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Facts on Heel of Hand Pain

By Rick Suttle ; Updated July 27, 2017

Heel of hand pain is more common on the side of the thumb. It usually stems for an overuse of the hands through repetitive motions such as typing or factory work. A person with heel of hand pain may want to get a proper diagnosis of the condition. The source of the pain can be caused by several conditions. Treatment varies but usually includes a combination of rest, ice, medication and exercise.


Heel of hand pain can stem from a bruise, strain, tendinitis, arthritis or De Quervain's tenosynovitis syndrome. A person with carpal tunnel syndrome may also experience pain in this area. People with arthritis and tenosynovitis usually have aching between the wrist and base of the thumb. There may be swelling in the heel of the hand as well. Either condition can cause a weakness in the surrounding muscle tissue. People may have trouble gripping objects or even using their hand for basic tasks. A doctor may need to prescribe an X-ray or other test to correctly identify the problem.

Effects of Rest, Ice and Heat

Most heel of hand pain such as tendinitis requires a certain period of rest. This can prevent further aggravation of the injury or condition. It also gives the ice time to reduce inflammation and consequential pain. Ice can relieve heel of hand pain by restricting blood vessels (vasoconstriction) and, thus, the flow of blood and lymph fluid to the area. Ice is most effective if used at 20-minute intervals throughout the day. Elevating the hand above the heart can also reduce swelling. After a couple days, heat can promote blood (with its healing properties) flow to the heel of the hand.

Types of Medications

Most heel of hand pain can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen. These medicines control inflammation and pain by reducing the effects of Cox-2 enzymes and prostaglandins (chemicals), which are produced as a natural body reaction to an injury. Certain topical creams may also be effective for heel of hand pain. Steroids may be used for more severe pain in the heel of hand area.

Types of Exercise

Once swelling and pain are somewhat under control, stretching and strength-building exercises can alleviate heel of hand pain. Squeezing a tennis ball can build strength in the hand and promote blood flow to the affected area. Stretching the thumb back or rotating it can help rebuild mobility in this appendage and loosen up tight joints, ligaments and hand muscles. Exercises can also be performed for rehabilitation after surgery. According to Dr. Nathan Wei, a nationally known rheumatologist, "strength recovery may take up to one year depending on the amount of weakness prior to surgery and how vigorously strengthening exercises are continued."

Time Frame

There is no set time frame for overcoming heel of hand pain. Some conditions may be more chronic or require surgery. Nevertheless, individuals who get their condition properly diagnosed and follow a specific treatment regimen usually recover more quickly from heel of hand pain.

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