Pain or a numb, tingling sensation in your hands and feet can be the result of an injury, but ongoing pain without any obvious injury can be a sign of a more serious problem like nerve damage, inflammation, or a more complicated disorder.
What is Hand and Foot Pain?
Hand and foot pain is pain in the extremities [ik-STREM-ih-tees] that can range from a sharp pain to a dull ache. It may also radiate into other areas of your body. Depending on the cause, you may also have numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
There are many possible causes of hand or foot pain, including:
Inflammation [in-fluh-MAY-shun]. Swelling of the joints, muscle, or tissue can occur in the hands and feet either because of injury or because of inflammatory disorders like arthritis [ahr-THRAY-tis].
Nerve damage. Pinched nerves or neurological [NOO-roh-LAH-jik-uhl] problems can occur anywhere in the body but may be felt as numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
Injury. Injuries to the bones, muscles, tissues or joints of the hands or feet can result in inflammation and pain.
Disorders. Some disorders cause pain and inflammation throughout the body or affect circulation to the extremities, resulting in pain symptoms.
Without the presence of an injury, pain in both the hands and feet is usually a sign of a systemic problem that is interfering with your body’s ability to regulate temperature, sensation, or circulation to the extremities.
Hand and foot pain can have several different kinds of sensations beyond just a sharp or dull pain. Other, related symptoms may include:
Cramps or twitching
Changes in skin, hair, or nails
Numbness or tingling
Loss of sensation
Loss of balance
Limited mobility or flexibility
Joint pain or stiffness
Restless leg syndrome
Low blood pressure
Heat or cold intolerance
Inflammation and swelling
Ulcers or skin infections
Your specific combination of symptoms may help your doctor diagnose the cause of your hand and foot pain.
When to See a Doctor
See your doctor if you have ongoing hand and foot pain that does not improve with rest. It is important to discuss these symptoms with your doctor because pain in the extremities can be a sign of a more serious disorder.
There are many causes of hand and foot pain, including injury. But if you are not experiencing symptoms from an accident or injury, other causes of pain in the extremities include:
Peripheral Neuropathy [peh-RIH-fur-uhl noo-ROP-uh-thee]. Nerve damage prevents the nervous system from sending signals to your extremities, resulting in pain or tingling sensations.
Arthritis. Inflammation of the joints can commonly occur in the hands and feet with age, causing pain and stiffness.
Tendinitis [ten-DUHN-eye-TIS]. This is an inflammation of the tendon in the hands or feet caused by injury, disorder or infection.
Fibromyalgia [fahy-broh-mahy-AL-juh]. This chronic disorder causes pain in the muscles, fatigue, and tenderness in some areas.
Lupus [LOO-puhs]. This disease can cause inflammation of the skin that can be focused in the hands and feet.
Diabetes [DYE-uh-BEE-tees]. The inability to regulate insulin can result in circulation problems that affect the extremities.
Multiple Sclerosis [skluhr-OH-sis]. This chronic disease damages the nerve sheath and can cause numbness and pain.
Gout. Inability to metabolize uric acid can result in painful arthritis, especially in the feet.
Buerger’s disease. Inflammation of the blood vessels, usually in the lower extremities, can lead to gangrene [GANG-green].
Hand and foot pain can have many other causes that involve other parts of the body like the blood, nerve, muscle, and skeletal systems.
Diagnosis and Tests
To diagnose the source of your hand and foot pain, your doctor may conduct some of the following tests:
Physical exam and medical history
Muscle strength tests
Testing the ability to detect vibrations
EMG (electromyography) [ee-LECK-tro-my-AH-graf-ee]
Nerve or skin biopsy [BY-op-see]
Your doctor will order tests based on your symptoms, your overall health, and the most likely cause of your hand and foot pain.
The treatment for hand and foot pain will vary depending on the cause of your pain. Depending on the diagnosis, some of the treatments that might be recommended, include:
Heat and cold therapy
Medicines for pain and inflammation
Surgery for severe nerve damage
Your doctor may also suggest rest and dietary changes to help relieve the symptoms of hand and foot pain.
Prevention will depend on the cause of your hand and foot pain.
However, some basic changes to promote a healthier lifestyle may be helpful in preventing hand and foot pain. This could include the following:
Maintain a healthy weight
Avoid excessive alcohol and drug consumption
Get plenty of rest
Avoid high impact, repetitive motion
Control blood pressure
Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time
Wear comfortable shoes and clothing
Some diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, aren’t preventable. Talk with your doctor about other methods of prevention to help avoid or improve the outcome of your hand and foot pain.