Finger pain is defined as pain in one or more fingers.
Nearly everyone over a lifetime has had finger injuries. As a result, the fingers can remain a bit crooked or stiff. The hand functions quite well with these minor deformities. Fingers need not open fully or close completely to be functional.
Osteoarthritis causes knobby swelling of finger joints and can also cause problems at the base of the thumb. Expect some pain and stiffness. Specific treatment, other than exercise, is not required.
Numbness or tingling may indicate a problem with nerves or circulation.
- Injury or trauma
- Raynaud’s phenomenon
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA)
- Any problem with the nerves of the fingers or hand
- Reduced circulation to the fingers
Avoid activities that cause or aggravate pain.
After injury, rest the finger joints so that they can heal, but use mild stretching exercises to keep them limber and maintain motion. Stretch the joints gently, not forcefully, twice a day. Stretch just to the point of discomfort, but not enough to cause pain.
Use common sense in thinking of ways to perform activities that are less stressful to the joints. For example, a big handle can be gripped with less strain than a small handle.
Avoid strong pain medicines that tend to mask the pain and may lead to excessive activity or exercise.
Anti-inflammatory medication can help. Any prescribed medication for inflammation should be taken only as directed.
Call your health care provider if
- The finger pain is caused by injury.
- The problem persists after 2 weeks of home treatment.
- There is numbing or tingling in the fingers.
- There is severe pain at rest.
- It is impossible to straighten the fingers.
What to expect at your health care provider’s office
The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed.
Medical history questions documenting finger pain in detail may include:
- Location o What part of the finger is affected? o Is it on both hands? o Is it every finger? o Which finger? o Is it only a particular joint? Which joint?
- Time pattern o When did the finger pain first start? o How long has it lasted? o Is it continuous or off-and-on?
- Quality o Is the pain burning? o Is the pain crushing? o Is the pain sharp?
- Medical history o Has there been a recent injury? o What other symptoms are also present?
The physical examination will include examination of the hand and finger movement.
X-ray of the hand may be recommended
Cortisone injections into a particularly affected finger joint may be recommended. Surgery may be indicated.
After seeing your health care provider:
You may want to add a diagnosis related to finger pain to your personal medical record.
by Janet G. Derge, M.D.