Hand Pain: Care Instructions

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Common causes of hand pain are overuse and injuries, such as might happen during sports or home repair projects. Everyday wear and tear, especially as you get older, also can cause hand pain.

Most minor hand injuries will heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all you need to do. If you have sudden and severe pain, you may need tests and treatment.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Rest and protect your hand. Take a break from any activity that may cause pain.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your hand for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Prop up the sore hand on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • If your doctor recommends a sling, splint, or elastic bandage to support your hand, wear it as directed.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your hand turns cool or pale or changes color.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You cannot move your hand.
  • Your hand pops, moves out of its normal position, and then returns to its normal position.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the sore area.
    • Pus draining from a place on your hand.
    • A fever.
  • Your hand feels numb or tingly.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your hand feels unstable when you try to use it.
  • You do not get better as expected.
  • You have any new symptoms, such as swelling.
  • Bruises from an injury to your hand last longer than 2 weeks.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.