What can cause pain in the palm of the hand?

Pain in the palm of the hand can affect a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks. Causes can include injuries, infections, and conditions that affect the nerves, blood vessels, or tissues inside the hands.

In this article, we describe some possible causes of pain in the palm of the hand, along with other symptoms and treatment options. We also look into general treatment tips and when to see a doctor.

Injuries

Overusing the hand can cause pain in the palm.

Injuries to the hand are a common cause of pain and other types of discomfort, particularly in people who regularly use heavy equipment, play sports, or work in hazardous environments.

Injuries can damage key areas of the hand, including nerves, tendons, and muscles.

Examples of injuries that may lead to pain in the palm include:

knocks, blows, and forceful impacts, such as from dropping something heavy on the hand

falling on the hand

burns, such as from a cooking injury

cuts to the palm

insect bites or stings

overusing or overextending the hand, such as during sports or very repetitive tasks

Other symptoms of a hand injury can include bruising, swelling, and stiffness. More severe injuries can result in damage to the structures and tissues inside the hand and wrist, such as the:

joints

bones

tendons

ligaments

nerves

blood vessels

Treatment

A person can often treat mild hand injuries at home, such as by:

resting the hand as much as possible

applying ice to the area for up to 20 minutes at a time

taking over-the-counter pain relievers

People with more severe injuries, such as fractures or dislocations, should seek prompt medical attention. Also, see a doctor for hand injuries that get worse or do not seem to be getting better.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

When a person has carpal tunnel syndrome, this tunnel in the wrist becomes compressed or inflamed, placing pressure on the median nerve and tendons that run through it.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can include:

pain in the wrist, palm, and fingers

numbness or a tingling sensation in the palm and fingers

weakness in the hand or a reduced ability to grip objects

Symptoms often begin gradually and may be worse at night or when a person first wakes up.

Risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome can include:

hand and wrist injuries that cause swelling

regularly performing repetitive tasks with the hands

a frequent use of vibrating hand tools

pregnancy

diabetes

a family history of carpal tunnel syndrome

Treatment

Nonsurgical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome can include:

wearing a brace or splint

avoiding or adjusting activities that may aggravate symptoms

taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen

receiving prescription medications, such as steroid or lidocaine injections

trying yoga, acupuncture, or chiropractic therapies

For people with severe or difficult-to-treat symptoms, a doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to reduce pressure on the median nerve.

Infection

A fever or general feeling of being unwell are potential symptoms of an infection.

If a cut or wound on the palm of the hand becomes infected, it can lead to pain and swelling.

Other symptoms of an infected cut or wound can include:

pus or drainage

redness around the area

warmth in the surrounding skin

a fever or generally feeling unwell

Treatment

It is essential for people with symptoms of a wound infection to seek medical treatment. An infection can lead to serious complications, such as cellulitis, abscesses, and sepsis.

Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics for people with an infected cut or wound. If the infection is significant, a doctor may need to surgically drain the affected area.

Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy typically refers to conditions that affect nerves in the body’s extremities, such as the hands and feet.

In the hands and fingers, peripheral neuropathy can cause:

severe pain, which may result from even a light touch

a burning or tingling sensation

numbness or a loss of sensation

difficulty moving or using the hand, such as when grasping objects

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimate that more than 20 million people in the United States have some type of peripheral neuropathy.

Diabetes and physical injuries are common causes of peripheral neuropathy. Other causes can include:

autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus

conditions that decrease oxygen supply to the peripheral nerves, such as atherosclerosis and vasculitis

nutritional imbalances, such as vitamin B-12 deficiency

infections that attack nerve tissues

excessive alcohol intake

Treatment for peripheral neuropathy usually begins with addressing the underlying cause. For example, managing blood sugar levels may help reduce the effects of peripheral neuropathy in people with diabetes.

Doctors may also prescribe medications to help relieve pain, such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and skin creams.

What is peripheral neuropathy?
One possible cause of hand pain is peripheral neuropathy. Learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of this condition here.
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Vasculitis

Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels, and it can affect many parts of the body. There are numerous types of vasculitis and symptoms can vary considerably from person to person.

When vasculitis affects the hands, it may cause:

shooting pains

numbness, or a loss of feeling

tingling sensations

a loss of strength

Doctors do not fully understand what causes vasculitis. However, autoimmune disorders, infections, or certain blood cancers can sometimes trigger this condition.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the type of vasculitis and the location and severity of a person’s symptoms.

However, it often involves the use of anti-inflammatory medications, such as steroids. For more severe vasculitis, doctors may recommend cytotoxic drugs, such as azathioprine, methotrexate, or cyclophosphamide.

Palmar fasciitis

A doctor may recommend pain relievers to treat palmar fasciitis.

Palmar fasciitis is a rare medical condition that causes inflammation of the palmar fascia, a thickened band of tissue that connects the palm to the fingers.

The inflammation can make it difficult or painful when a person tries to straighten their fingers.

Palmar fasciitis usually affects both hands and is more likely to occur in people with polyarthritis.

Another condition affecting the palmar fascia is Dupuytren’s contracture.

Treatment

Treatment options for palmar fasciitis include:

deep tissue massages

pain relievers

steroid therapy to relieve inflammation

A doctor may also recommend treating any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to palmar fasciitis.

General treatment

People can often treat hand pain at home by:

resting or immobilizing the hand, for example with a brace or splint

applying an ice pack to the affected area for up to 20 minutes at a time

taking over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and inflammation

performing gentle stretching and strengthening exercises, such as grasping an exercise ball

massaging the hands to promote circulation and relieve muscle stiffness

When to see a doctor

When pain is severe, or it gets worse or does not respond to home treatments, see a doctor.

Seek prompt medical attention for:

severe hand pain

severe hand swelling

suspected dislocations or fractures in the hand or finger

severe wounds or bleeding that will not stop

Summary

Pain in the palm often results from a minor injury or from overusing the hand.

However, hand pain can sometimes also be the result of an underlying issue, such as an infection, inflammation, or peripheral neuropathy.

If hand pain gets worse or does not get better with home treatments, see a doctor. Anyone who suspects that they have an infected wound or a broken or dislocated bone should seek prompt medical attention.

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