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Pain in the back of the hand - Hand pain

There are many causes of pain in the back of your hand. You can often ease the pain yourself. But contact your GP if the pain does not improve.

How you can ease pain in the back of your hand

If you see a GP, they'll usually suggest you try these things:


  • rest your hand when you can

  • put an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) in a towel and place it on the back of your hand for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours

  • take paracetamol to ease the pain

  • take off any jewellery if your hand is swollen

  • wrap a bandage around your hand to support it


  • do not use ibuprofen in the first 48 hours after an injury

  • do not use heat packs or have hot baths for the first 2 to 3 days after an injury

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • the best painkiller to take
  • treatments for common skin problems
  • if you need to see a GP

Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP if:

  • the pain is stopping you doing normal activities
  • the pain is getting worse or keeps coming back
  • the pain has not improved after treating it at home for 2 weeks
  • you have any tingling or loss of sensation in your hand
  • you have diabetes – hand problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

Emergency action required: Go to your local injury unit or nearest ED if you:

  • have severe pain
  • feel faint, dizzy or sick from the pain
  • heard a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of the injury
  • are not able to move your hand or hold things
  • have a hand that's changed shape or colour, such as blue or white

These might be signs of a broken hand.

Common causes of pain in the back of your hand

Pain in the back of your hand is often caused by bruising or injuring your hand.

Your symptoms might also give you an idea of what's causing the pain in the back of your hand.

Common causes of pain in the back of the hand

Symptoms Possible cause
Symptoms Pain, swelling and stiffness that lasts a long time, it may be hard to move your fingers, you may have a lump Possible cause tendonitis or arthritis
Symptoms Sudden, sharp pain, swelling, a popping or snapping sound during the injury Possible cause broken bone in the hand
Symptoms Smooth lump near a joint or tendon, may be painful Possible cause ganglion cyst
Symptoms Aching pain that's worse at night, numbness or pins and needles, a weak thumb or difficulty gripping Possible cause carpal tunnel syndrome
Symptoms Itchy and painful skin, rash Possible cause scabies

Do not worry if you're not sure what the problem is. Follow the advice on this page and see a GP if the pain does not get better in 2 weeks.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 8 April 2021
Next review due: 8 April 2024