Causes of Finger Pain and Treatment Options

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Finger pain can result from chronic health conditions, injuries, and joint deformities. Finger pain can significantly impact your ability to use your fingers and hands to complete fine motor movements and activities of daily living.

This article looks at common causes of finger pain, its diagnoses, treatment options, and when to see a healthcare provider.

woman suffering pain on hands and fingers

Aaron Amat / Getty Images


The underlying cause of finger pain can produce varied symptoms, including redness, swelling, stiffness, tingling, and limited range of motion. Some causes of finger pain come on at once, while others develop gradually over time.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis (also called degenerative joint disease) causes pain, stiffness, and inflammation of the joints from the breakdown of cartilage. The condition can affect any joint but is common in the smaller joints of the fingers and thumb. Osteoarthritis usually develops with age and general wear and tear but can also develop faster after an injury. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory, autoimmune form of arthritis in which the body attacks its own healthy joints, most often the knees, wrists, fingers, and spine.

RA tends to get worse during periods of flare-ups that cause increased joint pain, redness, swelling, and stiffness. 

Fractures and Sprains

A fracture, or broken bone, can occur in any of the fingers. Finger fractures cause significant pain, bruising, swelling, and difficulty moving your fingers. 

Less severe injuries can cause a sprain to the finger joints or supporting ligaments and also cause pain, swelling, and trouble moving your fingers. 


Dactylitis is a swelling of the fingers or toes that gives them a "sausage-like" appearance. Dactylitis is associated with an autoimmune inflammatory form of arthritis (psoriatic arthritis) that develops in people with an inflammatory condition of the skin (psoriasis). Dactylitis can cause redness, swelling, and pain in the fingers and toes.

Peripheral Neuropathy 

Peripheral neuropathy occurs from nerve damage of the arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, and hands. It leads to symptoms like numbness, tingling, burning, decreased sensation, and pain in the hands and feet.

Nerve damage can result from an injury, diabetes, Guillain-Barré syndrome, peripheral vascular disease, and infections. It can also be a side effect of chemotherapy.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that develops from compression of the median nerve at the wrist, causing pain, burning, numbness, and tingling in the hands and fingers.

Compression of the median nerve can happen when there is inflammation and swelling of the nearby tendons of the wrist flexor muscles. This can be the result of repeated hand and wrist movements—for example, those necessary for work activities like typing and manual labor in construction.

Raynaud’s Syndrome

Raynaud’s syndrome is a condition in which the fingers, and sometimes the toes, become pale, painful, tingly, or swollen in response to cold temperatures and stress. Symptoms of Raynaud’s syndrome result from constriction of small blood vessels in the hands and feet.

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a condition that develops from inflammation of the tendons of the thumb. This typically occurs from repetitive strain with activities like wringing out a washcloth, gripping a golf club, lifting a child, or hammering a nail. It is often referred to as “mother’s thumb” because there is an increased risk of parents developing de Quervain’s tenosynovitis from repetitive lifting and carrying of children.

Symptoms of de Quervain’s tenosynovitis include pain, tenderness, and swelling at the base of the thumb.


Gout is an inflammatory form of arthritis in which crystals deposit into joints when high uric acid levels are present in the body. Gout causes joint pain, redness, and swelling. While gout most commonly affects the big toe joint, it can also affect the finger joints, causing hardened clusters of uric acid crystals under the skin (tophi).

The development of tophi in the fingers with gout can cause significant joint pain, instability, swelling, and loss of range of motion that can severely impact hand and finger movement.

Eating shellfish and drinking alcohol can increase gout attacks, so avoiding these foods is important if you have gout symptoms.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Systemic lupus erythematosus (also called lupus) is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and inflammation throughout the body. There is an increased likelihood that lupus will cause problems in the wrists and hands. 

About 5% to 10% of people with lupus develop significant deformities in their finger joints, including swan neck deformities and ulnar drift.


Scleroderma is a disease that causes the thickening and hardening of the skin and other organs. It happens because there is an overproduction of collagen in the body. Scleroderma can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness in the finger joints in addition to toughened, shiny skin. 

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Contact your healthcare provider if your finger pain persists longer than a week, especially if you did not injure your hands or fingers. Many causes of finger pain and swelling are related to underlying conditions.

Some signs and symptoms suggest you should schedule a visit to see a healthcare provider, such as:

  • Pain significantly impacts your ability to perform fine motor movements
  • You cannot move your fingers without feeling pain
  • Red, hot, or swollen fingers
  • Loss of sensation in your finger
  • Symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, or unexplained weight loss, accompany the pain


Your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and ask you about your medical history, including how and when your symptoms started, to help diagnose the cause of your finger pain.

Your healthcare provider may also prescribe imaging or blood tests to further help with diagnosis.

Medical History

You will first review your medical history with your healthcare provider. This includes medical conditions you have and discussing how and when your finger pain began. 

Your healthcare provider will also ask you questions about your condition, which may include:

  • Are you also experiencing tingling, numbness, swelling, burning, or muscle weakness?
  • Has the pain worsened over time?
  • Does the pain occur at rest or only when you hold things or move your fingers?
  • Did you injure or previously injure your hand or fingers?

Tell your healthcare provider if you recently had an infection or have other symptoms like fever, fatigue, or unexplained weight loss. This could suggest an atypical systemic (body-wide) condition causing your finger pain.

Physical Examination

Your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam to evaluate the appearance of your hands and fingers and move your finger joints to see if your motion is restricted and/or painful. 

During your physical exam, your healthcare provider will look for signs of the following:

  • Redness
  • Warmth
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Numbness
  • Abnormal skin texture 

Blood Tests

If gout, an autoimmune condition like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma, or an infection is suspected, your healthcare provider will likely prescribe blood tests to help determine a diagnosis.

Blood tests can be used to test levels of uric acid in your blood, often elevated in people with gout. Blood tests can also measure levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate), inflammatory markers often elevated in autoimmune conditions. 

An additional blood test that examines your levels of rheumatoid factor will also often be performed to determine if you have rheumatoid arthritis, while tests for antinuclear antibodies can help point to a diagnosis of scleroderma or lupus.

A complete blood count (CBC) that measures the cells of your immune system may also be ordered to help determine if you have an infection or autoimmune condition. 


Different imaging methods are often used to examine your finger joints, assess your joint alignment, and look for signs of damage or inflammation. X-rays are typically taken first to check for arthritis or broken bones. If a tendon or ligament injury is suspected, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test may be performed to check for a sprain or tear.

Joint Aspiration

Your healthcare provider may perform a joint aspiration if a joint infection or condition like gout is suspected. This procedure removes fluid from your finger joints that is then tested to check for abnormalities.

Nerve Conduction Study

A nerve conduction test can be performed to check the functioning of your nerves. You may need this test if your healthcare provider suspects nerve compression or damage is causing your finger pain.

During this test, electrodes are applied to your skin while small electrical shocks are administered. This test will measure how fast your nerves transmit signals to assess for abnormal nerve functioning.


Treatment options for finger pain will vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of your symptoms. Many causes of finger pain can be managed conservatively with medication and at-home treatments, but surgery might be needed for serious or chronic injuries.

Lifestyle Treatment Options

Home remedies can be used to help manage finger pain. These include:

  • Topical pain relieving creams or gels
  • Ice or heat for pain relief
  • Gentle stretching of your fingers and wrists
  • Resting from activities that require grasping, gripping, and pinching
  • Splinting or immobilizing your hands or fingers for support to allow them to heal
  • Adaptive equipment and modifications to decrease stress on your hand and finger joints
  • Making dietary changes, like eliminating shellfish and alcohol, if you have gout
  • Avoiding cold temperatures if you have Raynaud’s syndrome


Depending on the severity of your pain, medication may be needed to help manage your symptoms. Some over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or stronger prescription-strength opioids can be taken orally, while steroids can be injected directly into your finger joints to help decrease inflammation.

Your healthcare provider may also prescribe medication to decrease inflammation throughout your body if you have a systemic or autoimmune condition. Colchicine or allopurinol can be used to treat gout while antibiotics are needed to treat an infection. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or biologics are typically needed to treat autoimmune conditions.

Iontophoresis can also be used to deliver the medication dexamethasone through the skin via electrical stimulation to help relieve pain.


Significant finger injuries or deformities that cause ongoing pain and limit your ability to use your hands and fingers comfortably may require surgery to improve the alignment of your finger joints.

Surgery is considered a last resort after other treatment options are tried for weeks or months. A severe finger fracture is an exception, and surgery might be performed as soon as possible to stabilize and realign your joints.

Surgery can also be used for chronic carpal tunnel syndrome or de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. During surgery, a surgeon can release the retinaculum of the wrist or thumb—the connective tissue that holds the tendons in place. Releasing the retinaculum can help decrease compression of inflamed and irritated tendons to relieve pain and other symptoms.


Swollen and painful finger joints can be characteristic of several systemic and autoimmune conditions, Maintaining good overall health and following an anti-inflammatory lifestyle can help prevent or lessen the severity of symptoms.

Anti-inflammatory lifestyle habits include:

  • Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet
  • Regularly getting seven to eight hours of sleep 
  • Managing stress 
  • Having strong social support from family and friends
  • Limiting exposure to toxins and chemicals 

Taking good care of your fingers and hands can also help prevent injuries. This involves limiting repetitive hand and wrist movements whenever possible and resting from aggravating activities when your fingers are hurting. 


Many conditions can cause finger pain, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, fractures and sprains, dactylitis, peripheral neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus, Raynaud's syndrome, and de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. 

While some causes of finger pain can be treated at home with ice and heat packs or OTC medications, more severe or prolonged finger pain may require systemic treatment to decrease widespread inflammation throughout your body.

Limiting repetitive strain on your hands and fingers and resting from aggravating activities, especially if your fingers are already hurting, can help prevent symptoms from developing or worsening. 

A Word From Verywell

Moving your fingers is crucial for fine motor movements involved in all of your daily activities. While finger pain can be treated and managed at home, ensure you see your healthcare provider if you have been experiencing finger pain that lasts longer than one week.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kaeley GS, Eder L, Aydin SZ, et al. Dactylitis: a hallmark of psoriatic arthritis. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2018 Oct;48(2):263-273. doi:10.1016/j.semarthrit.2018.02.002

  2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet.

  3. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Carpal tunnel syndrome.

  4. Wigley FM, Flavahan NA. Raynaud's phenomenonN Engl J Med. 2016;375(6):556-565. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1507638

  5. Goel R, Abzug JM. de quervain's tenosynovitis: a review of the rehabilitative options. Hand (N Y). 2015;10(1):1-5. doi:10.1007/s11552-014-9649-3

  6. Hainer BL, Matheson E, Wilkes RT. Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of gout. Am Fam Physician. 2014;90(12):831-6

  7. Lupus Foundation of America. What is lupus?.

  8. Salazar GA, Assassi S, Wigley F, et al. Antinuclear antibody-negative systemic sclerosis. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2015;44(6):680-6. doi:10.1016/j.semarthrit.2014.11.006

By Kristen Gasnick, PT, DPT
Kristen Gasnick, PT, DPT, is a medical writer and a physical therapist at Holy Name Medical Center in New Jersey.