Do you have an unexplained hand pain or numbness? We’re diving into what the causes could be so you can find the best treatments.
Did you know that over one-quarter of all of your body’s bones are found in your hands? Each of your hands has twenty-seven bones, making a combined total of fifty-four.
In fact, your hands and feet altogether have over half of the two hundred six bones found in your entire body.
This is why hand pain should be taken very seriously.
Two Types of Hand Pain
In comparison to the long bones in your arms or legs, each bone in your hand is small. This small size in conjunction with the flexible joints between each bone is what gives your hand such remarkable range of motion.
With all the joints, muscles, nerves, and ligaments connecting and controlling the motion of your hands, there is also a remarkable range of opportunities for something to go wrong. When your hands ache, it may be due to an acute condition or something more lasting.
Identifying the cause can help you to better treat the pain.
When your hand pain is caused by injury or trauma, it should be short-lived.
Because your hands are in almost constant use, it is not unusual for you to experience a temporary trauma or injury that causes you hand pain. The sudden but temporary conditions are classified as acute.
For example, you might have felt joint pain for several days after jamming your finger against a desk or wall. Small cuts or torn nails can make your fingers ache.
Bruises or broken bones are never pleasant but should heal with proper treatment.
To be categorized as chronic, your pain must last for more than three months. Unlike acute pain that is usually triggered by an injury, chronic pain lasts beyond an initial injury or other cause.
However, just because you are experiencing persistent hand pain, that doesn’t mean it will last forever.
Behavioral changes, physical therapy, bracing and other treatments can all help to alleviate your pain.
What Causes Non-Injury Related Hand Pain?
Most chronic hand pain is the result of behavior or an underlying condition. Some acute conditions may also be triggered by a non-injury event. Environmental factors can exacerbate hand pain resulting from either an acute or chronic condition.
Overuse, repetitive strain and stress injuries are all types of musculoskeletal disorders. You have probably heard of these conditions by more common names such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or tennis elbow.
Less well-known conditions include trigger finger and DeQuervain’s disease.
Your bones and muscles are part of your musculoskeletal system, but so are all the tissues and organs that support those two parts. Nerves, blood vessels, tendons, and ligaments are all important components of your body’s structure. When one of those parts is strained, torn or overworked, you can start to feel pain.
For example, typing at a keyboard that is at the wrong height can cause your wrists to bend at an awkward angle. In turn, this angled position can strain the tendons in your wrist.
As the tendons become torn or strained, they become inflamed and painful.
Similarly, the repetitive motion of swinging a golf club or tennis racket can pinch nerves in the shoulder or elbow leading to pain, numbness or tingling in your hand.
Overuse can cause tendon or nerve damage. In particular, your ulnar nerve must pass through a narrow tunnel at your elbow, leaving it susceptible to damage if you overwork your elbow joint.
This condition, known as cubital tunnel syndrome, is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome which occurs in the wrist.
Exposure to constant vibration, such as you might experience while using power tools or operating heavy machinery can cause chronic pain in your hand or fingers, too.
Diseases and other conditions
Many medical conditions may cause or are characterized by hand pain. Among these, one of the leading causes of chronic pain among adults is arthritis.
Arthritis can take on many different forms from infectious to psoriatic. Arthritis causes the joints of your body to become inflamed and painful.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most commonly diagnosed forms of arthritis. This condition can affect any of the joints in your body.
However, because you use your hands so often, the pain in these joints is more noticeable. Performing repetitive tasks with your hands, such as sewing or typing may make the pain worse.
Rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases such as Lupus cause your joints to become inflamed and painful, too. Autoimmune diseases cause your body’s immune system to malfunction, targeting healthy tissue–including your joints–for attack.
Another condition, this one causing inflammation of your muscles can also cause chronic hand pain. Dermatomyositis causes joint and muscle pain. The disease may also cause the skin of your hands to become sore and cracked.
Yet another condition that affects the skin of your hands is sclerodactyly. This disease is a form of scleroderma. Sclerodactyly causes the skin on your fingers to thicken, making movement difficult.
It may come as a surprise, but pain and tingling in your hands may be the sign of a heart attack. Harvard Health Publications reports that in a survey of 500 women who survived heart attacks, 22% reported feeling their hands or arms tingling in the 12 months before the attack.
Finally, ganglion cysts on your hand or wrist may be a cause of pain in some individuals. These cysts are fluid-filled and may change in size or disappear without treatment.
Ganglion cysts are usually benign and do not always cause pain. But, depending on the location of your cysts it can be painful and interfere with your range of motion.
Tips Managing Hand Pain
As we mentioned, the first step to getting a handle on your pain is identifying its cause. Once you know why you’re having pain, you can begin exploring your treatment options.
Here at BridgeCare, we are dedicated to helping you find treatments that address your pain and limit your need for invasive surgeries or powerful pain medications.
Sometimes a combination of behavior and lifestyle changes, diet and physical therapy can free you from you chronic hand pain. In other situations, you may need to look deeper and treat an underlying disease.
If you have questions about a specific type of treatment, please use our library of articles to help you locate the information you need to make the best decision for your body.