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Possible causes of finger joint pain: from infections and injuries to underlying health conditions

Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on October 15, 2019. Written by Jordana White. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Pain in your finger joints can make it difficult to perform—and enjoy—daily tasks. If that’s something you’re experiencing, it’s best to talk with your healthcare provider as soon as you can to get a proper diagnosis. With that in mind, keep reading to find out more about the possible causes of finger joint pain.

What can cause finger joint pain?

Injuries

If you experience sudden pain in one of your finger joints—or pain in your finger joint when it is pressed—you may have a hand or finger injury (especially if you experience swelling, increased pain when pressing your finger, or general stiffness). Here are some common causes of finger injuries:

  • Falling on your hand
  • Hitting your hand or dropping something on your fingers
  • Jamming your finger
  • Bending your fingers too far in either direction

Symptoms of a hand or finger injury include:

  • Sudden pain that lingers
  • Swelling
  • Reduced mobility of your hand or finger

Treating finger joint pain caused by an injury

If your finger might be broken or dislocated, seek medical attention immediately. However, if your injury is minor, the following home remedies may help:

  • Rest. Give your fingers a break by avoiding activities that require movement. Buddy taping—connecting the injured finger to a healthy one—can help immobilize the injured finger.
  • Ice. To help reduce pain and swelling in your finger joint, you can apply an ice pack for up to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  • Compression. When you aren’t icing your finger, keep it gently wrapped or taped, as described above.
  • Elevation. Prop your injured finger above heart level to help reduce swelling. If elevating your finger for extended periods isn’t possible, try elevating it when you ice the injury.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, may help reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when inflammation in your wrist leads to swelling, compressing the median nerve (that runs through your wrist and along the palm side of your hand). It’s another possible cause of finger joint pain, and it often impacts other areas of your hand and wrist, as well.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel include:

  • Hand and wrist pain
  • Tingling
  • Hand and finger numbness

Carpal tunnel syndrome is typically a repetitive-use injury, but it can also be connected to diabetes, thyroid issues, high blood pressure, and autoimmune disorders. Symptoms may get worse without treatment, so it’s important to address carpal tunnel syndrome with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Treating finger pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome

To alleviate pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome, the following approaches may be recommended by your healthcare provider:

  • Brace or splint the affected wrist and hand
  • Adjust your computer and workstation to alleviate pressure to your wrist
  • Do physical therapy
  • Take anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Undergo surgery

Disseminated gonococcal infection

A disseminated gonococcal infection occurs when a gonorrhea infection (a kind of sexually transmitted infection, or STI) spreads to different areas of the body. This can occur when gonorrhea is not detected and treated. It’s estimated that disseminated gonococcal infections develop in up to 3% of people with gonorrhea.

Disseminated gonococcal infections (also known as disseminated gonorrhea) are one of the main causes of polyarthralgia—pain in multiple joints—among young adults who are normally healthy. Joint pain due to a disseminated gonococcal infection can affect the fingers, as well as wrists, ankles, and toes.


Easily check for gonorrhea from the privacy of home with our at-home gonorrhea test (which also lets you check for chlamydia).


Treating a disseminated gonococcal infection

Disseminated gonococcal infections are often treated with antibiotics. For some cases of joint pain caused by disseminated gonorrhea, joint drainage—the removal of fluid surrounding the affected joints—is recommended.

Osteoarthritis

When your finger joint pain gets worse with activity and is accompanied by pain, swelling, or limited joint movement, the cause may be osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis). Osteoarthritis occurs when there is a breakdown in the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones. It commonly impacts the finger and hand joints.

Osteoarthritis develops slowly and may worsen as it progresses. Some risk factors for developing osteoarthritis are older age, obesity, and previous joint injuries.

Treating finger joint pain caused by osteoarthritis

Because there is no cure for osteoarthritis, the goal of treatment is to reduce pain and preserve joint mobility.

Managing osteoarthritis symptoms may include:

  • Exercise and stretching
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications
  • Surgery

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

If your finger joint pain is accompanied by pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformation of your fingers, you may have rheumatoid arthritis, or RA. RA is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the healthy tissue lining the joints—which often includes finger joints.

RA symptoms may include:

  • Warm joints
  • Pain or sensitivity with pressure on your finger joints
  • Fingers that remain bent due to misshapen joints
  • Fingers that tingle or are numb
  • Fever
  • Lack of energy, loss of appetite, and fatigue

Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women than men and it often runs in families—though the exact cause of this condition is not known.

Treating finger joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but medical treatment may help prevent further joint damage and deformity. RA treatment options may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Medications that suppress your immune system
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Acupuncture, yoga, and massage (in combination with other treatments)
  • Surgery

References

1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. URL. Accessed October 15, 2019.

2. Disseminated gonococcal infection. UpToDate. URL. Accessed October 15, 2019.

3. Gonorrhea - CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed Version). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed October 15, 2019.

4. Li R, Hatcher JD. Gonococcal Arthritis. Updated 2019. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing.

5. Estes JP, Bochenek C, Fassler P. Osteoarthritis of the fingers. J Hand Ther. 2000;13(2):108-123. doi:10.1016/s0894-1130(00)80035-6