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Anatomy of the hand
The hand is composed of many different bones, muscles, and ligaments that allow for a large amount of movement and dexterity. There are 3 major types of bones in the hand itself, including:
Phalanges.The 14 bones that are found in the fingers of each hand and also in the toes of each foot. Each finger has 3 phalanges (the distal, middle, and proximal); the thumb only has 2.
Metacarpal bones.The 5 bones that compose the middle part of the hand.
Carpal bones.The 8 bones that create the wrist. The carpal bones are connected to 2 bones of the arm, the ulnar bone and the radius bone.
Numerous muscles, ligaments, and sheaths can be found within the hand. The muscles are the structures that can contract, allowing movement of the bones in the hand. The ligaments are fibrous tissues that help bind together the joints in the hand. The sheaths are tubular structures that surround part of the fingers.
What are some common hand problems?
There are many common hand problems that can interfere with activities of daily living (ADLs), including the following:
Arthritis is joint inflammation and can occur in multiple areas of the hand and wrist. Arthritis of the hand can be very painful.
Rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that can attack joints throughout the body, commonly affects the joints and surrounding tendons of the wrist and fingers. It can cause the joints to become swollen, painful and possibly deformed. This can interfere with normal hand function. It can significantly impact a person's quality of life.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis in the hands and may be caused by normal use of the hand or it may develop after an injury. Osteoarthritis usually develops in one of 3 places: the base of the thumb, at the end joint closest to the finger tip, or at the middle joint of a finger.
Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
Swelling and pain
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Pain and possibly swelling at the base of the thumb
Loss of strength in the fingers and the grip of the hand
Treatment for osteoarthritis includes:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Resting the affected hand
Wearing splints at night
Using heat to soothe the pain
Using ice to reduce swelling
Possible cortisone injections
Possible surgery when no other treatments work
Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis, is a degenerative condition that commonly affects the small joints of the fingers and the base of the thumb. Common in both men and women, it can cause the joints to become swollen, stiff and painful. It often leads to joint enlargement, interfering with normal hand function and significantly impacting a person's quality of life. There are two main types of hand arthritis: primary generalized osteoarthritis and erosive osteoarthritis, and they affect the hands differently.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist, a narrow confined space. Since the median nerve provides sensory and motor functions to the thumb and 3 middle fingers, many symptoms may result. The following are the most common symptoms for carpal tunnel syndrome. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Trouble gripping objects with the hand(s)
Pain or numbness in the hand(s)
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Swollen feeling in the fingers
Burning or tingling in the fingers, especially the thumb and the index and middle fingers
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may look like other conditions such as tendonitis, bursitis, or rheumatoid arthritis. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Treatment may include:
Splinting of the hand (to help prevent wrist movement and decrease the compression of the nerves inside the tunnel)
Oral or injected (into the carpal tunnel space) anti-inflammatory medications (to reduce the swelling)
Surgery (to relieve compression on the nerves in the carpal tunnel)
Changing position of a computer keyboard, or other ergonomic changes
This condition is a painful compression of a nerve in the wrist that can interfere with a person's ability to use the wrist and the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a progressive condition that can worsen without proper care.
Soft, fluid-filled cysts can develop on the front or back of the hand for no apparent reason. These are called ganglion cysts — the most common, benign (noncancerous), soft-tissue tumor of the hand and wrist.
The following are the most common symptoms for ganglion cysts. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Wrist pain that is aggravated with repeated use or irritation
Aslow growing, localized swelling, with mild aching and weakness in the wrist
An apparent cyst that is smooth, firm, rounded, or tender
The symptoms of ganglion cysts may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
Initially, when the cyst is small and painless, treatment is usually not needed. Only when the cyst begins to grow and interferes with the functionality of the hand is treatment usually necessary. Treatment may include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms as a herniation from a joint capsule or tendon sheath. The sac is attached to the joint or tendon sheath by a "stalk" that allows fluid to move into the pouch from the joint or sheath. The stalk functions as a valve and often limits fluid drainage out of the cyst, allowing the cyst to increase - but not decrease - in size. In some cases the stalk functions as a two-way valve, allowing fluid to travel in both directions. This can enable the cyst to increase and decrease in size based on activities.
Two major problems associated with tendons include tendonitis and tenosynovitis. Tendonitis, inflammation of a tendon (the tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones) can affect any tendon, but is most commonly seen in the wrist and fingers. When the tendons become irritated, swelling, pain, and discomfort will occur.
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Tenosynovitis is the inflammation of the lining of the tendon sheaths which enclose the tendons. The tendon sheath is usually the site which becomes inflamed, but both the sheath and the tendon can become inflamed simultaneously. The cause of tenosynovitis is often unknown, but usually strain, overuse, injury, or excessive exercise may be implicated. Tendonitis may also be related to disease (such as, diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis).
Common tendon disorders include the following:
Lateral epicondylitis(commonly known as tennis elbow).A condition characterized by pain in the back side of the elbow and forearm, along the thumb side when the arm is alongside the body with the thumb turned away. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist backward away from the palm.
Medial epicondylitis(commonly known as golfer's or baseball elbow).A condition characterized by pain from the elbow to the wrist on the palm side of the forearm. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist toward the palm.
Rotator cuff tendonitis.A shoulder disorder characterized by the inflammation of the shoulder capsule and related tendons.
DeQuervain's tenosynovitis.The most common type of tenosynovitis disorder characterized by the tendon sheath swelling in the tendons of the thumb.
Trigger finger/trigger thumb.A tenosynovitis condition in which the tendon sheath becomes inflamed and thickened, thus preventing the smooth extension or flexion of the finger/thumb. The finger/thumb may lock or "trigger" suddenly.
Treatment for most tendon problems may include:
Splinting or immobilization
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
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How do I know if my hand pain is serious? ›
See a GP if:
the pain is getting worse or keeps coming back. the pain has not improved after treating it at home for 2 weeks. you have any tingling or loss of sensation in your hand.
Arthritis. Arthritis (the inflammation of one or more joints) is the leading cause of hand pain. It can occur anywhere in the body but is particularly common in the hands and wrist. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, but the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.What causes hands to ache and hurt? ›
Arthritis is one of the most common causes of hand pain, affecting millions of people every year. Arthritis develops over time and causes inflammation of the joints. You may have it in a finger, your wrist, or multiple spots along your hand. Osteoarthritis is the most common type.What are the most common hand problems? ›
In the hands, 4 of the commonest conditions are: trigger finger/thumb, carpal tunnel syndrome, base of thumb arthritis, and Dupuytren's disease.Is hand pain related to heart? ›
Often, an initial symptom of a heart attack is sudden left arm pain that gets increasingly intense over the course of a few minutes. Other symptoms of heart attack are: discomfort/pressure in the center of the chest. discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, or stomach.What is neuropathy hand pain? ›
Peripheral neuropathy, a result of damage to the nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves), often causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in the hands and feet. It can also affect other areas and body functions including digestion, urination and circulation.What causes achy hands besides arthritis? ›
Conditions such as carpal tunnel, trigger finger, ganglion cysts, and autoimmune diseases can also be causes of the pain experienced in your hands and fingers and are often underpinned by strenuous and repetitive actions.What does neuropathic pain feel like in hands? ›
Nerve pain often feels like a shooting, stabbing or burning sensation. Sometimes it can be as sharp and sudden as an electric shock. People with neuropathic pain are often very sensitive to touch or cold and can experience pain as a result of stimuli that would not normally be painful, such as brushing the skin.How do you test for arthritis in your hands? ›
Diagnosis and Tests
Your healthcare provider can make the diagnosis of arthritis of the hand by examining your hand and with X-rays. X-rays show loss of bone cartilage and formation of bone spurs. A blood test for rheumatoid factor and other markers can help determine if the cause is rheumatoid arthritis.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is usually the cause of a weak grip. Other causes of weakness in hands include inflammation of the hand joints, a conditions known as tennis or golfers elbow, or an injury to the hand.
What does arthritis feel like in hands? ›
Early symptoms of arthritis of the hand include joint pain that may feel "dull," or a "burning" sensation. The pain often occurs after periods of increased joint use, such as heavy gripping or grasping. The pain may not be present immediately, but may show up hours later or even the following day.What kind of doctor should I see for pain in my hand? ›
A hand specialist is an orthopedic doctor who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and preventing disorders in the hand, wrist, and forearm. They have a profound understanding of the complex networks of blood vessels, nerves, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones that make up the hand and fingers.Should I worry about hand pain? ›
You should visit your doctor if: Symptoms don't improve with rest and ice therapy. You experience pain or discomfort even when the hand is not moving. You have a reduced range of motion in the hand, wrist, and/or fingers.What is hand heart syndrome? ›
Heart–hand syndrome (HHS) is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous disorder characterized by the co-occurrence of a congenital cardiac disease and an upper limb malformation.How do you know if you have heart problems with your hands? ›
Poor Grip Strength. The strength of your hand may tell you something about the strength of your heart. Research suggests the ability to squeeze something well may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease. If it's hard for you to grasp an object, odds are higher that you have or could develop problems.What is the first stage of neuropathy? ›
Stage One: Numbness & Pain
In this beginning stage, patients become aware that something feels “off” with the nerves in their hands and/or feet. They may feel pain, numbness, or a combination of the two, somewhat infrequently. Individuals may also notice a problem with their balance or reflexes.
People who have low levels of vitamin D often have joint pain. Vitamin D supplements may treat joint pain in some people who have a vitamin D deficiency.Does fibromyalgia cause joint pain in hands? ›
Fibromyalgia causes bodywide pain and extreme tiredness. It can be confused with arthritis because it may cause pain in joints, muscles and soft tissues.What are the signs of neuralgia? ›
Symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia
The main symptom of trigeminal neuralgia is sudden attacks of severe, sharp and shooting facial pain that last from a few seconds to about two minutes. The pain is often described as an excruciating sensation, similar to an electric shock.
Symptoms include weakness and a pins-and-needles sensation or loss of sensation. The muscles that control breathing may be affected, resulting in respiratory failure. Many chronic polyneuropathies affect sensation primarily. Usually, the feet are affected first, but sometimes the hands are.
Why is my hand paining too much? ›
Hand pain can also result from nerve conditions, like the pain and tingling you feel when there is pressure on the median nerve in the wrist or the ulnar nerve near the elbow. Sometimes hand pain results from tendinitis, an inflammation of the tissue that attaches muscles to the bones.What is the best vitamin for hand pain? ›
Several nutritional supplements have shown promise for relieving pain, stiffness and other arthritis symptoms. Glucosamine and chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids, SAM-e and curcumin are just some of the natural products researchers have studied for osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).What can mimic arthritis in hands? ›
Lupus and Scleroderma
The autoimmune diseases systemic lupus erythematosus and scleroderma often present with joint involvement that mimics rheumatoid arthritis. While lupus and scleroderma are two different diseases, they often overlap with one another.
Depending on the type of arthritis, signs and symptoms may include: Pain. Stiffness. Swelling.Can you reverse arthritis in hands? ›
You can't reverse your arthritis, but certain treatments can help slow the progression of the disease and help you manage your condition. Getting the right kind of treatment can ease your pain and help you maintain or even improve function, which will enable you to carry out daily activities.When should I go to the ER for hand pain? ›
If you can't move a joint or the joint is very painful and difficult to move. If your finger, hand or forearm is bent unnaturally after an injury. If you see something white through your skin, which could represent a bone or tendon. If you had a high pressure injection injury such as from a paint gun.What can a doctor do for hand pain? ›
Hand Pain, Inflammation, and Swelling
If your hand is inflamed and you feel pain, your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medications, and possibly, hand therapy to provide relief.
Make an appointment with your doctor if your joint pain is accompanied by: Swelling. Redness. Tenderness and warmth around the joint.What does arthritis pain feel like in hands? ›
Early symptoms of arthritis of the hand include joint pain that may feel "dull," or a "burning" sensation. The pain often occurs after periods of increased joint use, such as heavy gripping or grasping. The pain may not be present immediately, but may show up hours later or even the following day.