Hand pain

Diagnosis of hand pain

The first step to diagnosing hand pain is to complete a detailed physical examination, during which your doctor will discuss the history of your pain, including whether you've experienced injuries leading to your hand pain and whether you have a previous diagnosis of arthritis. 

After examining your hand, your doctor may recommend additional testing to reach a diagnosis. This can include blood tests, x-rays, and joint aspiration to test the joint fluid.

With an accurate diagnosis, you and your doctor can plan the most appropriate treatment or next steps. Visit Dignity Health to find relief from hand pain and other orthopedic conditions. 


Some cases of hand pain resolve with at-home or non-hospital therapies like rest, icing, heat, over-the-counter medications, massage, gentle stretching, and elevation. For chronic conditions caused by overuse, the best thing you can do is minimize motions and actions that provoke pain. You may need to adjust your working environment to do so. 

If taking these steps doesn't relieve your pain, or your hand pain was caused by an injury, you will likely need to seek medical attention. Your doctor may use a variety of treatment methods to address hand pain, based on the results of diagnostic testing. 

These may include splinting or other methods of immobilizing your hand or fingers, reducing (correcting the alignment of) fractures, and pain medications. In some cases, you may need to take additional medication to control the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, treat an infection, or reduce inflammation. Steroid injections are occasionally used to treat hand pain. 

Hand therapy to restore the normal function of your hands is sometimes recommended as well. Hand therapists can give you occupational therapy and other treatments to strengthen your muscles and prevent pain.

In rare cases, injuries or severe arthritis may require surgery. Your doctor at Dignity Health will advise you regarding the best treatment path.


Most cases of hand pain resolve within several weeks of conservative treatment. If your doctor recommends surgery or other invasive procedures, you may need more time to recover fully. Fractures and other traumatic injuries may take two months to heal. 

In the future, you can reduce your chances of reinjury by avoiding repetitive activities, using proper form, and making sure to rest at the first sign of pain. 

When to see a doctor for hand or finger pain 

Experiencing a minor injury to the hands is very common, and most injuries will get better on their own with time and at-home care like rest, icing, and elevation.

You should see your primary care doctor or an orthopedist if your hand pain persists, is severe, or starts to affect your quality of life. Injuries like fractures and dislocations always require treatment to prevent loss of range of motion and arthritis, as well as to ensure you heal properly.

You should seek care right away if you have any of the following symptoms with your hand pain:

  • Change in color or sensation of your hand or fingers after exposure to cold temperatures
  • High fever
  • Inability to move your finger, wrist, or arm
  • Red, warm, and tender skin, especially with a red streak up the arm
  • Serious burn
  • Uncontrolled bleeding or deep wound

Visible deformity of the hand, wrist, or a finger

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.