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Hand & Wrist Pain

Pain of the hand and wrist is extremely common. The small, intricate components that make up the hands and wrists are susceptible to injury because of their size. Plus, heavy usage puts them both under a good deal of stress and can lead to hand and wrist conditions.

Often times hand and wrist pain can be treated at home with rest, ice or over-the-counter pain medication, but if your pain is more severe, the orthopedic specialists at Banner Health are here to help.

What Causes Hand and Wrist Pain?

The cause of hand and wrist pain can be from a number of factors, including injury, but the rise in popularity of the smartphone and our constant use of tablets, keyboards and video game controllers is certainly a factor in diagnosis.

Common Hand and Wrist Conditions

There are a number of different causes and types of hand and wrist pain. Pain can originate in different areas of the complex skeletal structure of the hand and wrist, including:

  • Bones
  • Joints
  • Soft tissue
  • Tendons
  • Nerves

Pain in the hand and wrist can occur from:

  • Inflammation
  • Nerve damage
  • Repetitive motion and overuse
  • Sprains or fractures
  • Chronic health conditions

More severe pain and complications could be the result of a condition causing problems with the hand and wrist.


Arthritis is swelling and tenderness of the joints. This inflammation causes pain and stiffness in the joints that can worsen with age. This pain and stiffness can often lead to an inability to properly move the fingers, hand and wrist. The most common types of arthritis are:

Osteoarthritis – Damage and wear to the hard, slippery cartilage that covers the end of bones that form a joint.

Rheumatoid Arthritis – A disease where the autoimmune system attacks the lining of joints, causing damage and pain.

Symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Dull or sharp pain in the joints, fingers and wrist
  • Pain after heavy usage (especially repetitive movement)
  • Pain and stiffness in the morning
  • Swelling or unnatural heat in the joints
  • Feeling or sounds of grinding, or looseness of the joints

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that causes hand or wrist pain, often brought on from excessive typing. The root cause of carpel tunnel syndrome is somewhat unknown but the condition can be aggravated by overuse of the fingers, hands and wrists.

Learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome.

There are also several other, less common conditions that could be causing pain in the hands and wrists, including:

  • De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
  • Ganglion cysts
  • Gout
  • Lupus
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Tendonitis
  • Traumatic injury

Hand and Wrist Injuries

Of course, hand and wrist pain could be the result of a recent or previous injury. Chronic pain can develop from an untreated or poorly managed injury. Common injuries to the hand and wrist include:

  • Sprain or strain, damage to ligaments and soft tissue
  • Thumb sprain
  • Wrist sprain
  • Injury of contusion to bones in the hand and wrist
  • Hand and wrist fractures
  • Dislocation of a joint, commonly a dislocated finger

Hand and Wrist Treatment

Most often, hand and wrist pain is from a common cause or injury and can be treated with rest, ice and over-the-counter pain and inflammation medication.

Using a splint or brace may be useful to allow the area in pain to rest. They can ease pain, inflammation and promote healing.

Hand and Wrist Surgery

Some hand and wrist pain may require a surgical procedure. Weather the pain is caused by a degenerative condition such as arthritis, or the result of an injury there are procedures that can treat pain and discomfort. Here are some common orthopedic surgical procedures used to treat hand and wrist problems:

Joint Denervation – A minimally invasive procedure that removes the nerves that are transmitting pain signals from your joint to the brain. 

Joint Surgery for Arthritis – A surgical replacement or stabilization of joints using plastic or metal components.

Nerve Compression Surgery – A surgical decompression of a nerve that is causing pain, numbness or tingling.

Hand/Wrist Fracture or Dislocation Repair – A procedure that may include implanting wires, screws or plates to stabilize pieces of bone to allow for proper healing.

Carpal Tunnel Release – Surgery that is performed by cutting through the carpal ligament to create more space for the median nerve and tendons.

Trigger Finger Release – A procedure to release the pressure of compression on a tendon that is causing pain and stiffness.

Wrist Fusion – A removal of the wrist joint, and a fusion of the major arm bone with the small bones in the wrist using a metal plate.

Hand and Wrist Surgery Recovery

It generally takes up to six to eight weeks to fully recover from surgical procedures of the hand and wrist. Timetables may vary depending on the condition, injury severity and other factors. Here are some tips to aid in the recovery of a surgical procedure.

  • Begin mobilizing fingers as soon as possible to reduce stiffness
  • Use ice to reduce inflammation following the procedure
  • Attend physical therapy
  • Follow all surgeon recommendations

The orthopedic experts at Banner Health are dedicated to finding the cause of your hand or wrist problem and tailoring a treatment plan for the best possible outcome.

We can often help to relieve your pain with physical therapy, medication, splints or other non-invasive treatments. If a surgical procedure is needed, we have experienced orthopedic surgeons skilled in the most advanced treatment options.