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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 about pain in the back of your hand, 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) wrapped 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

  • wear a splint to support your hand and ease pain, especially at night – you can get these at most pharmacies and supermarkets

  • gently exercise your hand and fingers to help ease pain and stiffness

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

A pharmacist can help with hand pain

You can ask a pharmacist about:

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

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • pain in the back of your hand 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 and hand pain – hand problems can be more serious if you have diabetes
Information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19

Immediate action required: Go to an urgent treatment centre or A&E if you:

  • have severe hand 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 lost the feeling in part or all of your hand
  • have a hand that's changed shape or colour

These might be signs of a broken hand.

What we mean by severe pain
Severe pain:
  • always there and so bad it's 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 daily activities

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.

Common causes of pain in the back of the hand.
Symptoms Possible cause
Pain, swelling and stiffness that lasts a long time, may be hard to move your fingers, may have a lump Tendonitis or arthritis
Sudden, sharp pain, swelling, a popping or snapping sound during the injury Broken bone in the hand
Smooth lump near a joint or tendon, may be painful Ganglion cyst
Aching pain that's worse at night, numbness or pins and needles, a weak thumb or difficulty gripping Carpal tunnel syndrome
Itchy and painful skin, rash Scabies
Information:

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.

Page last reviewed: 22 March 2022
Next review due: 22 March 2025