Causes of joint pain in hands

Updated November 21, 2016

You're trying to get the lid off of the mayonnaise jar, which you've done hundreds of times before, and you suddenly experience pain in your hands, fingers or wrist. You realise that you no longer have the strength in your hands that you once did and can't even unscrew a lid without experiencing pain. Your fingers are swollen and stiff and you hurt. What is the cause of this pain and weakness? Arthritis, probably.


Arthritis is the main cause of joint pain in the hands. According to, our hands are made up of numerous small joints. When these joints work in tandem, you are able to produce motion, such as typing on a keyboard. When arthritis strikes, the joints in the hands and wrists become seriously compromised, because arthritis causes the destruction of cartilage in our hands. Cartilage is comparable to a shock absorber. It provides the smooth gliding surface for the joint. When cartilage is damaged, or simply worn out, using these joints become painful.

What Happens

If you are suffering from joint pain in your hands, you may also notice that your fingers and hands are swollen. This happens because your body is trying to compensate for the lost cartilage, and, in the process of providing protection for your joints, the body produces fluid. The fluid collects in the joint lining, which is called synovium. This is what causes your joints to swell, which, in turn, limits your mobility. In addition, the swelling caused by the "protective" fluid causes the joint covering to stretch, which results in pain, according to

Osteoarthritis Versus Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arthritis is not a condition that pops up overnight. Rather, it develops over time. The cartilage slowly gets worn out, and, as this progresses, your pain will become worse. Some suffer from osteoarthritis, which normally affects older people and is believed to be the ultimate outcome, for many of us, of years of wear and tear on the body. Your joints simply become worn out. Others suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, which is genetic and can have an impact on the organs in your body.

Seek Treatment

Arthritis will get progressively worse. If it is not treated, your bones will lose their normal shape, and this will result in further limitations and more pain. If you have arthritis, the affected joint may feel warm to your touch. This is caused by your body's inflammatory response.

Sound Effects

You may actually hear or feel grinding in the affected joint, and that's because the surfaces of the worn-out cartilages are rubbing against each other. If your arthritis has been caused by ligaments that have been damaged, the structures that support your joints may become loose and unstable. In really bad cases of arthritis caused by ligament damage, the joint becomes larger than it was initially. This is called hypertrophic. The increase in size is caused by loss of cartilage, joint swelling and changes in your bones.

Keep Moving

Exercise may be the last thing you want to do when you are suffering from arthritis; however, maintains that lack of exercise may result in a worsening of your condition. When you exercise, the muscles and tissues in your body stay strong and help support your bones. says that exercise will not aggravate joint pain. Refraining from exercise will result in your joints becoming more stiff and causing you even more pain.

Various Other Types of Arthritis

The various types of arthritis that can cause joint pain in your hands, and elsewhere, include fibromyalgia, lupus, gout and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. All of these conditions are autoimmune diseases and fall under the umbrella of arthritis, according to (See References 3). Lupus will attack the joints, causing pain. It also attacks cells and body tissues. Gout is very painful, and it generally strikes the big toe. This condition results when too much uric acid builds up in the body. The uric acid crystals then build up in the joints, and swelling occurs. Fibromyalgia does not cause inflammation, as do the other types of arthritis; however, it does result in overall pain, stiffness and aching. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis strikes children and results in pain and swelling.

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About the Author

Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She completed both the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Pearce has been writing professionally for over 30 years.