causes of hand pain

Hand Pain: What You Should Know

Twenty-eight bones, 29 joints and an intricate network of ligaments, tendons and nerves in your hands make it possible to button a shirt, braid hair, slice a steak or give a thumbs-up. But when arthritis or a related condition affects the hands, the simplest tasks can be painful. Dori Neill Cage, MD, an orthopedic hand surgeon in San Diego, lists some common arthritis-related problems that affect the hands.

Bouchard’s Nodes

Bone growths on the middle joint of the finger that can occur when osteoarthritis (OA)-related cartilage loss causes bone to rub together, stimulating abnormal bone formation; joint may be painful and stiff.

Treatment options: rest, splinting, over-the- counter (OTC) pain relievers

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Compression of the median nerve in the wrist, leading to tingling or numbness of the thumb, index, middle and part of the ring finger.

Treatment options: splinting, OTC pain relievers, corticosteroid injections, surgery

Dupuytren’s Contracture (Or Disease)

A condition in which the palm’s connective tissue thickens, causing fingers to bend or curl toward the palm.

Treatment options: corticosteroid injections, collagenase (enzyme) injection, needle aponeurotomy (“needling”), surgery

Heberden’s Nodes

Bone growths associated with OA; like Bouchard’s nodes, except that they form on the joint closest to the fingernail; joint may be painful and stiff.

Treatment options: rest, splinting, OTC pain relievers

Trigger Finger

A condition that occurs when finger tendons thicken or become inflamed, causing joints to get “stuck;” affected fingers may be painful and pop or click when extended.

Treatment options: splinting, corticosteroid injections, surgery

Signs of the following conditions will require a proper diagnosis and a treatment plan in partnership with a dermatologist, rheumatologist or orthopaedist


Finger pain, inflammation and swelling so fingers look sausage-like; a symptom of psoriatic arthritis (PsA), a type of inflammatory arthritis associated with the skin condition psoriasis.

Nail Changes

Pitting or crumbling nails or separation from the nail bed could be a sign of psoriatic arthritis, particularly if accompanied by joint pain.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon

A condition in which the small blood vessels in extremities constrict in response to stress or cold; fingers may change colors – from pale, to blue, to red – and be painful or tingle; may be associated with connective tissue diseases.

Rheumatoid Nodules

Rubbery or doughy bumps beneath the skin that form on forearms, elbows, fingers or thumbs, particularly at the knuckles; associated with aggressive rheumatoid arthritis; painful in some cases; may be movable or attached to underlying tissue.


Hardening of finger skin, which may appear tight and shiny; fingers may be difficult to move; a sign of scleroderma, a condition characterized by a buildup of collagen in the skin.

Ulnar Drift (Ulnar Deviation)

Gradual shift of wrists and fingers in the direction of the little finger; caused by chronic inflammation and damage from rheumatoid arthritis; can cause mild to severe pain and affect hand function.

Author: Mary Ann Dunkin

September is Pain Awareness Month! Visit our Breaking the Pain Chain Toolkit, sponsored by Biofreeze, for practical tips on how to create and enact a personalized pain management plan to help you manage your pain and preserve your quality of life.

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2 thoughts on “Hand Pain: What You Should Know

  1. I an operation on my right thumb osteoarthritis ice the two infected bones out and put two titanium joints replacement put in tool nearly one year to be fully mobile it was in 2014 and this year had to have another operation on it because I had an accident and the bone that had the joint cracked so had some new thing put in to replace the bone that cracked will take another 4 months to be 100%

  2. Thanks for going over some different problems that can occur in your hand and what it could mean. I didn’t know that having rubbery bumps under the skin of forearms, elbows, fingers, or thumbs could be associated with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s kind of amazing that there could be so many different things, so it sounds important to make sure that you can identify the difference between each of these so that you can get the right treatment.

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