to get compressed.

If your median nerve gets compressed, you may feel pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, or a burning sensation in your hand. You could even have trouble telling the difference between hot and cold.

Sometimes, you can ease the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome with at-home remedies, such as ice packs, over-the-counter pain medications, and rest. If those don’t help, we may recommend steroid injections to reduce inflammation and pain or a splint to take pressure off of your wrist.


All joints are susceptible to arthritis, a condition that affects more than 54 million Americans. Although there are more than 100 types of arthritis, your hands are most likely to suffer from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout. 

Stiff, achy joints are the hallmarks of arthritis, but the joints may also feel warm to the touch and look red and swollen. It’s also possible to hear arthritis, as grinding, cracking, and grating sounds are common.

Over-the-counter medications may reduce the pain and inflammation, and physical therapy may increase your mobility and function. In extreme cases, surgery might be necessary.

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis

If you’re experiencing pain mainly at the base of your thumb, it could be De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which involves inflamed tendons in your thumb. The condition can cause pain in your thumb and sometimes in your wrist. This condition can make it hard to pinch or pick up things, and you may notice a popping sound in the joint.

The goal of treatment is to eliminate the inflammation. So again, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and ice are a good place to start. Steroid injections can offer next-level relief, and surgery may be required in extreme cases. 

Ganglion cysts

Is there a soft lump on your wrist or hand? If so, you might have a ganglion cyst, which is a benign lesion that occurs under the skin. Although the exact cause is unknown, it’s thought to happen when the synovial fluid from a nearby joint leaks out after an injury and creates a small sac filled with the fluid. 

Typically, ganglion cysts aren’t painful unless they grow large enough to compress a nerve. Often, these cysts resolve on their own, although it’s common for them to recur once you’ve had one. Our team can either drain it or surgically remove it.

Trigger finger

When your finger gets stuck in the bent position, it’s called stenosing tenosynovitis, but most people just call it trigger finger, because it looks like your finger is crooked around a trigger. It happens when the narrow sheath that your tendons are meant to slide through becomes swollen, and the tendon gets stuck.

In addition to the inconvenience of a constantly bent finger, you may feel stiffness and pain as well. If conservative treatments don’t reduce the swelling and resolve the problem — such as resting the finger for an extended period of time — surgery may be necessary to release the tendon.

Other sources of hand pain

We’ve listed several of the most common sources of hand pain, but there are many others. Other causes may include sprains, strains, fractures, Reynaud’s phenomenon — which causes your fingers to become cold and numb when you get stressed or cold — and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus. 

It’s best not to try to guess what’s causing your hand pain, because the proper treatment depends on the root cause. We can accurately diagnose your pain and help you find relief. 

To learn more about the causes of hand pain and what you can do about it, book an appointment online or over the phone with CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center today.

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