Finger joint pain can affect a person’s everyday activities and may have several causes. It is common for swelling and stiffness to accompany finger joint pain.
Some people experience finger joint pain that worsens when they move or press on the finger. Others may have persistent finger joint pain that does not improve with rest or over-the-counter (OTC) treatment.
This article discusses the causes, symptoms, and treatment of finger joint pain.
Finger joint pain can result from:
Finger injuries are common, especially in athletes and people who work with heavy machinery. As trauma can often result in pain and inflammation, people will likely experience discomfort when pressing on the finger. Common causes of finger injuries include:
- a sprain, which refers to a stretched or torn ligament
- a strain, when a muscle or tendon becomes stretched or torn
- a dislocated finger joint, when something forces a finger bone out of its joint
- a fractured or broken bone, when a finger bone breaks
Read about the difference between a sprain and a strain.
People can treat mild sprains and strains with RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) therapy.
- Rest: Avoid moving or using the injured finger for a few days. Consider immobilizing the injured finger using a splint or buddy-taping it to another finger.
- Ice: Place an ice pack on the injured finger for
20 minutes, between four and eight times daily. Applying ice can help reduce swelling and minimize pain.
- Compression: Wrap the injured finger in a soft dressing or a bandage. Make sure the bandage is snug but not constricting.
- Elevation: Keep the injured finger above the heart to reduce blood pressure and swelling in the finger.
Severe injuries, such as dislocations and fractures, require medical intervention. A healthcare professional can move a finger bone back into its joint and reset a fractured bone. They will then immobilize the finger to allow it to heal properly.
Tendonitis occurs when a tendon becomes inflamed, which can lead to swelling, discomfort, and reduced movement.
Tenosynovitis refers to inflammation of the tendon sheath, which is the thin membrane that encloses a tendon. It can lead to joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.
People can treat mild tendon problems with RICE therapy. People who have severe or persistent symptoms may require:
- corticosteroid injections to relieve swelling
- physical therapy
Ganglion cysts are fluid-filled growths that usually develop on the back of the wrist and the end of finger joints. These growths can feel soft or firm to the touch. They are usually harmless, but some people report feeling tenderness, pain, or weakness near a ganglion cyst.
The exact cause of ganglion cysts remains unknown. However, researchers believe these fluid-filled growths develop from
Ganglion cysts typically resolve without medical intervention. Doctors typically only recommend treatment for ganglion cysts that cause pain or affect mobility. Depending on its location, a doctor can drain or surgically remove a ganglion cyst.
Arthritis is a general term for conditions that lead to joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness. As a result, these conditions will likely cause pain and discomfort when a person presses on their finger. Two common types of arthritis include osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
OA involves the loss of cartilage, the tissue that lines the joints. It is also the most common form of arthritis, especially among adults over the age of
RA is a chronic inflammatory condition that occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.
Symptoms of arthritis include:
- joint pain and swelling
- joint stiffness that lasts up to 2 hours, especially in the morning
- difficulty walking, sitting, or standing up
- loss of mobility in the small joints of the hands and fingers
- difficulty performing fine motor tasks, such as gripping and tying shoelaces
The goals of arthritis treatment include:
- reducing pain
- improving joint mobility
- slowing disease progression
A doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- disease-modifying medications that inhibit the body’s natural immune response
- oral or topical pain relievers
- NSAIDs or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
- physical therapy to improve mobility and strengthen the joints
- surgery to repair or replace joints
- supportive devices, such as braces and walkers
- lifestyle changes, including weight loss, to relieve stress on the joints
Read more about RA treatments.
Dupuytren’s contracture refers to the thickening of the connective tissues in the palm. Over time, the bands of connective tissue become shorter, which can cause the fingers to bend toward the palm.
Symptoms of Dupuytren’s contracture include:
- pain or discomfort in the fingers or palm
- nodular growths or pits on the fingers
- difficulty flattening the palm
- difficulty using the hands or performing fine movements
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that develops in people with diabetes. Neuropathy can affect the nerves in the arms and hands, which can lead to a burning or tingling sensation, numbness, or weakness.
Treatments for hand and finger conditions related to diabetes focus on alleviating symptoms and preventing disease progression.
Doctors may treat Dupuytren’s contracture with corticosteroid injections, pain medications, and physical therapy. If it interferes with hand function, they may suggest surgery.
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Although rare, tumors can develop in the soft tissue, bones, ligaments, or finger tendons. A tumor in or near a finger joint can lead to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. For example, bone metastases — malignant growths — in the fingers
If the tumor is cancerous, people may experience:
- bone pain that comes and goes
- swelling and tenderness in the affected site
- weakened bones, which can lead to fractures
- unintended weight loss
Non-cancerous, or benign, tumors do not necessarily require medical treatment. As long as a person does not experience pain or changes in mobility, they can safely live with a benign tumor.
A doctor will likely recommend removing a cancerous tumor in a finger joint. They will send the tumor or a sample of it to a pathologist for further analysis. A pathologist can assess the type of tumor and its origin. This information helps doctors determine the best course of treatment.
If a tumor originated from a bone, a doctor may use one or more of the following treatment options for bone cancer:
A doctor can surgically remove small tumors along with the surrounding healthy tissue. This method ensures no cancer cells get left behind.
It is harder for a doctor to treat soft tissue cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes or distant parts of the body. A doctor may still attempt to remove tumors and any affected lymph nodes with surgery.
If cancer has spread to an organ system, a doctor will likely recommend systemic therapies, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
A person should contact a doctor if they experience severe finger pain or any of the following symptoms:
- numbness or tingling in their fingers or hand
- difficulty moving or straightening their fingers
- a finger that appears discolored and swollen
- finger pain that does not improve with at-home or OTC treatment
A person can prevent finger joint pain by:
Finger joint pain can occur for several reasons and may affect a person’s everyday activities.
An injured finger should improve with rest and pain medication. Injuries include sprain, strain, dislocation, or fracture. A doctor may need to reset a fractured bone.
Inflammation due to arthritis or infections can also lead to finger joint pain. A person’s symptoms should improve once they treat the underlying condition.
People should contact a doctor if they experience finger joint pain that worsens or does not improve with OTC treatment.