Hand and Wrist Pain

The expression “It’s all in the wrists” has more truth than we may think. Your hands and wrists don’t take a break. Whether you’re typing at work, scrolling through social media or even picking up a sheet to make the bed, your wrists and hands are constantly in motion. 

So, when something is causing pain and other symptoms to disrupt your normal wrist and hand movement, the consequences are almost immediately evident. Suddenly, you have a hard time doing the simple things you used to, like washing dishes, walking the dog, picking up your kids or painting (or golfing or playing NFL football or whatever it is that you do casually on the weekends). 

Fortunately, hand and wrist pain can often be treated with noninvasive therapies like joint mobilization, therapeutic exercises and other modalities performed by a physical therapist. We’ll walk you through some of the symptoms, causes, and treatments commonly associated with hand and wrist pain, and we’ll also leave you with some warning signs to know when it’s time to move past at-home treatments and schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. 

Symptoms of Hand and Wrist Pain

Because of the constant movement of the hands and wrists, it’s sometimes difficult to tell when something is a small twinge and when something is actually wrong. Typically, when there is an underlying condition that is causing your pain, you may experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Pain in the wrist, hand and/or down the fingers
  • Pins-and-needles feeling
  • Dull, throbbing pain
  • Numbness or tingling in the hand, wrist, and/or fingers
  • Limited mobility
  • Sharp, stabbing pain during certain movements
  • Inability to pick up anything with weight to it

These symptoms can be indications of something going on within the joints and/or muscles and ligaments of the hand and wrist. If you are experiencing these symptoms for more than a couple of days, you should look into possible causes and the treatments available to you.

Causes of Hand and Wrist Pain

Hand and wrist pain can be caused by a number of different things, but the most common causes for pain and symptoms in the hand or wrist include:

  • Osteoarthritis — This occurs when the cartilage that protects the joints deteriorates over time, leading to inflammation as the bones rub against each other during movement. This is most commonly caused by old age, repetitive movements and natural deterioration of the body.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome — Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the large nerve in the wrist, called the median nerve, becoming compressed and sending pain and a pins-and-needles feeling down the wrist and sometimes into the fingers. 
  • Injuries — Injuries to the hand or wrist, such as impact injuries or torn ligaments/tendons, can result in pain, swelling and limited mobility.

There are many other causes of hand and wrist pain outside of these most common ones. When you see a physical therapist, you may be asked to undergo an MRI for a better diagnosis about what is actually causing your pain and symptoms. Once the source of your pain is identified, you can find the best treatment for your condition.

Treatments for Hand and Wrist Pain

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may be able to find relief with some at-home treatment options. Often, at-home treatments for hand and wrist pain are best used for very mild symptoms that only last a few days and don’t truly prevent you from living your normal lifestyle. Think symptoms that are more annoyances than true disruptions. 

Common at-home treatments for hand and wrist pain include:

  • RICE — rest, ice, compression and elevation for a mild injury that has caused some pain and swelling
  • Splint or wrap for your hand/wrist to help support the muscles around the hurt joint
  • Over-the-counter medications, such as NSAIDs, may help reduce pain and inflammation in those who are able to take them

At-home treatments are great for very mild symptoms, and they often help you find relief within a few days or a week. However, if you’ve tried at-home treatments, and you still have hand or wrist pain after two weeks — or if your pain gets worse — you should seek professional medical treatment. 

Physical therapy is a great option for hand and wrist pain relief, and you don’t need a doctor’s referral to schedule with a PT clinic. Once you make an appointment and receive a diagnosis, your physical therapist will work with you to find a custom treatment plan, which may include one or more of these common treatments for hand or wrist pain:

  • Therapeutic exercises and stretches — This helps to increase the strength in the muscles surrounding the injured joint, and also helps to add mobility to the injured area. 
  • Hold/cold compresses — This simple technique reduces swelling and is often used in conjunction with other physical therapy modalities.
  • Custom splinting — Lattimore Physical Therapy can help you get fitted into a custom splint to reduce the movement of your wrist and provide support while you heal.
  • IASTM therapy — This type of therapy helps revive movement and healthy soft tissue growth within muscles and tendons.

If you’re ready to seek treatment for your chronic hand and wrist pain, our team at Lattimore Physical Therapy is here to help. Find a location near you to schedule an appointment or contact our office today. We’re here to help you find relief, so you can get back to the lifestyle you love. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a health care profession that involves evaluating, diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal system. The goal of physical therapy is to focus on movement in order to restore function, minimize pain and improve an individual’s quality of life. Physical therapists often utilize treatment modalities such as therapeutic exercise, soft tissue mobilization, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and other treatments to help achieve these goals.  

Do I Need a Referral?

The state of New York has “direct access” to physical therapy, which means that patients are not legally required to have a physician’s referral to see a physical therapist. However, some insurances may require patients to have a referral or authorization before they will approve payment. Be sure to contact your insurance company beforehand and determine the process that they require.

It’s important to know that if you are under the care of a physician and require physical therapy treatment, you have the freedom to choose your own physical therapy clinic.

Do You Accept My Insurance?

We accept most major insurance coverages. Some of those we accept include Tricare, Medicare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna and workers’ compensation. If you don’t see your insurance company listed above, reach out to us and we’ll let you know if we accept yours. At the time of scheduling your first appointment, we request that you provide us your insurance information so that we may verify your benefits and coverage.  

How Can I Pay for Treatment?

We accept payment via cash, check, flex spending card, and debit or credit card (Visa, Mastercard and Discover). Payment is expected at the time of treatment and typically required during check-in. If you have insurance coverage, there may be a deductible or copay required. 

Before your first visit, we will contact your insurance company to verify your benefits for physical therapy. Some insurance providers have restrictions on specific treatments. As a courtesy, Lattimore Physical Therapy files with your primary insurance as well as any secondary coverage. You will be billed for any cost share (if applicable) after your insurance has paid their portion. 

What Should I Expect During My First Visit?

During your initial visit, your physical therapist will provide you with a thorough 45-minute to one-hour evaluation in a private room. Please be prepared to discuss your needs, your pain, and any lack of mobility or function that you currently have. This evaluation will involve certain range-of-motion, postural and strength tests to help your physical therapist develop a plan unique to you and your condition.Treatment for your injury will begin on the day of your initial visit.  

How Should I Dress?

You should wear loose-fitting clothing during each session with us. Loose-fitting clothing helps us access and move the areas of the body that are being treated. If you have a knee problem, it is best to wear shorts. For a shoulder problem, a tank top is a good choice. For low back problems, a loose-fitting shirt and pants are the best go-tos.

Do I Need to Bring Any MRIs or X-rays That I Have?

Please bring any relevant MRI or X-ray interpretation reports from your physician’s office. However, since X-rays and MRIs aren’t always the most telling, your physical therapist will want to also take into account your medical history and other physical tests and measures. Their goal is to perform an evaluation as best they can using a thorough series of processes.

How Many Visits Will I Need?

The number of visits necessary to complete treatment varies from patient to patient. Some patients only undergo a couple of sessions, while others need several months of care. It most often depends on your diagnosis, the severity of your impairment(s), your past medical history and other similar factors. You will also be reevaluated on a monthly basis. Each time you visit your doctor, we will provide you with a progress report with our professional recommendations.

Can I Bring My Child With Me to My Appointments?

Yes! Our policy allows for children to accompany their parents during appointments.