Hand and Shoulder Pain Symptoms, Causes and Treatment (2023)

As you sit at your desk and type for long hours, have you felt an odd ache in your shoulders and hands? Some people describe it as cramps and others may call it numbness. Various factors contribute to this discomfort. Keeping these factors in mind, several forms of treatment are also used to cope with and prevent hand and shoulder pain.

Studies suggest a wide range of hand and shoulder pain complaints. We commonly experience a slight ache or tingling sensation which may worsen into severe pain that radiates across the neck, head, arms, and back. Like any condition, aging makes you more likely to suffer from these illnesses. Hence paying attention to the signs and seeking help is essential to achieve a smooth recovery.

Symptoms of Hand and Shoulder Pain


Excessive stress, tension, and strain on the muscles and joints of the shoulders and hands can lead to stiffness and limit the range of motion. Further, a tight shoulder is a major trigger point for hand pain. Some common muscles in the shoulder that can lead to hand pain include the latissimus dorsi, the rotator cuff muscles, the serratus anterior and the pectoral muscles. In addition to this, stiffness in the hands and shoulders could be a common symptom of several underlying clinical/age-related conditions.


Swelling or inflammation can result from autoimmune conditions, high salt levels, allergic reactions, and injuries. Studies also suggest that increased stress or anxiety levels can contribute to inflammation in different parts of the body, including the hands and shoulders. For shoulder pain, inflammation around the rotator cuff is a common symptom. In addition to the obvious sign of swelling, inflammation can also be seen as redness, heat, loss of motion, and tenderness. If untreated, inflammation can worsen, leading to joint disfigurement, blood vessel disease, neck and spine problems, and disability.


Shoulder and hand pain can be generally detected by the degree of muscle strength or grip strength. Commonly weakness is indicated by a weak rotator cuff in the shoulder or deteriorating neurons in hand. During physical examinations, the doctor may ask you to lift your arm to the side, rotate it backward, rotate it inwards, and press back against an object. These tests detect the degree of weakness in the shoulders. Hence, weakness may be a prominent symptom if you have shoulder pain and struggle with these tasks. Similarly, a weak grip, clumsiness, or inability to carry otherwise manageable items can be a sign of weakness in the hands, leading to pain.

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Numbness and tingling sensation

Numbness in hand is a common symptom of both hand and shoulder pain. This numbness is caused by damage to a network of nerves called the brachial plexus. This network originates near the top of the spine and runs down the shoulder, arms, and hands. The sensation need not be across the whole hand or shoulder; it can be felt at certain points alone. For instance, numbness in hand could be felt only in the thumb or specific fingers.


One of the most common complaints of any underlying physiological condition is pain. With the shoulder and hands, this pain could be located at the point of injury or can radiate across both regions. It may be accompanied by a fever if you are dealing with severe shoulder or hand pain. In addition to this, based on the origin, hand or shoulder pain can last more than 2 to 4 weeks post-home care.

Causes of Hand and Shoulder Pain

Broken bones

An injury leading to fractures or broken bones in the shoulder or hand is accompanied by severe pain, inflammation, and bruising. For shoulder pain, common injuries associated with broken bones include an upper arm fracture or a broken collarbone. Falls, car accidents, etc., usually cause these conditions. In the case of hand pain, any damage to the intricate and delicate structure can lead to multiple forms of fracture. Further, as these fractures heal, additional strain will permanently change the structure and functionality of the region.


Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis are common causes of hand and shoulder pain. As you age, the joints and muscles tend to wear and tear, resulting in pain, weakness, inflammation, stiffness, mobility issues, etc. In addition to general wear and tear, the immune system is responsible for decaying joints (rheumatoid arthritis). Although osteoarthritis in the shoulders is rare, the pain and severity of the condition are long-term.


The muscles in our body are connected to our bones through cords referred to as tendons. Inflammation of these tendons due to excessive strain or other medical conditions can lead to tendinitis. In the shoulder, overaccumulation of calcium around the rotator cuff (calcific tendinitis) leads to pain, stiffness, inflammation, and limited range of motion. Tendonitis can also affect the hand. For instance, in De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, the tendons around your thumb get severely inflamed leading to pain and numbness.

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A dislocation is an injury in which the ends of your bones are displaced from their normal positions. This may be a result of accidents, falls, or overexertion. With shoulder pain, the head of the upper arm bone moves out of the socket, resulting in the ligaments, tendons, and muscles around the shoulder loosening or tearing. This leads to repeated dislocations and increases the risk of arthritis. In the hands, one of the eight carpal bones at the base of the hand falls out of the joints leading to dislocation. Displacement of this form leads to pain, tenderness, bruising, spasms, and swelling.

Nerve entrapment

Nerve compression syndrome or nerve entrapment is when the peripheral nerve loses mobility and flexibility or gets compressed by surrounding tissues. This can cause neuropathic or neurogenic pain (acute or chronic). Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common types of nerve entrapment, where a narrowing carpal tunnel compresses the median nerve. The compressed nerve leads to numbness, inflammation, and pain around the thumb, index finger, and middle finger. Similarly, a pinched nerve or cervical radiculopathy refers to a compressed nerve in the neck leading to severe shoulder pain.

Treatment for Hand and Shoulder Pain

With various factors causing hand and shoulder pain, taking the necessary measures to cope with the symptoms and reduce the risk of future injuries is important.


As most experts suggest, taking time off and resting your body can work wonders for hand and shoulder pain. Hence it is important to avoid any physical activity that can contribute to pain and prevent achieving a full recovery. With daily tasks and activities that cannot be avoided, modifying them in ways that can reduce strain is essential.

Ice and heat therapy

Cold compressions and heat therapy are most commonly used to reduce inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Applying an ice pack for around 20 minutes at least five times a day can do the trick. However, avoiding applying the pack directly to the skin is highly recommended. After this, you can apply heat packs or place hot water bottles at the point of injury for around 15 minutes. Alternating between both creates a pumping action in the circulatory system leading to reduced swelling.

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Over-the-counter pain medication

Doctors mainly prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, pain medications, and muscle relaxants to cope with these conditions. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) lowers pain and inflammation. This is especially beneficial for rotator cuff injuries, arthritis, and tendonitis. Pain medications or topical pain-relief gels and creams can also help ease pain and give you better sleep. However, it may accompany side effects (stomach pain, heartburn, etc.). In addition to this, spasms and muscle tension can be treated by muscle relaxants.

Physical therapy

Physiotherapy is considered to be one of the most effective approaches to treating pain. Since the techniques are not drug dependent or surgical, there are minimal side effects. Our advanced modalities, including stretching and strengthening exercises, acupuncture, chiropractic care, electrotherapy, and hydrotherapy, help achieve a speedy recovery. Further, you can learn to improve your lifestyle and well-being with at-home physical therapy.


For severe shoulder or hand injuries, surgery may be recommended. Surgery may focus on removing scar tissue or rebuilding or replacing bones based on the condition. Common conditions requiring surgery include cartilage tears, rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome, fractures, and severe arthritis. Post-surgery, seeking physical therapy to cope with pain and improve strength and functionality is essential.

Importance of Addressing Hand and Shoulder Pain Promptly

The next time you struggle with shoulder or hand pain, seek professional help. Ignoring these conditions is never the solution, as it may lead to long-term consequences. At Physiotattva, the experts focus on gaining a comprehensive diagnosis and designing a treatment plan that works for you.

Frequently Asked Question

What are the most common causes of hand and shoulder pain?

The most common causes of hand and shoulder pain include arthritis, broken bones, nerve entrapment, dislocation, and tendinitis. These conditions can develop with age or as a result of accidents.

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What are the symptoms of hand and shoulder pain?

In most cases, hand and shoulder pain are diagnosed by the following symptoms

  1. Inflammation
  2. Stiffness
  3. Bruising
  4. Weakness
  5. Numbness or tingling sensation
  6. Tenderness
  7. Limited range of motion

What is the home remedy for arm and shoulder pain?

As suggested by our excerpts, common home remedies for arm and shoulder pain include rest, ice and heat therapy, massages, gentle stretches, and pain medication. However, it is important to seek professional help when needed compared to being completely dependent on home remedies.

Is it necessary to see a doctor for hand and shoulder pain?

It is necessary to see a doctor for hand and shoulder pain. Several home remedies only provide temporary relief. Hence achieving a complete recovery and reducing the risk of future injuries is only possible through medical consultations.

Can shoulder pain go down to your hand?

It is common for shoulder pain to radiate across the body, especially along the hand. Damage or strain to various shoulder muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, the serratus anterior, the rotator cuff muscles, and the pectoral muscles, can lead to hand pain.


What causes pain in shoulder and hands? ›

Shoulder pain can have multiple causes, including rotator cuff abnormalities and inflammation. Arm and hand pain could be from muscle spasms or arthritis.

When should I be concerned about hand and shoulder pain? ›

Seek emergency treatment if you have:

Arm, shoulder or back pain that comes on suddenly, is unusually severe, or is accompanied by pressure, fullness or squeezing in your chest (this may signal a heart attack)

Why does my left shoulder and hand hurt? ›

Pain in the left arm that comes and goes is a possible sign of a heart attack. However, other conditions, such as an injury or a pinched nerve, can also cause this type of pain. If a person feels short of breath or has discomfort or pain in their chest or upper body, they should call 911 immediately.

Why does my arm hurt from my shoulder to my hand? ›

Pain from the shoulder to the hand

These include: Cervical radiculopathy: This condition can cause sharp pain that can move from the area of your neck and shoulder all the way down your arm. Thoracic outlet syndrome: Pain from TOS can be present from your shoulder down to your hand and fingers.

What disease has a symptom of shoulder pain? ›

Osteoarthritis (disease causing the breakdown of joints) Polymyalgia rheumatica. Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory joint disease) Rotator cuff injury.

Can your shoulder make your hand hurt? ›

Yes. Typically, the pain starts as a dull aching pain in your shoulder. As the injury progresses, it can cause radiating pain down the arm and into your hands. As a result, a person can lose the ability to raise their arm at all.

Can hand pain come from the shoulder? ›

Pain in the arms and hands that originates from the shoulders can also be due to trigger points (areas of tightness) in the muscles of the shoulder and neck. These areas tend to be particularly sensitive, so they are easy to palpate and find.

How should I sleep with shoulder and hand pain? ›

Adjusting your sleeping position to the opposite side or to your back or stomach may help take pressure off an aching shoulder. Utilize a pillow. Most of us change positions in our sleep. If you're concerned about rolling onto your sore shoulder, try placing a pillow in a way that will prevent you from doing so.

How do I know if my hand pain is serious? ›

See a GP if:

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 and hand pain – hand problems can be more serious if you have diabetes.

What are red flags for shoulder pain? ›

Look for the following red flags that indicate the need for urgent investigations and/or referral to secondary care: acute presentation with a history of trauma (especially if pain restricts all passive and active movements); systemic symptoms such as fever, night sweats, weight loss, or new respiratory symptoms; ...

What does it mean when u get a pain from your shoulder to hand and fingers feel tingly? ›

Pain and numbness in the fingers accompanied with discomfort in the shoulder region is mostly associated with a pinched nerve (cervical radiculopathy). A pinched nerve occurs when a nearby structure irritates or presses on a nerve coming from the neck. This can lead to shoulder pain and numbness of the arm and hand.

What medicine helps left hand pain? ›

Simple analgesic medications such as acetaminophen (paracetamol) or aspirin are often useful in the relief of hand pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen, ketoprofen or naproxen can also be useful.

What is the home remedy for hand pain? ›

Ice: Apply ice to the area for 20 minutes, several times a day. A person can try using cold packs or frozen bags of vegetables. A person should never apply ice directly to the skin. Compression: Wear a compression bandage to prevent swelling and additional blood loss.

What is right arm and hand pain a symptom of? ›

You may experience arm or hand pain due to the wearing down of the cartilage that separates your joints that occurs over time, allowing the bones to rub together. This condition is more commonly known as osteoarthritis. It isn't just your cartilage and joints, however.

Can a pinched nerve in shoulder cause arm and hand pain? ›

A pinched nerve in the shoulder occurs when a nearby structure irritates or presses on a nerve coming from the neck. This can lead to shoulder pain and numbness of the arm and hand. Doctors may also refer to a pinched nerve in the shoulder arising from the neck as cervical radiculopathy.

What causes joint pain in arms and hands? ›

The most common causes of chronic pain in joints are: Osteoarthritis, a common type of arthritis, happens over time when the cartilage, the protective cushion in between the bones, wears away. The joints become painful and stiff. Osteoarthritis develops slowly and usually occurs during middle age.

Can shoulder pain be a symptom of something else? ›

In addition to spine or disc issues, you can also experience shoulder pain from other health problems, ranging from pneumonia, pancreatitis, and gallstones to inflammation around the heart and heart attack.

How can I tell if shoulder pain is serious? ›

Make an appointment with your doctor if your shoulder pain is accompanied by:
  1. Swelling.
  2. Redness.
  3. Tenderness and warmth around the joint.

Can shoulder pain be related to heart problems? ›

There are a few different heart disease-related sources of shoulder pain. The condition most commonly associated is probably a heart attack, but other potential cardiac conditions can also trigger this pain.

Can pinched nerve in shoulder affect hand? ›

Damaged or pinched nerves may be linked to pain in the shoulder as well as numbness in the hand, including the fingers. If you're experiencing these symptoms, you might have tried shaking or rubbing your hand to regain normal sensation.

Is right hand shoulder pain related to heart? ›

Unexplained shoulder and arm pain can sometimes be a warning sign of a heart attack, which is a medical emergency. People should see a doctor if they are concerned about pain in their right shoulder and arm or if the pain is not improving.

What nerve runs from shoulder to fingers? ›

The ulnar nerve travels from your shoulder to your little finger. It is located quite close to the skin's surface without much muscle and bone to protect it. It is this nerve that is responsible for the painful sensation you get when you hit your funny bone. The ulnar nerve is particularly vulnerable to compression.

What conditions cause hand pain? ›

What's Causing My Hand Pain?
  • Arthritis.
  • Carpal tunnel.
  • De Quervain's.
  • Ganglion cysts.
  • Gout.
  • Lupus.
  • Peripheral neuropathy.
  • Raynaud's phenomenon.
Sep 26, 2017

What causes nerve pain in arm and hand? ›

Peripheral neuropathy can result from traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, inherited causes and exposure to toxins. One of the most common causes is diabetes. People with peripheral neuropathy generally describe the pain as stabbing, burning or tingling.

Why do I have pain in my hands? ›

Arthritis is one of the most common causes of hand pain, affecting millions of people every year. Arthritis develops over time and causes inflammation of the joints. You may have it in a finger, your wrist, or multiple spots along your hand. Osteoarthritis is the most common type.

What are 2 warning signs of a rotator cuff tear? ›

The pain associated with a rotator cuff injury may:
  • Be described as a dull ache deep in the shoulder.
  • Disturb sleep.
  • Make it difficult to comb your hair or reach behind your back.
  • Be accompanied by arm weakness.
May 18, 2022

What makes shoulder pain worse at night? ›

There are basically three conditions that can cause shoulder pain to worsen at night: bursitis, tendonitis, and rotator cuff injuries. This is because the inflammation involved in each can pull on the shoulder joint, especially when the area is compressed (as when laying on your side in bed).

Should you put heat on shoulder pain? ›

Injured shoulders should be iced for at least 72 hours, or until the swelling has reduced. Tense or tight shoulders can get relief from heat, but be careful not to use heat on any swollen injuries.

What can a doctor do for hand pain? ›

A hand doctor will often try to first treat the issue with non-surgical methods, such as hand therapy, splinting, medications, injections, and other modalities.

What are the symptoms of nerve pain in hand? ›

  • Numbness or decreased sensation in the area supplied by the nerve.
  • Sharp, aching or burning pain, which may radiate outward.
  • Tingling, pins and needles sensations (paresthesia)
  • Muscle weakness in the affected area.
  • Frequent feeling that a foot or hand has "fallen asleep"
Jan 22, 2022

What kind of shoulder pain is associated with heart problems? ›

Sudden left shoulder pain can sometimes be a sign of a heart attack. Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have sudden pressure or crushing pain in your shoulder, especially if the pain runs from your chest to the left jaw, arm or neck, or occurs with shortness of breath, dizziness, or sweating.

What is the best anti inflammatory for shoulder pain? ›

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can relieve shoulder pain by reducing inflammation in the shoulder joint. Ibuprofen and naproxen are two NSAIDs doctors commonly recommend.

What is the most common diagnosis for shoulder pain? ›

Rotator cuff tendinopathy is the most common cause of shoulder pain. An occupational history may reveal heavy lifting or repetitive movements, especially above shoulder level.

How do I know if my shoulder pain is nerve related? ›

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve in the Shoulder?
  1. Pain or discomfort in the shoulder region.
  2. Radiating pain that tends to travel from the neck all the way down the arm.
  3. Muscle weakness in the affected areas.
  4. Tingling in the fingers or hands with “pins and needles” sensation.
May 13, 2020

What two conditions are often misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome? ›

Arthritic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and osteoarthritis, can all cause pain in the hands and fingers that may mimic carpal tunnel syndrome.

What condition causes pain in the fingers and hand? ›

Arthritis is joint inflammation and can occur in multiple areas of the hand and wrist. Arthritis of the hand can be very painful. Rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that can attack joints throughout the body, commonly affects the joints and surrounding tendons of the wrist and fingers.

What does left hand pain indicate? ›

If your arm hurts, your first thought may be that you injured your arm. Pain in one part of the body can sometimes originate elsewhere. A pain in your left arm could mean you have a bone or joint injury, a pinched nerve, or a problem with your heart.

Does left hand pain related to heart? ›

Not all left arm pain, achiness or difficulty moving is a sign of a heart attack. Sometimes the cause is an injury, compressed nerves or other issues that don't involve your heart. Be mindful of the other symptoms, and if they last for more than a couple minutes, get emergency help.

Is left hand pain related to heart? ›

Often, an initial symptom of a heart attack is sudden left arm pain that gets increasingly intense over the course of a few minutes. Other symptoms of heart attack are: discomfort/pressure in the center of the chest. discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, or stomach.

What drink is good for hand pain? ›

Fresh juices

Orange, pineapple, tomato and carrot juices are all brimming with vitamin C, meaning they contain antioxidant properties to fight free radicals that lead to inflammation. Tart cherry juice has also been shown to help prevent gout flare-ups and reduce osteoarthritis symptoms.

Why does my left hand shoulder hurt? ›

Sudden left shoulder pain can sometimes be a sign of a heart attack. Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have sudden pressure or crushing pain in your shoulder, especially if the pain runs from your chest to the left jaw, arm or neck, or occurs with shortness of breath, dizziness, or sweating.

What medicine helps nerve pain in hands? ›

Anticonvulsant drugs like carbamazepine, Trileptal (oxcarbazepine), and Lamictal (lamotrigine), originally meant to take on seizures, have shown efficacy for nerve pain. Tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil (amitriptyline), Sinequan (doxepin), and Pamelor (nortriptyline) are effective when prescribed at lower doses.

How do I get rid of arthritis pain in my hand? ›

A complete treatment plan for arthritis of the hand includes these additional approaches:
  1. Exercises — strengthening and stretching — to reduce symptoms and improve function. ...
  2. Hot and cold packs. ...
  3. Rest. ...
  4. Healthy eating and managing diabetes and cholesterol.
  5. Weight loss if you're overweight.
  6. Smoking cessation.
Jul 6, 2021

Can shoulder pain radiate to the hand? ›

Yes. Typically, the pain starts as a dull aching pain in your shoulder. As the injury progresses, it can cause radiating pain down the arm and into your hands.

Why does my shoulder hurt down to my fingers? ›

Answer: Those symptoms are most commonly associated with a pinched nerve in the neck, a condition called a "cervical radiculopathy." The specific treatment you might need depends upon several factors such as how long you have had the pain, whether there is any associated weakness, and the severity of pain.

What diseases cause pain in hands? ›

Arthritis (the inflammation of one or more joints) is the leading cause of hand pain. It can occur anywhere in the body but is particularly common in the hands and wrist. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, but the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Can a blocked artery cause shoulder pain? ›

Plaque is a wax-like substance that prevents these arteries from sending oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Angina usually feels like pressure or squeezing in your chest. The NHLBI notes that you may also feel pain and discomfort in nearby areas, including: Shoulders.

Can shoulder arthritis cause hand pain? ›

The pain can often radiate into the arm or, if severe, can radiate down to the elbow and wrist. Stiffness of the joint is another sign of shoulder arthritis progression.


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