Your symptoms

Problems in the hand will produce a variety of different symptoms. These can be present in combination or on their own.

This is probably the most distressing of symptoms. Pain can be sharp and shooting, or dull and aching. Certain movements or activities may reliably produce your pain (activity related pain) or the pain can even be experienced when you are doing nothing (rest pain). Rarely, pain will disturb sleep. Certain descriptions of an individual's pain will help lead doctors to the likely causes. It is important to think carefully about the nature of your pain, its associations, its location and any factors which may aggravate or relieve the symptom before speaking to your doctor.

Tingling, pins and needles, or paraesthesia all describe the intense, and sometimes uncomfortable, feeling we have all experienced when we hit our 'funny bone' or fall asleep in an odd position. Certain conditions produce this symptom as a permanent feature. Your doctor will want to know the distribution of the altered feeling - which fingers does it affect the most -, together with information on whether or not you are unable to feel things as well as you could. Sometimes, even light touch and stroking of the skin is uncomfortable. This is called hypersensitivity and is also a guide to the malfunction of a particular nerve.

Cold sensitivity
Certain injuries and conditions produce symptoms on exposure to cold. This can either be cold weather or contact with cold objects or liquids. Generally the symptoms described in this condition are pain/ache, stiffness, altered feeling and colour change. These symptoms can occur on their own or in combination. Few treatments are effective. The symptoms can progress in their first two years, but rarely deteriorate after that.

Joints are designed to move freely and smoothly without discomfort. Some conditions will restrict this free movement, such as arthritis. Simple swelling of a finger or hand will make it much more difficult for the muscles to bend the joints, and this may be reported as 'stiffness'.

When some of the range of movement of a joint is present and normal, yet another part is not obtainable, it is likely that a contracture exists. The commonest cause of contracture in the hand would be Dupuytrens Contracture. Contractures also occur in arthritis, after injury, and in some nerve problems where the muscles are too weak to move the joints. Contractures not caused by Dupuytrens Disease can best be treated by physiotherapy and splintage. Occasionally, surgery will be needed to correct contracture, such as in Dupuytrens Disease.

Sometimes it is difficult to put your symptoms into words. You may feel clumsy and may drop things easily, or not be holding tightly when you think you are. This is often because there is a deficient feedback to the brain about what the hands and fingers are doing. People with trapped nerve problems (such as carpal tunnel syndrome) will often only be able to say that they "feel clumsy".

A number of different functions combine to produce reliable strength. Weakness, as a symptom, can be the result of a nerve compression (weakening the muscle or providing insufficient information on how hard to grip), arthritis (where the joints hurt when they squeeze or grip, or the muscles around the joint are wasted and weaker), or contractures (when the joints cannot get into the correct position to generate a powerful grip). Weakness may only come to light in certain functions in the hand. For instance, people with arthritis at the thumb base find it difficult to generate or sustain a strong pinch grip, so may complain of difficulty fastening buttons, whilst those with generalised finger arthritis cannot grip bigger objects powerfully.