What causes finger pain? 9 possible conditions
Finger pain is a throbbing, cramp-like, or achy pain that is felt in any of your fingers, including your thumb. Finger pain often results from an accident or a medical condition.
In most cases, finger pain is not serious and will go away naturally. However, unexplained finger pain can be a sign of a more serious medical condition. Be sure to visit your doctor if you experience ongoing or unexplained pain in your fingers.
The most common cause of finger pain is a hand injury. Injuries to the finger can cause the skin to break, the bone to fracture or bruise, or the muscle and tissue to become damaged.
Common injuries that result in finger pain are:
- broken fingers, often caused by jamming the finger during contact sports or while improperly handling heavy-duty equipment
- broken fingernails
Medical conditions that affect the nerves, muscles, or bones can also cause finger pain. These conditions include:
- muscular dystrophy
- multiple sclerosis
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- boils, nodules, cysts, and tumors
A pinched nerve in the arm, wrist, or hand can also contribute to finger or thumb pain.
Finger pain may feel dull and achy, or sharp and cramp-like. The pain may suddenly come and then go away.
If you have a broken finger, it will usually be swollen, purple or blue in color, and extremely painful. In some cases, the bone might be physically separated and visible through the skin.
A finger dislocation occurs when the bones of your finger or thumb dislocate from their joints. In some cases, the dislocation is visible. You may also experience throbbing pain or a sharp shooting pain.
Carpal tunnel syndrome and other medical conditions that affect the nerves and muscles in your arm and hand can cause:
- throbbing pain in the hand and fingers
- pain when moving the affected fingers or when moving your wrist
- difficulty typing or writing
- hand tremors
A cut on your finger may cause pain at the injury site. Depending on how deep the cut is, you may also feel pain that spreads, or radiates, to surrounding areas of your hand.
If you have a growth on your hand, such as a boil or nodule, you may experience the following signs together with your finger pain:
- a fluid-filled lump
- a hardened area of skin
- a movable lump under the surface of the skin
- a lump that is tender to the touch
If you have a cut or growth on your finger, your doctor may be able to diagnose the condition based on a physical examination alone. You will not need any tests or have to answer any questions about your medical history.
However, more information is needed if you are experiencing pain when using your fingers, and there are no visible causes for it. Your doctor will ask questions about your medical history, any medications you take, and your occupation. From this information, he or she will determine the tests required to find a diagnosis.
Common tests include blood tests and imaging tests, such as X-rays.
An X-ray can show any fractures and abnormal growths within the finger. If the X-ray is not enough to determine a diagnosis, the doctor may order an additional imaging tests or a nerve study.
Finger pain caused by cuts, scrapes, or burns will often heal without treatment. You simply need to give the area time to heal. You can take over-the-counter pain medications to help ease your discomfort.
Extensive burns, deep cuts, or bruising caused by fractures may not go away without treatment. Extensive burns may be treated in a hospital using a burn graph and pain medication. You may require stitches if your cuts are deep cuts. The pain may last for weeks after treatment as the area heals.
Your doctor may prescribe pain medications for unexplained finger pain or pain caused by nerve, tissue, or muscle damage. Other treatment options, such as surgery, hand exercises, or special gear-like splints, may be necessary to completely relieve the pain.
- Arthritis Basics. (2011). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved July 12, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics.htm
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. (2011). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 12, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/DS00326/METHOD=print
- Fracture of the Finger (2007). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Retrieved July 12, 2012, from http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00257 http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00257
See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.
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