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Hand Pain Causes

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In simple fractures, the broken bone is aligned and stable. In more complex fractures, the break may cause the bone to shift or become displaced, making treatment more difficult. In comminuted fractures, bones are broken in more than one place. Compound fractures are fractures in which the broken bone breaks through the skin.

How a fracture is treated depends on the type of the break. Casts or splints are often used for simple breaks. Pins, wires, or plates may be needed to treat more complicated fractures. Surgery might also be necessary to fully set the broken bone.

Arthritis. This is a leading source of hand pain. Arthritis causes joints to lose the cartilage that allows them to move smoothly against each other. As the cartilage deteriorates, painful, sometimes debilitating swelling begins to occur.

In the hand, the areas where this most often occurs are the:

  • Base of the thumb
  • Middle joint of one or more fingers
  • End joint, which is closest to the finger tip

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It causes progressive degeneration of cartilage.

Osteoarthritis can occur with aging or following an injury, such as a fracture or dislocation. When it affects the hand, it causes:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness

Bony nodules may also form at the middle or end joints of the fingers. Osteoarthritis can also cause deep, aching pain at the base of the thumb. The hand may also become weaker, making everyday activities difficult.

Treatment depends on the severity of the pain and disability. Treatment includes:

  • Anti-inflammatory or analgesic painkillers
  • Splints for the fingers or wrist
  • Heat
  • Physical therapy

If these treatments do not provide relief, surgery may be recommended.

Trigger Finger. This is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis. It causes fingers or the thumb to lock in a bent position. It can be painful, especially when bending or straightening the affected finger or thumb.

The condition develops when the flexor tendons, which control the movements of the fingers and thumb, become irritated. This can cause them to thicken within the tendon sheath that surrounds the flexor tendons.

Nodules may also form on the affected tendons. And the sheath itself may thicken as well.

All of this prevents the smooth movement of the tendons. Eventually, the tendon may become stuck when you try to straighten a bent finger or thumb. You may also feel a catching sensation when the finger or thumb locks in place, and then a pop as the tendon is released.

It is not known what causes trigger finger. People at higher risk include those who have:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Gout
  • Diabetes

Women get the condition more often than men do. And trigger finger is more common in adults between ages 40 and 60.

Rest, sometimes while wearing a splint, may resolve the problem. Over-the-counter pain medications can ease the pain. Corticosteroid injections often can help relieve symptoms. Surgery may be recommended if other treatments fail.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 14, 2014
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