Overview

Choose which area of your hand hurts most to read about:

  • treatments
  • when to get medical help
  • possible causes

Wrist pain

There are many causes of wrist pain. You can often ease the pain yourself. But see a GP if the pain does not improve.

How you can ease wrist pain yourself

If you see a GP about pain in your wrist, they'll usually suggest you try these things:

Do:

  • rest your wrist when you can
  • put an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) in a towel and place it on your wrist for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
  • take paracetamol to ease the pain
  • take off any jewellery if your hand looks swollen
  • stop or cut down activities that are causing the pain - for example, typing, using vibrating tools for work, or playing an instrument
  • wear a splint to support your wrist and ease pain, especially at night - you can get these at most pharmacies and supermarkets
  • think about using gadgets or tools to make difficult or painful tasks easier - for example, to open jars or chop vegetables
  • think about getting a soft pad to support your wrist when typing

Don't:

  • do not use ibuprofen in the first 48 hours after an injury
  • do not use heat packs or have hot baths for the first 2 to 3 days after an injury
  • do not lift heavy objects or grip anything too tightly

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • the best painkiller to take
  • the best splint to support your wrist and ease pain - flexible rubber splints are available if you still need to use your wrist
  • treatments for common skin problems
  • if you need to see a GP

Find a pharmacy

See a GP if:

  • the pain is severe or stopping you doing normal activities
  • 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 or wrist
  • you have diabetes - hand problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

What we mean by severe pain:

Severe pain

  • always there and so bad its hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress

Moderate pain

  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress

Mild pain

  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work

Go to an A&E department if you:

  • have severe pain
  • feel faint, dizzy or sick from the pain
  • heard a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of the injury
  • are not able to move your wrist or hold things
  • have a wrist that's changed shape or colour, such as blue or white

These might be signs of a broken wrist.

Find your nearest A&E department.

What we mean by severe pain:

Severe pain

  • always there and so bad its hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress

Moderate pain

  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress

Mild pain

  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work

Common causes of wrist pain

Wrist pain is often caused by bruising or injuring your wrist.

Your symptoms might also give you an idea of what's causing the pain in your wrist.

  • Pain, swelling and bruising, difficult to move wrist or grip anything - possible cause could be sprained wrist
  • Pain, swelling and stiffness at the base of the finger that lasts a long time, may be hard to move fingers and thumb, may have a lump - possible cause could be tendonitis (de Quervain's disease) or arthritis
  • Aching pain that's worse at night, numbness or pins and needles, a weak thumb or difficulty gripping - possible cause could be carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Smooth lump near a joint or tendon, may be painful - possible cause could be ganglion cyst
  • Sudden, sharp pain, swelling, a popping or snapping sound during the injury - possible cause could be broken finger

Do not worry if you're not sure what the problem is. Follow the advice on this page and see a GP if the pain does not get better in 2 weeks.

Finger pain

There are many causes of finger pain. You can often ease the pain yourself. But see a GP if the pain does not improve.

How you can ease finger pain yourself

If you see a GP about pain in your finger, they'll usually suggest you try these things:

Do:

  • rest your finger when you can
  • put an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) in a towel and place it on your finger for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
  • take paracetamol to ease the pain
  • stop or cut down activities that are causing the pain - for example, typing, using vibrating tools for work, or playing an instrument
  • remove any jewellery on the painful finger
  • strap the painful finger to another finger next to it - put a small piece of cotton wool or gauze between the 2 fingers and use tape to loosely strap them together
  • think about using gadgets or tools to make difficult or painful tasks easier - for example, to open jars or chop vegetables

Don't:

  • do not use ibuprofen in the first 48 hours after an injury
  • do not use heat packs or have hot baths for the first 2 to 3 days after an injury
  • do not lift heavy objects or grip anything too tightly

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • the best painkiller to take
  • splints to support your finger and ease pain - flexible rubber splints are available if you still need to use your finger
  • treatments for common skin problems
  • if you need to see a GP

Find a pharmacy

See a GP if:

  • the pain is severe or stopping you doing normal activities
  • 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
  • you have diabetes - hand problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

What we mean by severe pain:

Severe pain

  • always there and so bad its hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress

Moderate pain

  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress

Mild pain

  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work

Go to A&E if you:

  • have severe pain
  • feel faint, dizzy or sick from the pain
  • heard a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of the injury
  • are not able to move your finger or hold things
  • have a finger that's changed shape or colour, such as blue or white

These might be signs of a broken finger.

Find an A&E department.

What we mean by severe pain:

Severe pain

  • always there and so bad its hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress

Moderate pain

  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress

Mild pain

  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work

Common causes of finger pain

Finger pain is often caused by bruising or injuring your finger.

Your symptoms might also give you an idea of what's causing the pain in your finger.

  • Pain, swelling and bruising, difficult to move finger or grip anything - possible cause could be sprained finger
  • Pain, swelling and stiffness at the base of your finger that lasts a long time, may be hard to move your finger, may have a lump - possible cause could be tendonitis (de Quervain's disease) or arthritis
  • Pain, swelling, cannot straighten the end of your finger, often happens after catching your finger on something - possible cause could be mallet finger
  • Pain or tenderness in your palm at the base of your finger, stiffness, clicking when you move your finger - possible cause could be trigger finger
  • Pain during cold weather or stress, numbness or pins and needles, sometimes the skin changes colour - possible cause could be Raynaud's
  • Sudden, sharp pain, swelling, a popping or snapping sound during the injury - possible cause could be a broken finger

Do not worry if you're not sure what the problem is. Follow the advice on this page and see a GP if the pain does not get better in 2 weeks.

Thumb pain

There are many causes of thumb pain. You can often ease the pain yourself. But see a GP if the pain does not improve.

How you can ease thumb pain yourself

If you see a GP about pain in your thumb, they'll usually suggest you try these things:

Do:

  • rest your thumb when you can
  • put an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) in a towel and place it on your thumb for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
  • take paracetamol to ease the pain
  • take off any jewellery if your thumb looks swollen
  • stop or cut down activities that are cauing the pain 0 for example, typing, using vibrating tools for work, or playing an instrument
  • wear a splint to support your thumb and ease pain, especially at night - you can get these at most pharmacies and supermarkets
  • consider taping something like a pen or lollipop stick to your thumb - this will keep it in place under you can get a splint
  • consider using gadgets or tools to make difficult or painful tasks easier - for example, to open jars or chop vegetables

Don't:

  • do not use ibuprofen in the first 48 hours after an injury
  • do not use heat packs or have hot baths for the first 2 to 3 days after an injury
  • do not lift heavy objects or grip anything too tightly

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • the best painkiller to take
  • the best splint to support your thumb and ease pain - flexible rubber splints are available if you still need to use your thumb
  • treatments for common skin problems
  • if you need to see a GP

Find a pharmacy

See a GP if:

  • the pain is severe or stopping you doing normal activities
  • 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
  • you have diabetes - hand problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

What we mean by severe pain:

Severe pain

  • always there and so bad its hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress

Moderate pain

  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress

Mild pain

  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work

Go to an A&E department if you:

  • have severe pain
  • feel faint, dizzy or sick from the pain
  • heard a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of the injury
  • are not able to move your thumb or hold things
  • have a thumb that's changed shape or colour, such as blue or white

These might be signs of a broken thumb.

Find an A&E department near you.

What we mean by severe pain:

Severe pain

  • always there and so bad its hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress

Moderate pain

  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress

Mild pain

  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work

Common causes of thumb pain

Thumb pain is often caused by bruising or injuring your thumb.

Your symptoms might also give you an idea of what's causing the pain in your thumb.

  • Ppain, swelling, bruising after an injury - possible cause could be sprained thumb
  • Pain, swelling and stiffness at the base of the thumb that lasts a long time, may be hard to move your thumb, may have a lump - possible cause could be tendonitis (de Quervain's disease) or arthritis
  • Aching pain that's worse at night, numbness or pins and needles, a weak thumb or difficulty gripping - possible cause could be carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Pain or tenderness in your palm at the base of your thumb, stiffness, clicking when you move your finger or thumb - possible cause could be trigger thumb
  • Sudden, sharp pain, swelling, a popping or snapping sound during the injury - possible cause could be broken thumb

Do not worry if you're not sure what the problem is. Follow the advice on this page and see a GP if the pain does not get better in 2 weeks.

Pain in the palm of the hand

There are many causes of pain in the palm of your hand. You can often ease the pain yourself. But see a GP if the pain does not improve.

How you can ease palm pain yourself

If you see a GP, they'll usualy suggest you try these things:

Do:

  • rest your hand when you can
  • put an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) in a towel and place it on your palm for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
  • take paracetamol to ease the pain
  • remove any jewellery if your hand is swollen
  • wrap a bandage around your hand to support it

Don't:

  • do not use ibuprofen in the first 48 hours after an injury
  • do not use heat packs or have hot baths for the first 2 to 3 days after an injury

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • the best painkiller to take
  • treatments for common skin problems
  • if you need to see a GP

Find a pharmacy

See a GP if:

  • the pain is stopping you doing normal activities
  • 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
  • you have diabetes - hand problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

What we mean by severe pain:

Severe pain

  • always there and so bad its hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress

Moderate pain

  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress

Mild pain

  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work

Go to an A&E department if you:

  • have severe pain
  • feel faint, dizzy or sick from the pain
  • heard a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of the injury
  • are not able to move your hand or hold things
  • have a hand that's changed shape or colour, such as blue or white

These might be signs of a broken hand.

Find an A&E department near you.

What we mean by severe pain:

Severe pain

  • always there and so bad its hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress

Moderate pain

  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress

Mild pain

  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work

Common causes of pain in the palm of your hand

Pain in the palm of your hand is often caused by bruising or injuring your hand.

Your symptoms might also give you an idea of what's causing the pain in your palm.

  • Aching pain that's worse at night, numbness or pins and needles, a weak thumb or difficulty gripping - possible cause could be carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Pain or tenderness in your palm at the base of your fingers or thumb, stiffness, clicking when you move your finger or thumb - possible cause could be trigger finger
  • Pain, swelling and stiffness that lasts a long time, may be hard to move fingers, may have a lump - possible cause could be arthritis
  • Sharp or burning pain, tingling or numbness, palm feels more or less sensitive to touch or heat - possible cause could be peripheral neuropathy
  • Heat, pain and redness in the palms - possible cause could be erythromelalgia

Do not worry if you're not sure what the problem is. Follow the advice on this page and see a GP if the pain does not get better in 2 weeks.

Pain in the back of the hand

There are many causes of pain in the back of your hand. You can often ease the pain yourself. But see a GP if the pain does not improve.

How you can ease pain in the back of your hand yourself

If you see a GP, they'll usually suggest you try these things:

Do:

  • rest your hand when you can
  • put an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) in a towel and place it on the back of your hand for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
  • take paracetamol to ease the pain
  • take off any jewellery if your hand is swollen
  • wrap a bandage around your hand to support it

Don't:

  • do not use ibuprofen in the first 48 hours after an injury
  • do not use heat packs or have hot baths for the first 2 to 3 days after an injury

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • the best painkiller to take
  • treatments for common skin problems
  • if you need to see a GP

Find a pharmacy

See a GP if:

  • the pain is stopping you doing normal activities
  • 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
  • you have diabetes - hand problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

What we mean by severe pain:

Severe pain

  • always there and so bad its hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress

Moderate pain

  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress

Mild pain

  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work

Go to an A&E department if you:

  • have severe pain
  • feel faint, dizzy or sick from the pain
  • heard a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of the injury
  • are not able to move your hand or hold things
  • have a hand that's changed shape or colour, such as blue or white

These might be signs of a broken hand.

Find an A&E department in your area.

What we mean by severe pain:

Severe pain

  • always there and so bad its hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress

Moderate pain

  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress

Mild pain

  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work

Common causes of pain in the back of your hand

Pain in the back of your hand is often caused by bruising or injuring your hand.

Your symptoms might also give you an idea of what's causing the pain in the back of your hand.

  • Pain, swelling and stiffness that lasts a long time, may be hard to move your fingers, may have a lump - possible cause could be tendonitis or arthritis
  • Sudden, sharp pain, swelling, a popping or snapping sound during the injury - possible cause could be broken bone in the hand
  • Smooth lump near a joint or tendon, may be painful - possible cause could be ganglion cyst
  • Aching pain that's worse at night, numbness or pins and needles, a weak thumb or difficulty gripping - possible cause could be carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Itchy and painful skin, rash - possible cause could be scabies

Do not worry if you're not sure what the problem is. Follow the advice on this page and see a GP if the pain does not get better in 2 weeks.



The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 06/09/2021 14:13:38