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Hand Injuries

Expert treatment for a range of hand injuries

As one of the most used parts of the body, our hands are prone to many different types of injury.

Hand injuries are common and may occur as a result of a variety of activities including sports and industrial accidents. Though rarely life-threatening, hand injuries can have a huge impact on our day-to-day lives and ability to work.

Because our hands are so essential to our daily lives, expert care and early treatment are vital to ensure a full and speedy recovery from a hand injury.

Call or book online today to arrange a consultation to discuss private hand injury treatment with a consultant of your choice at Circle Health Group.

This page looks at some common types of hand injuries, what the symptoms are, and how they are treated.

The hand is a small but complex part of the body made up of twenty-seven bones as well as muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue.

Some common types of hand injuries include:


Fractures (broken bones) of the hand are common and can occur in the fingers, thumb, wrist, or hand bones. Fractures may be caused by trauma such as a car accident, falling onto an outstretched hand or something falling forcefully onto your hand.

Symptoms of hand fractures include:

  • Severe pain and tenderness
  • Inability to perform movements such as gripping or squeezing
  • Difficulty moving your wrist, fingers, or thumb
  • A snapping or cracking sound at the time of injury
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Numbness
  • The broken bone may appear deformed and out of place

Treatment for fractures depends on the type and severity of the fracture. Some fractures are treated by restricting the movement of the hand in a splint or cast while it heals while more complex fractures may need surgery.


Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendons (the connective tissue that attaches muscles to bones). Tendonitis can cause aching around the affected tendon that often gets worse over time. You may also have swelling and find it difficult to use your hand properly. Tendonitis can occur as a result of a sudden injury but is more commonly due to repetitive movements such as typing for long periods of time or some types of sports.

There are several different types of tendonitis, named after the tendons they affect. De Quervain's tenosynovitis affects the tendon that runs from your forearm to your thumb, ECU (extensor carpi ulnaris) tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon on the little finger side of the hand and trigger finger is tendonitis of the tendons that flex the fingers and thumb.

Symptoms of tendonitis in the hand include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • A sliding or grating sensation in the joints
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty bending your fingers

Tendonitis is usually treated with painkillers, rest, wearing a hand splint, and physiotherapy. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the tendon.


A strain occurs when a tendon or an area of muscle is stretched or torn. Strains are similar to tendonitis but occur over a larger area. Hand strains commonly affect the tendons that connect the muscles of the forearm to the bones of the fingers. They commonly occur through sports such as skiing or repetitive movements like typing.

Symptoms of hand strains include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Reduced range of motion

Hand strains are normally treated by resting the hand, applying ice and heat packs, painkillers, and physiotherapy. It may also help to support your hand in a cast or splint while it heals.


While a strain affects the tendons, a sprain is damage to the ligaments (bands of connective tissue that attach bone to bone). Hand sprains are commonly caused by putting your hands out in front of you to break your fall, or from abruptly twisting your wrist or hand such as during sports.

Symptoms of hand sprains include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Difficulty moving the affected area
  • Weakness around the affected area
  • A popping or tearing sensation around the site of the injury

Treatment of hand sprains is similar to that of hand strains and includes rest, ice and heat packs, painkillers, wearing a cast or splint and physiotherapy.


A dislocation is when the bones move out of position, but do not break. Hand dislocations may occur when there is a lot of force placed on the hand while it is in an abnormal position.

Symptoms of a hand dislocation include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Deformity
  • Difficulty moving your hand

Hand dislocations typically require surgery to put the bones back into position and repair any damage to the surrounding tissues.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

The carpal tunnel is a passage in the wrist that contains a nerve called the medial nerve. In carpal tunnel syndrome, the passage becomes narrowed putting pressure on the nerve and causing pain and inflammation.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • Pain which may be severe
  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers or hand
  • Weakness and difficulty gripping

Carpal tunnel syndrome may be treated by wearing a wrist splint, resting your hand, taking painkillers and special exercises. In some cases, you may need surgery to widen the carpal passage and relieve pressure on the nerve.


Osteoarthritis is a common condition that can affect any joint in the body and is particularly common in the hands. It occurs when the protective layer of cartilage in the joints wears down causing bone to rub on bone and leading to inflammation and pain.

Symptoms of hand osteoarthritis include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling of the joints
  • Difficulty moving the affected joints

Osteoarthritis is usually treated with pain medication, exercises, heat, and cold packs, and wearing a hand splint for support. If non-surgical measures don't work, you may need surgery.

At your first consultation, you will be seen by a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, or a specialist hand surgeon, or perhaps even a plastic surgeon. The right surgeon for you will depend on your injury.

Your consultant will ask you about your symptoms, what led to your hand injury and perform a physical examination of your hand, fingers, and wrist. During your physical examination, your consultant will examine your hand for visible signs of injury such as bruising, swelling, deformity or cuts on the skin. They will press the area around your hand, wrist, and fingers firmly to check for tenderness, and check your range of motion and grip strength. They may feel your pulse to check the blood supply to your hand and check the sensation in your fingers.

To make or confirm a diagnosis your consultant will probably order scans such as an X-ray, CT or MRI scan to check for any abnormalities in your bones or soft tissue.

At Circle Health Group, your first appointment is very important as it's where we get to know you, discuss your expectations for treatment and encourage you to ask any questions you may have. It is important to us that you are as well-informed and comfortable as possible during your time with us, so please ask your consultant any questions you may have.

At the end of your appointment, your consultant will discuss possible treatments with you and decide on the best option based on your symptoms and diagnosis.

Treatment for hand injuries depends on the type of injury you have and how severe it is. Nonsurgical treatments are normally tried first, and if there is no improvement, surgery may be considered.

Non-surgical treatments include:

  • Painkillers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Rest
  • Ice or heat packs
  • Elevating your hand to reduce swelling
  • Supporting your hand in a splint
  • Physiotherapy or occupational therapy

Surgical treatments include:

In some cases, hand injuries cannot be prevented, but there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of hand injury including:

  • Warm up properly before participating in sports
  • Always wear the right protective sporting equipment such as gloves or wristguards
  • Use any tools correctly, avoid distractions and don’t look away from your hands when doing DIY
  • Avoid alcohol or medications that can make you drowsy before using machinery, driving, conducting repairs, or participating in sports
  • Take care when walking on icy or slippery surfaces
  • Cut away from yourself when preparing food

The outlook for hand injuries depends on the type and severity of the injury and the treatment you received. Early treatment from a specialist orthopaedic or hand surgeon is the best way to ensure your recovery and maximise your chances of regaining the full function of your hand.

We answer some of your most commonly asked questions about hand injuries.

Can a rotator cuff injury affect your hand?

A rotator cuff injury is damage to the muscles and tendons of the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries typically start as a dull ache in your shoulder but may radiate down your arm causing pain in your arm and hand.

How long does a hand injury take to heal?

How long your hand injury will take to heal depends on the type of injury and how severe your injury is. Minor injuries involving soft tissue may heal in a few days whereas a complicated fracture may take several months. Talk to your consultant about when you can expect your hand injury to heal.

How do you strap a hand injury?

How you strap a hand injury depends on the type of injury you have, and for this reason, it is not recommended to try and strap your hand yourself. Our team of specialist hand therapists are highly skilled in making custom-made splints for a range of hand conditions. In addition, they are experts at providing post-operative care and helping with wound care, swelling, and regaining range of movement.

How do you treat a swollen hand?

Swelling is normally treated using the RICE method.

  • Rest your hand by avoiding activities that make your injury worse, or by supporting your hand in a splint or cast
  • Apply Ice packs wrapped in a cloth to the swollen area (never apply ice directly to the skin)
  • Compression bandages should be wrapped around the hand, firmly enough to support the hand or wrist, but not so tightly as to reduce blood flow to the fingers
  • Elevation of your hand

In addition to the RICE method, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen will help to reduce inflammation and swelling.

How do you treat repetitive strain injury in your hand?

Repetitive strain injuries of the hand are normally treated using the RICE method described above. You can also support your hand and wrist in a splint and take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen to help to reduce inflammation and swelling.

Why is my hand cold after a hand injury?

Cold hands after a hand injury could be a sign of damage to the nerves or blood vessels that supply your hand. If you experience cold hands after a hand injury, see a medical professional for advice.

At Circle Health Group we have the experience and expertise to ensure the best possible care and outcome for our patients. As a patient with Circle Health Group you can expect the highest standards of care including:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations that are convenient for you
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant best suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to you
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • A range of delicious healthy meals to suit all dietary requirements
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to see a consultant or learn more about treatment for hand injuries, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in January 2023. Next review due January 2026.

  1. Hand Injuries, British Society for Surgery of the Hand
  2. Hand Injuries,
  3. Hand Injuries and their Assessment, Patient
  4. Hand Injuries and Disorders, MedlinePlus

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