Hand painOverview

You can ease hand pain with simple steps at home. See a GP if the pain doesn't 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, don't 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

Go to a minor injuries unit or A&E 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.

Find a minor injuries unit

Common causes of hand pain

Your symptoms might give you an idea of what's causing your hand pain. But don't 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 finger nails 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: 01/08/2017
Next review due: 01/08/2020