Hand Sprain (Aftercare Instructions) — What You Need to Know

Hand Sprain


Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Feb 3, 2020.

  • Aftercare Instructions
  • Ambulatory Care
  • En Español


A hand sprain is when a ligament in your hand is stretched or torn. Ligaments are the strong tissues that connect bones. You may have bruising, pain, and swelling of your injured hand.


Call your doctor if:

  • The skin of your injured hand looks bluish or pale (less color than normal).
  • You have increased swelling and pain in your hand.
  • You have new or increased numbness in your injured hand.
  • You have new or increased stiffness or trouble moving your injured hand.
  • You have questions or concerns about your injury or treatment.


  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor’s order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Rest your hand:

You will need to rest your hand for 1 to 2 days after your injury. This will help decrease the risk of more damage to your hand. Do not lift anything with your injured hand. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to your normal activities.

Ice your hand:

Ice your hand to help decrease swelling and pain. Put crushed ice in a plastic bag and cover it with a towel. Put the ice on your hand for 15 to 20 minutes every hour. Use ice as directed.

Use compression:

Compression (tight hold) provides support and helps decrease swelling and movement so your hand can heal. You may need to keep your hand wrapped with an elastic bandage.

Elevate your hand:

Keep your injured hand raised above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease or limit swelling. You can elevate your hand by resting your arm up on a pillow.

Use a splint:

You may need to use a splint on your hand and wrist. A splint is a special device that keeps your hand and wrist from moving. Use the splint as directed.

Exercise your hand:

You may be given exercises to improve your strength once you are able to move your hand without pain. Exercises will also help decrease stiffness. Start your exercises and normal activities slowly. Exercise your hand as directed.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions you so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2020 Information is for End User’s use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.


Swollen arms and hands (oedema)

Swelling in the arms or hands often goes away on its own. See a GP if it does not get better in a few days.

Common causes of swollen arms and hands

Swelling in the arms and hands is often caused by a build-up of fluid in these areas, called oedema.

Oedema is usually caused by:

  • staying in the same position for too long
  • eating too much salty food
  • being overweight
  • being pregnant – read about swollen ankles, feet and fingers in pregnancy
  • taking certain medicines – such as some blood pressure medicines, contraceptive pills, antidepressants or steroids

Oedema can also be caused by:

  • an injury – such as a strain or sprain
  • sudden changes in temperature – such as very hot weather
  • an insect bite or sting
  • problems with your kidneys, liver or heart
  • a blood clot
  • an infection
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Check if you have oedema

Symptoms of oedema include:

Swollen or puffy arms or hands



How to ease swelling yourself

Swelling should go away on its own, but there are some things you can try to help.

lie down and use pillows to raise the swollen area when you can

move your whole arm and shoulder – try raising your hand above your head while you open and close your fist

massage your arm or hand towards your body using firm, but not painful, pressure – for example, start at your fingertips and massage towards your palm

get some gentle exercise, like walking, to improve your blood flow

drink plenty of water

wash, dry and moisturise your arms or hands to avoid infections

do not stay in the same position for long periods of time

do not wear clothes that are too tight

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if your arm or hand is swollen and:

  • it has not improved after treating it at home for a few days
  • it gets worse

Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP

It’s still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment if:

  • the swelling is only in 1 arm or hand and there’s no obvious cause, such as an injury
  • the swelling is severe, painful or starts very suddenly
  • the swollen area is red or feels hot to the touch
  • your temperature is very high, or you feel hot and shivery
  • you have diabetes

Immediate action required: Call 999 if:

  • you feel short of breath or are struggling to breathe
  • your chest feels tight, heavy or painful

You could have a blood clot in your lungs, which needs immediate treatment in hospital.

Treatment for swelling and oedema

Treatment for swelling or oedema that does not go away on its own will depend on the cause.

It may include lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or going on a low-salt diet.

Page last reviewed: 8 May 2019
Next review due: 8 May 2022


Back of The Hand Swelling Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

While arthritis can cause inflammation and hand swelling, cellulitis and Dupuytren disease can also cause swelling in the back of the hand. Read below for more information on related symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

Updated on March 26, 2019

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Back Of The Hand Swelling Symptoms

The hands are essential to everyday life. Experiencing swelling on the back of the hand can not only be unsightly but can also limit your participation in things you enjoy.

Swelling is the result of fluid buildup that gets trapped in your body’s tissues. Buildup can occur when there is obstruction and fluid cannot properly flow and/or drain. However, fluid buildup can also occur when an area of the body becomes inflamed, injured or damaged. The small blood vessels in the body begin to leak fluid. Moreover, the body can bring in white blood cells to repair the damage, and more fluid follows. Depending on the cause, the swelling can be generalized and occur throughout the body, or localized and only affect a specific part of the body, such as the back of the hand.

Common accompanying symptoms of back of the hand swelling

In addition to the swelling (edema) you may also experience symptoms that include:

  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Warmth or redness of the affected area
  • Discoloration of the hand
  • Cramping or soreness
  • Feeling of heaviness or tightness
  • Stretched or shiny skin
  • Skin pitting: This is skin that dimples or dents after pressing on the affected area for a few seconds.
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion

Back Of The Hand Swelling Causes

Site-specific swelling of the hand, for instance on the back (or dorsal) surface of the hand can include a variety of diagnoses. Often these causes do not cause swelling of the entire hand and are very localized. The causes can involve any component of the hand such as the soft tissue, muscles, bones or tendons [1] . See this image here of the common causes of swellings found on the back of the hand or wrist.

Rheumatologic/Inflammatory causes

This category includes inflammatory conditions involving the body’s tissues and joints that can affect people of all ages but most commonly affects older adults. Conditions such as arthritis cause inflammation that easily brings fluid into the tissues leading to swelling, redness, and tenderness in the joints in addition to the appearance of large bumps or nodules in the fingers and hands. Other inflammatory conditions of the joints such as bursitis can also result in swollen lumps on the back of the hand. Inflammation of body components such as the tendons can also become inflamed due to non-arthritic causes and result in swelling.

Dermatologic causes

Dermatologic causes that can result in swelling at the back of the hand may include the following.

  • Cysts: Cysts are sacs that can be filled with fluid, air, or other material that can form in any part of the body. On the back of the hand, cysts are often related to the joints and tendons near the wrist. See this image here of a type of cyst called a ganglion that is commonly found on the back of the hand [1,2] .
  • Other: There are many swellings on the back of the hand that may result after trauma in the skin and soft tissues [3] . For example, penetrating injuries such as scratches or cuts may result in overgrowth of repair tissues that result in a large and noticeable swelling or lump in the affected area. See an example of a type of this condition called a pyogenic granuloma here.

Cancerous causes

A swelling on the back of the hand may be concerning as it can be an initial sign of a cancerous process. However, there are signs and symptoms that are reassuring. If the swelling is soft and easily mobile that can be indicative of a different process. However, a swelling on the back of the hand that grows in size over time, changes color, or is hard, rigid or stuck in place should be followed up promptly. A cancerous swelling (also called a tumor or neoplasm) arises when cells divide and grow uncontrollably.

  • Benign: A cancerous growth is considered benign if it does not invade the local tissues are spread to other parts of the body. There are many benign tumors that involve the bones, muscles and soft tissues of the hand.
  • Malignant: A cancerous growth is considered malignant when the cells begin to invade other parts of the body. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that often arises in the hand due to frequent exposure to the sun.

9 Possible Back Of The Hand Swelling Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced back of the hand swelling. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

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Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the deep layers of the skin. It can appear anywhere on the body but is most common on the feet, lower legs, and face.

The condition can develop if Staphylococcus bacteria enter broken skin through a cut, scrape, or existing skin infection such as impetigo or eczema.

Most susceptible are those with a weakened immune system, as from corticosteroids or chemotherapy, or with impaired circulation from diabetes or any vascular disease.

Symptoms arise somewhat gradually and include sore, reddened skin.

If not treated, the infection can become severe, form pus, and destroy the tissue around it. In rare cases, the infection can cause blood poisoning or meningitis.

Symptom of severe pain, fever, cold sweats, and fast heartbeat should be seen immediately by a medical provider.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

Treatment consists of antibiotics, keeping the wound clean, and sometimes surgery to remove any dead tissue. Cellulitis often recurs, so it is important to treat any underlying conditions and improve the immune system with rest and good nutrition.

Top Symptoms: fever, chills, facial redness, swollen face, face pain

Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis: facial redness, area of skin redness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Rheumatoid arthritis

Arthritis is a general term for multiple conditions that cause painful inflammation and stiffness throughout the body. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition that is autoimmune in nature, meaning that the body’s immune system which normally protects the body by att.

Dupuytren disease

Dupuytren Disease, also known as Dupuytren ‘ s contracture, is a condition that gradually causes connective tissue (fascia) under the skin of the palm to thicken and become scar-like. Although Dupuytren ‘ s isn ‘ t painful, it does restrict movement. The thickened tissue forces several fingers — usually the ring and pinky fingers — to curl in toward the palm.

Top Symptoms: finger joint stiffness, hand bump, thickened skin on the finger, swollen hands, hand injury

Urgency: Primary care doctor


Angioedema is a condition which can cause swelling and puffiness of the face, mouth, tongue, hand or genitals. It is often related to an allergic reaction to food, medicines or insect bites.

Top Symptoms: nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), diarrhea, swollen face, hand swelling

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Back Of The Hand Swelling Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your back of the hand swelling

Bruised hand

A bruise occurs when small blood vessels break and leak their contents into the soft tissue beneath the skin, which causes the purple color of the bruise.

Top Symptoms: hand injury, hand pain from an injury, pain in one hand, swelling of one hand, palm bruise

Symptoms that always occur with bruised hand: hand injury, hand pain from an injury

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a condition which causes inflammation of the joints. In most circumstances, psoriatic arthritis presents between the ages of 30 and 50 years and occurs after the manifestation of the symptoms of psoriasis, which is a disease of the skin. Psoriatic arthritis.

Frostnip of the upper limbs

Frostnip is damage of the outermost layers of the skin caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports.

Top Symptoms: hand numbness, hand pain, hand redness, cold hands, cold fingers

Symptoms that always occur with frostnip of the upper limbs: cold fingers

Urgency: In-person visit

Jammed finger

Jammed fingers are common in sports but may occur during daily activity.

Top Symptoms: recent finger injury, finger pain from an injury, swollen finger, finger joint stiffness, finger bruise

Symptoms that always occur with jammed finger: recent finger injury, finger pain from an injury

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Motor-vehicle accident

After any motor-vehicle accident, it ‘ s hard to rule out subtle, but maybe dangerous, things that could have happened within the body. You should go see a doctor immediately.

Top Symptoms: motor-vehicle accident, arm weakness

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Back Of The Hand Swelling Treatments and Relief

When to see a doctor

Management goals in the setting of hand swelling are to restore function and prevent infection and chronic disability [4] . Depending on the cause of your symptoms, your healthcare provider may suggest or prescribe the following treatment options:

  • Surgery: Surgery is often first-line therapy for removal and drainage of swellings on the back of the hand, especially those related to cancerous processes. If the swelling on the back of the hand is not causing significant pain or disability, your physician may take a “watchful waiting” approach before performing any surgical procedure.
  • Medications: There are several medications that your physician may consider to target swelling in your hand. For example, anti-inflammatory medications can help swelling caused by rheumatologic or infectious causes.

When it is an emergency

If the swelling on the back of your hand is due to a traumatic injury such as a fall or direct blow, make sure to seek medical attention promptly as you may have fractured or dislocated bones.

Real-life Stories

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FAQs About Back Of The Hand Swelling

How long will the swelling on the back of my hand last?

The duration of the swelling on the back of your hand will be dependent on the cause. Often rheumatologic and cancerous processes are more chronic and can last for a long time whereas dermatologic causes are more acute. For example, ganglion cysts can often resolve on their own, but sometimes drainage or surgery to remove the cyst is necessary.

Why is there only swelling on the back of one hand?

Swelling of just one hand is normal in many non-systemic causes of swelling such as rheumatologic and traumatic causes. For example, infection or traumatic injury can often involve one hand or lymphatic drainage problems may be present on one side and not the other.

What is tenosynovitis?

Tenosynovitis is a medical term for the inflammation of a tendon. Tendons are strong, fibrous bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. The tendon can become inflamed from a repetitive injury like typing and infection. The inflammation can result in pain and swelling of the wrist, hand, and fingers [1] .

What does melanoma look like?

Many people have pigmented bumps or lesions on the skin, especially those with extensive exposure to the sun’s rays. However, these lesions become a cause for concern when you notice a lesion becoming asymmetrical in appearance, with irregular (not rounded or well-circumscribed) borders, varied color throughout, and a size greater than 6mm. If you notice any of these changes over time, seek medical attention promptly.

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Can I pop/drain the swelling on the back of my hand at home?

Though you may be tempted to pop or drain the swelling on the back of your hand, it is not advisable to do so on your own. Seeking care from a medical professional is necessary as the proper, clean tools are required for drainage in order to prevent infection or worsening of the condition.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Back Of The Hand Swelling

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Did you recently injure your hand or fingers?
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?
  • Do you have these contractures that limit the movement of your fingers? (See picture)

If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions

Back Of The Hand Swelling Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your back of the hand swelling

Back Of The Hand Swelling Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced back of the hand swelling have also experienced:

People who have experienced back of the hand swelling were most often matched with:

People who have experienced back of the hand swelling had symptoms persist for:

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

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Back Of The Hand Swelling Symptom Checker

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  1. Hasham S, Burke FD. Diagnosis and treatment of swellings in the hand. Postgrad Med J. 2007;83(979):296-300. NCBI Link
  2. Ganglion cysts. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. AASH Link
  3. Ravaglia FF, Leite MG, Bracellos TF, Cliquet A. Postambulatory hand swelling (big hand syndrome): Prevalence, demographics, and association with dog walking. ISRN Rheumatol. 2011;2011:659695. NCBI Link
  4. Miller LK, Jerosch-Herold C, Shepstone L. Effectiveness of edema management techniques for subacute hand edema: A systematic review. J Hand Ther. 2017;30(4):432-446. NCBI Link

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Hand Swelling

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What is hand swelling?

Hand swelling is a sign of fluid buildup or inflammation of the tissues or joints of the hand. Hand swelling, which is also called edema, can also result from serious infections, trauma, and other abnormal processes.

Depending on the cause, hand swelling can last for a short time, such as when it occurs during or after exercise. Chronic hand swelling, or swelling that builds up over time, often indicates an inflammatory process, such as arthritis. Hand swelling can also be caused by orthopedic conditions, such as a bone fracture or a cast that is too tight.

Because swollen hands can be a sign of a serious disease or disorder, you should seek prompt medical care and talk with your medical professional about your symptoms, especially if you experience hand swelling with pain, redness or warmth.

What other symptoms might occur with hand swelling?

Hand swelling may be accompanied by other symptoms depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, hand swelling due to an infection may be accompanied by fever and chills, as well as redness and warmth around the affected area.

Symptoms that may occur along with hand swelling

Hand swelling may occur with other symptoms including:

Hand lumps or bumps

Hand weakness (loss of strength)

Painful or tender areas

Reduced range of motion or movement in a joint

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, hand swelling may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have hand swelling along with other serious symptoms including:

High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)

Red and warm skin

Unexplained weight gain (may be from excessive fluid buildup)

What causes hand swelling?

Hand swelling can be caused by relatively minor conditions, such as fluid retention during premenstrual syndrome or pregnancy. Swelling can also be due to injury or trauma, infection, inflammatory conditions, and other abnormal processes.

In some cases, hand swelling is a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting.

Injury-related causes of hand swelling

Hand swelling can occur from injury-related conditions including:

Broken bone or other hand injury

Laceration or blunt force trauma (bruising and swelling), such as from a dog bite

Muscle, ligament or cartilage injury, such as a torn ligament or pulled muscle

Degenerative, infectious, inflammatory and autoimmune causes of hand swelling

Swollen hands can accompany inflammatory, infectious and autoimmune conditions including:

Ganglion cyst (growth or swelling on top of joint or tendon)

Infected wound, such as a Staphylococcus aureus bacterial infection

Other causes of hand swelling

Other serious or potentially life-threatening disorders include:

Kawasaki disease (rare disease that involves blood vessel inflammation)

Pre-eclampsia (a serious condition marked by swelling, high blood pressure, and protein in the urine that can develop during pregnancy)

Medications that can cause hand swelling

Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using including prescription and over-the-counter medications, supplements, and herbal or alternative treatments. The following medications may be a possible cause of hand swelling:

Antidepressants, such as tricyclics and MAO inhibitors

High blood pressure medications

Questions for diagnosing the cause of hand swelling

To diagnose the underlying cause of hand swelling, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your symptoms. You can best help your health care practitioner in diagnosing the underlying cause of hand swelling by providing complete answers to these questions:

What is the exact location of the swelling?

Describe the swelling. When did the swelling start? Does it come and go or is it constant?

Are any other body areas swelling?

Are you experiencing any pain, shortness of breath, or other symptoms?

Provide your full medical history, including all medical conditions, surgeries and treatments, family history, and a complete list of the medications and dietary supplements that you take.

What are the potential complications of hand swelling?

Complications associated with hand swelling can be progressive and vary depending on the underlying cause. Because swelling can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in complications and permanent damage. It is important to visit your health care provider when you experience swelling or other unusual symptoms. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, following the treatment plan outlined by your doctor can lower your risk for potential complications including:


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