An image of open hands in a black or dark background.

Non-Surgical Treatments for Aching Hands

This article was written by Chris Marshall

We use our hands so much in our everyday lives - eating, opening doors, standing up, sitting down…you name it, most actions depend on or require support from our hands.

But It’s reported that roughly 14% of people experience some kind of hand pain, with severe conditions being incredibly debilitating.

While surgery may be needed in certain cases, looking for non-surgical treatments for aching hands can offer the relief and improved functionality that many are looking for.

From conventional therapies to alternative modalities, there are now numerous ways you can ease discomfort. In this article, we’ll explore the different causes of hand pain and consider some of the possible treatment options available.

 

Common Causes of Hand Pain


Since human hands contain 27 different bones, 34 muscles, and 100+ ligaments and tendons, there are a variety of reasons why a person might experience pain in their hands and many different areas where that discomfort might arise.

The hand can be divided into three main regions: the carpals (wrist bones), metacarpals (palm bones), and phalanges (finger bones). All of these work together to provide grip strength and tactile sensitivity. Understanding where the pain originates from can help with deciphering why you’re experiencing what you are.

Possible conditions for aching hands include…


Hand Arthritis


Arthritis is inflammation and/or pain in a joint/s. In hands, arthritis commonly takes one of two forms:

  • Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, through which soft tissue in a joint breaks down or changes its structure gradually over time.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which involves the body's own immune system attacking healthy cells.

The main symptoms of these conditions include pain, stiffness, and swelling.

Statistically, roughly 50% of women and 25% of men will experience osteoarthritis in their hands by the time they are 85 years old.

Experiences or conditions that make you more susceptible to hand arthritis include fractures, dislocations, and joint infections. Overuse of a specific joint can also lead to increased wear and tear, which also increases your chances of arthritis.


Trigger Finger


Trigger finger affects the tendons in the hand, making it difficult to bend fingers and grip anything. The condition can cause feelings of stiffness, tenderness, and a popping or clicking when moving the affected finger/s.

Approximately 2% of the general population suffers from trigger finger, most of whom are older women.

You’re more likely to experience trigger finger if you practice hobbies that include repetitive gripping or if you live with pre-existing conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition where a nerve in your wrist is put under pressure, leading to pain, numbness, and tingling sensations in the hand and fingers.

Women are 3x more likely to experience carpal tunnel syndrome than men.

People who are pregnant, overweight, or have arthritis or diabetes are more prone to experiencing CTS. Anyone who repeatedly bends their wrist to grip (i.e. when using power tools) also has a higher chance of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you have a parent or sibling with CTS, you’re more at risk of developing the condition too.

This condition can sometimes get better on its own within a few months. If the symptoms worsen or continue after repeated attempts to treat it, you should consult with your medical provider. They may suggest surgery as a final option which involves a small cut being made into your hand. The carpal tunnel inside your wrist is then cut so it no longer puts any pressure on the nerve.


De Quervain’s Tendinopathy


De Quervain’s tendinopathy or tenosynovitis consists of painful swelling around tendons linked to the thumb. In this condition, pain is most often felt when gripping something, turning your wrist, or making a fist.

Symptoms can include:

  • Pain near the base of the thumb
  • Swelling or inflammation near the base of the thumb
  • Difficulty moving the thumb and wrist when gripping or pinching
  • A ‘sticking’ or ‘stop-and-go’ sensation in the thumb when it’s moving

It’s estimated that De Quervain’s tendinopathy affects roughly 1% of people in the USA every year.

The exact cause isn’t yet known, but repetitive movement involving your thumb and wrist (i.e. for work or a hobby) is the most common cause. Other causes include rheumatoid arthritis and fluid retention (i.e. due to pregnancy).

If this condition goes on for too long without treatment, it may spread into the thumb or forearm.


Lupus


Lupus (also known as systemic lupus erythematosus) is a condition that causes joint and muscle pain, rashes, and fatigue.

Research has suggested that approximately 0.02% of people across North America and Europe live with lupus. However, in Northern Ireland alone, this is calculated to be much higher at about 0.25%.

It’s an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body. The cause of this, however, is not yet fully understood and there is no cure. Symptoms can improve though if treatment starts early.

Aside from the main reactions (joint and muscle pain, extreme tiredness, rashes) you could also experience:

  • Headaches
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Hair loss
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen glands
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chest or stomach pain

If you’re diagnosed with lupus, your doctor should carry out regular checks and tests, like blood tests and urine tests.


Peripheral Neuropathy


Peripheral neuropathy is a kind of nerve damage that manifests itself as pain, numbness, and muscle weakness in the body’s extremities, i.e. hands, feet, and arms. General symptoms cover numbness and tingling in the feet or hands, a burning, stabbing, or shooting pain in the affected areas, loss of balance, and muscle weakness.

The feelings and pain that peripheral neuropathy can bring on will come and go or be constant.

Nearly 10% of people in the UK aged 55+ experience peripheral neuropathy.

Diabetes, shingles, and excessive alcohol consumption are the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy. Others include a physical injury to the nerves, a viral infection, or a side effect of certain medicines.

 

Non-surgical Treatment Options for Hand Pain Relief


Just as there are several “flavors” of conditions with hand pain as a symptom, there are multiple treatment options used to alleviate symptoms and bring you some comfort.


Pain Relief Medications


Of course, perhaps the most obvious treatment for pain is pain relief medication. The most common pain medications for hand pain are categorized either as NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or OTCs (over-the-counter drugs) and include:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Paracetamol
  • Aspirin
  • Naproxen (sodium)
  • Diclofenac
  • Corticosteroids

Of the conditions listed above, pain relief medications can be used to treat: osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis, trigger finger, carpal tunnel syndrome, De Quervain’s tendinopathy, and lupus.

 

A graphic image that has this text, "Join the Kineon Community." This encourages viewers to join the facebook group with over 3,000 people to know more about reducing joint pain, inflammation, and more with red light therapy.

 

Exercises and Stretches


It’s often recommended that you keep using your hand in a controlled motion so as not to lose all movement and strength while in treatment/recovery.

Basic exercises and movement are the start of physical therapy which encourages good circulation to the hand/s, which encourages the body’s natural healing processes too.




You should aim to exercise and stretch your hand around 2-3 times per day while in recovery.

Undertaking regular stretches and exercises for hand pain (consulting a medical professional for correct technique and frequency) is good for all of the above conditions.


Massage


Massages can be a great form of physical therapy to incorporate into your recovery program.

Massaging involves applying pressure to a target area of tension in the body to relax the muscles in that area and encourage circulation to it. When applied correctly and specifically, massage can be very beneficial in hand pain recovery.

It can be used effectively to treat all of the previously discussed conditions in this article.


Immobilization


Wearing a splint or a brace (also referred to as “immobilization” or “orthosis”) can support your hand, holding it in a steady position and reducing hand pain. This might not always be prescribed for constant wear, but rather in intervals or overnight, as a way to relieve symptoms overall.

Pain symptoms from the ailments explored in this article can be relieved through orthosis.


Red Light Therapy


Red light therapy is a non-invasive treatment option that harnesses infrared light technology. It relieves pain by stimulating the body’s natural cell renewal processes in specific areas targeted with infrared light technology.

With flexible at-home devices like the Kineon MOVE+, you can complete treatment sessions on your own terms, from the comfort of your own home and know that you can target the source of pain quickly and easily using our specially designed light modules for optimum adaptability.

In this video, Tom from our team shows you just how flexible our devices are.

Our product page has a whole load of independent and unbiased reviews that you can browse through. One reviewer said: “Applying to arthritic hand and foot joints. Immediate reduction in pain levels…” Another person said: “I have received a great deal of relief from the arthritis pain in my right hand…”


Benefits of Using a Red Light Device at Home


Our MOVE+ Pro is completely wireless and portable, so you can incorporate it into your everyday routine with ease. It’s much more affordable than going to red light therapy sessions at a wellness clinic too.

As well as this, other benefits of RLT at home include…

  • Drug-free
  • Non-invasive
  • Can manage pain
  • Controlled
  • Customizable
 

 

Electrotherapy

 

    Electrotherapy, as the name suggests, provides pain relief through the use of a mild electrical current.

    Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a form of electrotherapy commonly used to treat arthritis and peripheral neuropathy patients. An electrical device is connected to the target part/s of the body via wires attached to small, sticky patches (called “electrodes”). The machine then delivers small electrical impulses to the area, creating a tingling feeling.

    Extracorporeal shock wave therapy is sometimes used to treat trigger finger. In shock wave therapy, a specific device sends sound waves through the body to the injured area, stimulating blood circulation there.


    Injections


    Injections are another common treatment for hand pain. Just like oral pain relief medications, there are a few different kinds of injections available:

    • Steroids (or “corticosteroids”)
    • Anesthetics
    • Platelet-rich plasma

    All of the conditions considered in this article can be helped by some form of injection. Steroid injections are the most common kind for these ailments, but it’s helpful to be aware of other options too.

    As you can see, there are lots of different reasons that a person might experience hand pain. Equally, there are several approaches available for combating symptoms and living a normal, (mostly) pain-free life without committing to a serious procedure like surgery.

    It’s important to weigh up your options and consider what works for you, your lifestyle, and your hopes for the future.

    If unsure about any topics covered in this article or how to proceed in your recovery journey, you should consult a medical professional for their advice.

    For more articles on non-surgical treatments, read:

    Chris Marshall

    Chris Marshall

    Job Title: Health and Fitness Content Writer
    Location: United Kingdom
    Bio: Chris Marshall is an experienced health and fitness writer with a passion to empower others to achieve better health and well-being through meaningful lifestyle changes.

    With a background in nutrition and fitness, Chris aims to deliver science-based, informative content to educate others.

    Alongside health and fitness writing, he also works with private online clients to build positive lifestyle habits and improve their overall well-being.

    About Kineon

    Bringing the latest advancements in enhanced red light therapy for home use. Our mission is to get you back on your feet and moving pain-free.