Wrist, hand and finger problems

Wrist, hand and finger problems can cause a range of symptoms including pain, swelling, stiffness, pins and needles and numbness.

In many cases, new or flare-up of long-standing wrist, hand and finger problems should begin to settle within 6 weeks without the need to see a healthcare professional.

When to seek help

Speak to a healthcare professional 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

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 age-related changes 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 is 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 can:

  • 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
  • prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • help you aim for a healthy body weight

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

Exercises to help with wrist, hand and finger problems

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

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

Work

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.

Help and support

If your wrist, or hand, finger or thumb problem hasn’t improved within 6 weeks of following this advice, it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional about your symptoms.