What are Common Causes of Hand and Arm Pain?

B. Miller

Hand and arm pain can be caused by an injury, repetitive motion as through typing or clicking a mouse, or overworking the muscles through exercise. Conditions such as gout or arthritis might also cause hand and arm pain, causing joints to become inflamed, swollen and very painful. An infection that occurs due to a laceration on the skin can also be painful, and will require treatment with antibiotics to be sure it does not spread throughout the body, which can be deadly. Identifying the cause of the pain as soon as possible will make it much easier to treat.

Aloe vera gel can be used to treat minor burns.
Aloe vera gel can be used to treat minor burns.

Some of the most common sources of hand and arm pain are through repetitive motion activities. Using a computer is a leading cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, which may even require surgery to fix in the wrist. Tennis elbow, or tendinitis, is another example of an injury caused by repetitive motion that is very painful. These injuries can sometimes be prevented by stretching and strengthening the hand and arm muscles; for example, pressing the hands together as if in a "prayer" position can help to stretch the tendons in the wrist. Generally, if the muscles are sore due to overworking them through regular exercise, an over the counter pain reliever can help to relieve hand and arm pain, while the muscles are allowed to rest for a few days in order to heal.

A model of a human hand.
A model of a human hand.

Actual injuries due to trauma may obviously cause hand and arm pain. A broken bone or a sprain can both be extremely painful, and will typically cause redness and swelling. If the break is severe, the hand or arm might actually look bent or deformed, especially in a compound fracture, in which the bone comes through the skin. Such injuries will typically require emergency medical treatment unless the sprain is very minor. It is best to keep the arm immobilized and put ice on it in order to keep the pain and swelling down as much as possible.

A broken arm may cause arm pain.
A broken arm may cause arm pain.

Lacerations, burns, or other superficial damage to the skin can also be very unpleasant. Generally these can be treated at home, unless the laceration is so deep or wide that it requires stitches. Cleansing the area with soap and water, and applying antibacterial cream and a bandage can help to prevent infection. Aloe vera gel applied to a mild burn can also help relieve the pain. Any laceration or burn with red streaks coming off it has become infected, and is spreading through the body, which will require prompt medical treatment.

Injury due to trauma may cause hand and arm pain.
Injury due to trauma may cause hand and arm pain.
Typing on a keyboard can be hard on the wrists, possibly aggravating carpal tunnel problems.
Typing on a keyboard can be hard on the wrists, possibly aggravating carpal tunnel problems.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common cause of hand pain.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common cause of hand pain.
Joint pain in the hands may be a sign of arthritis.
Joint pain in the hands may be a sign of arthritis.
Tennis elbow is a condition resulting from the overuse of the wrist and forearm.
Tennis elbow is a condition resulting from the overuse of the wrist and forearm.
Infections can cause hand and arm pain.
Infections can cause hand and arm pain.

Discussion Comments

fBoyle

Can a neck injury cause hand and arm pain?

I have a hernia in my neck. I had a car accident five years ago and that's how it happened. I went to physical therapy for a while which helped a lot. I still occasionally have neck pain but I overcome it with exercises and pain relievers.

Lately though, I have a different kind of neck pain that resonates down into my arm and even my hand. I think it might be nerve pain.

Could the hernia be applying pressure on nerves in my neck? I think the same nerves travel down through the arm and hand right? Could this be the cause of pain in my left hand and arm?

bear78

@SarahGen-- Yes, repetitive movements are very bad for muscles and tendons. It tires them out, strains them and causes them to get inflamed. I have tendinitis in my arm and I have the same symptoms. The only treatment is rest.

SarahGen
I frequently have arm and hand pain. My doctor said that it's due to overuse, which makes sense because I work on a computer all day.

I don't realize that I'm overusing my hands, but in the evening, when I sit down to rest, my hands and forearm starts aching. I also can't bend my wrist forward. I'm scared that I'm going to get carpal tunnel syndrome.

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