Wrist, hand and finger problems

Wrist, hand and finger problems can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • stiffness
  • pins and needles
  • numbness

You don't normally need to see a healthcare professional. New onset or flare-up of a longstanding wrist, hand and finger problem should begin to settle within 6 weeks.

What causes wrist, hand and finger problems?

Problems with the wrist, hand, and fingers are common and can be caused by simple things like carrying out repetitive tasks or an injury during sport or a fall.

As you get older, normal wear and tear can cause your problem to flare-up now and again, often for no reason.

Can this cause problems anywhere else?

You may feel pain and stiffness in your forearm. This should improve as your problem gets better.

Self-help

Keeping your wrist, fingers and thumb moving's an essential part of your treatment and recovery. Keeping active's the single best thing you can do for your general health.

Being physically active throughout your recovery can:

  • prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • maintain your current levels of fitness – even if you have to modify what you normally do, any activity is better than none
  • keep your other muscles and joints strong and flexible
  • help you aim for a healthy body weight

It's recommended you stay at or return to work as quickly as possible during your recovery. You don't need to be pain and symptom-free to return to work.

More about keeping active

Pain treatments

Pain medication can help to reduce the pain and help you move more comfortably, which can help your recovery.

Speak to your community pharmacist or other healthcare professional about taking medication or other methods of pain relief​. It's important to take medication regularly.

More about taking painkillers

Resting or moving?

Within the first 24 to 48 hours after a wrist, hand or finger/thumb problem developing you should try to:

  • rest your wrist, hand or finger/thumb but avoid long spells of not moving at all
  • move your wrist, hand or finger/thumb gently for 10 to 20 seconds every hour when you're awake

After 48 hours:

  • Try to use your arm more - exercise really helps you hand
  • Do whatever you normally would and stay at, or return to work - this is important and is the best way to get better

Avoid sports or heavy lifting until you have less discomfort and good movement. Remember to warm up fully before you start sporting activities.

When to speak to a health professional

Speak to your GP as soon as possible if:

  • your wrist or fingers are misshapen following an injury
  • you can't move your wrist, hand or fingers at all
  • you develop pain and stiffness in the small joints in your hand in the mornings that takes more than 30 minutes to settle

Help and support

If, after following the above advice, your wrist, or hand, finger or thumb problem hasn't improved within 6 weeks a referral to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist may be of benefit.

If available in your health board area, the Musculoskeletal (MSK) Helpline can refer you to a healthcare professional if you need it.