Content Editor

Advice and information for patients
The wrist and hand is a complicated, complex arrangement of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves which allows us to do all the incredible things our hands can do!  The hands are an extraordinary part of our body and allow us an ability to perform multiple different activities with incredible dexterity and skill. Unfortunately, things can go wrong and there are a variety of conditions that can affect the hand.  These may involve the joints, the bones and the surrounding soft tissues.

Hand and wrist pain
Hand and wrist pain can often result from a simple strain or sprain.  "Strains" are injuries to muscles or tendons and "sprains" are injuries to ligaments. Such 'soft tissue injuries' may be caused by a specific injury (e.g. falling onto an outstretched hand) or may gradually build up over time.  The wrist and hand can sometimes become painful during activities such as gripping, pinching and lifting. 

How can I help myself to get better?
Minor injuries, such as mild sprains and strains, can often be initially treated at home using a protection, rest, ice regime for the first two or three days after onset:
  • Protection – protect the affected area from further injury; for example, avoid the painful activities that may have caused the injury if this is easily traced.  However do not stop moving altogether as this will likely cause your shoulder to stiffen up.
  • Rest – rest the wrist/hand for two or three days only.  Resting the wrist/hand for a short time may help any inflammation or discomfort to settle.  However resting beyond two to three days may lead to the surrounding muscles becoming weaker which will not be helpful in the longer term.
  • Ice – should you notice any swelling or tenderness around the joint, apply an ice pack to the affected area for about 15 minutes every two to three hours.  This may help to reduce the swelling and give  some pain relief.  A bag of frozen peas, or similar, will work equally as well. 
    • NB  please be sure to wrap the ice pack / frozen peas in a moist towel or similar to avoid direct contact with the skin.
Contrary to many people's beliefs, it is good to stay active when you have pain in your soft tissues or joints.  Keeping your wrist, hand and fingers moving can be important to stop structures stiffening up:
  • Pain relief  through  medication may be useful – however it is essential that prior to using pain-relieving medication that you check with either your GP or pharmacist that you are OK to use them - even if they are "over-the-counter" type medications such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or creams that you can buy at the chemist.
When should I see my doctor or physiotherapist?
Many episodes of wrist/hand pain get better or improve on its own, or with the self-management approaches as discussed above.
However you should seek medical advice for the following:   
  • After a sudden traumatic injury such as a fall onto a hard surface, a high impact injury or a sudden twisting injury.
  • If the pain is severe or the wrist/hand/finger is hot, red or very swollen
  • If you have tingling or numbness down the hand/arm
  • If you develop acute wrist/hand pain at the same time as feeling unwell or if you develop a fever similarly to the onset of your wrist/hand pain, it is possible you may have developed and infection of the joint, so you should see your doctor immediately/the same day.  If  you  are  unable to  see your  doctor  you  may  need to  attend at your local Walk in Centre or A+E.
The Healthy Living Teams in provide tailored support and guidance to local people who would like to be more physically active.  To find out more about the programmes available, please click on the link below for your Borough: