Hand Pain

Mr Mike Hayton
FRCS(Trauma and Orth) FFSEM (UK)
Consultant Orthopaedic Hand Surgeon

Types of Hand Pain & Symptoms

Pain in the hand is a very common symptom reported by patients of all ages. Pain covers a variety of pathological processes, ranging from nerve entrapment through to wear and tear osteoarthritis.

When assessing hand pain in a patient Mike asks the patient to try to describe the quality of the pain.
There are two particularly common types of pain described by patients in clinic.
A burning sensation, associated with decreased feeling, may well be related to nerve problems.

If pins and needles are present in a particular area of the hand, such as the thumb, index and middle finger, it may suggest compression of the median nerve and results in a condition known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome has been brought on as a result of this compression.
If the pins and needles and burning type hand pain are in the little finger it may suggest compression of the ulnar nerve, either at the elbow (Cubital Tunnel Syndrome) or at the wrist (Guyon's canal compression).

Aching type hand pain, particularly that is made worse on use, may suggest osteoarthritis (OA). This background, dull ache type of pain is usually made worse on movement of the affected joint. OA in the hand is very common. It typically occurs at the base of the thumb, particularly in women, but can also occur in men.

OA can also affect the finger tip joints. In this pathological process, the normal articular cartilage, which is the slippery lining of the joint, is worn away. This results in bone rubbing on bone, in turn causing pain. Along with pain, patients with OA in the hand may also notice stiffness and a decreased range of movement.

As well as the dull ache, patients may also experience sharp exacerbations when performing particular activities, which may represent particular areas of the joint rubbing against each other.

Non traumatic hand pain usually occurs over a gradual onset, over a period of weeks or months. Traumatic pain can usually b brought on instantly or within a few hours, i.e. as a result of a direct blow.