Hand pain

You can ease hand pain with simple steps at home. See a GP if the pain does not go away.

How to ease hand pain yourself

Try these things first:

  • avoid activities that cause pain, if possible
  • use an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) on the painful area for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen

If you have pain after an injury, do not take ibuprofen for the first 48 hours, as it may slow down healing.

A pharmacist can help with hand pain

A pharmacist can offer practical advice and may suggest:

  • the best painkiller – this may be tablets, or a cream or gel you rub on the skin
  • things you can buy to help, like cold packs and splints
  • seeing a GP, if you need to

See a GP if:

  • you see no improvement after treatment at home
  • the pain gets worse
  • the pain keeps coming back

Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if:

  • you have extreme pain after an injury
  • your wrist or finger are a funny shape
  • there was a snap or grinding noise at the time of injury
  • you have difficulty moving the hand, wrist or fingers

These are signs of a broken bone.

111 will tell you what to do. They can tell you the right place to get help if you need to see someone.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

Common causes of hand pain

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

But do not self-diagnose – see a GP if you're worried.

Symptoms Possible cause
Tingling and numbness in the thumb side of the hand and fingers carpal tunnel syndrome
Pain, tenderness and swelling in the wrist or thumb sprain and strain, osteoarthritis or tendonitis
Throbbing, tingling, numbness or cramp in the wrists and hands repetitive strain injury (RSI) or tendonitis
Swelling and stiffness in the joints of the wrist, hand or near the fingernails osteoarthritis
Stiffness, warmth and swelling (especially early in the morning) in the joints of the knuckles, wrists or fingers rheumatoid arthritis
A soft, round lump or swelling at the back of the wrist or between the fingers ganglion
Pain moving your thumb, and swelling and creaking near the base of your thumb tendonitis or arthritis

Page last reviewed: 02/08/2017
Next review due: 02/08/2020