Hand or wrist pain can be a real nuisance. Because of the frequent use of these body parts, a significant portion of daily movements can result in pain and serve as a constant reminder of one’s condition. This situation can be made even worse when the very activities responsible for the pain—like using vibrating tools or assembly-line work—are part of your occupation and therefore cannot be avoided.
As a result, people who are impaired by hand or wrist pain may not be able to perform their job as well as they normally do, which can lead to further personal and economic consequences. Similarly, athletes and active people who are bogged down by pain will often experience frustrating repercussions that interfere with their livelihood and enjoyment of life. But regardless of its cause, duration, or intensity, most people with hand or wrist pain want the same thing: immediate and lasting relief so they can get back to living their lives.
If you’re dealing with hand or wrist pain, whether it’s from a finger sprain, wrist tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or some other cause, there are a number of steps you can take right now to reduce it. Most of these suggestions can be completed on your own at home, but it’s always best to talk to your doctor or therapist for additional guidance and before trying anything new. For immediate pain relief, we recommend:
- Exercises: moving your hands and wrists in specific ways can help improve their strength and flexibility, which will in turn alleviate pain and other symptoms; they should be done slowly and deliberately, and if you feel any numbness or pain, stop and contact your doctor
- Wrist supination/pronation: stand or sit with your arm at your side with the elbow bent to 90° and palm facing down; then rotate your forearm, so that your palm faces up and then down
- Thumb flexion/extension: begin with your thumb positioned outward, then move it across the palm and back to the starting position
- Wrist ulnar/radial deviation: support your forearm on a table on a rolled-up towel for padding or on your knee, with your thumb upward, then move the wrist up and down through its full range of motion
- For more exercises, click here
- Night splints (for carpal tunnel syndrome): symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are often worse at night because the hand is more likely to bend while you’re sleeping; a night splint holds the wrist in a neutral position, which prevents it from bending too much and can improve symptoms in the process; ask your doctor for more information and if a splint is right for you
- Hot and cold therapy: heat is good for increasing blood flow, which can accelerate the healing process in inflamed or damaged areas, while cold therapy is helpful for reducing swelling, pain, and other bothersome symptoms; some patients benefit from alternating between hot and cold therapy throughout the day
- Avoid over-stressing your joints: if your pain is from a repetitive strain injury like carpal tunnel syndrome, try to find ways to modify your habits in order to avoid putting too much stress on the hands and wrists; in particular, improve your posture and body positioning at your job, take frequent breaks, and rotate between various tasks as often as you can if it’s allowed
- Limit your phone time: the risk for certain hand conditions—like De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which is inflammation of a sheath that covers the tendons within the wrist—is actually higher in those who use their phones excessively; so if you spend several hours on your phone every day and are dealing with pain, consider reducing your screen time to give your hands and wrists a break