NHS website

Hand pain

Hand pain can be caused by anything from a trapped nerve to an underlying disease such as arthritis.

18 January 2019


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

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 ↗.

Other ways to get help

Go to an urgent treatment centre

Urgent treatment centres are places you can go if you need to see someone now.

They're also called walk-in centres or minor injuries units.

You may be seen quicker than you would at A&E.

Find an urgent treatment centre ↗

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 ↗