Causes and Treatments for Finger Pain

Medically Reviewed By Angela M. Bell, MD, FACP

Finger pain involves discomfort in the finger. Possible causes include injuries, infections, or underlying conditions such as arthritis. The finger contains bones, nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and skin that are subject to damage and pain. Finger pain can appear suddenly or it may develop slowly. You may be able to treat finger pain at home with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medications, ice packs, or rest. However, a doctor may need to treat finger pain resulting from more serious underlying conditions.

Read on to learn more about possible causes of finger pain and how to treat them.

Injuries

A person touching a cactus with their finger
Sergey Filimonov/Stocksy United

Finger pain can occur as a result of various injuries, including:

Treatments

You may be able to treat minor finger injuries at home. Resting the finger, applying an ice pack, and taking OTC pain relief medications may help resolve the pain. However, more severe injuries may require a doctor’s attention. For example, breaks or fractures may need surgical repair or a cast. Severe lacerations may need stitches.

Infections

Infections may also cause finger pain. Possible infections include:

Treatments

Doctors typically prescribe antibiotics to treat infections affecting the finger. These antibiotics may be topical or oral. Doctors may also need to drain fluid from the joint Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source in cases of septic arthritis and paronychia.

Degenerative conditions

Finger pain may result from conditions that cause progressive damage. 

Osteoarthritis is the most common Trusted Source National Institute on Aging Governmental authority Go to source type of arthritis among older adults. It develops when the cartilage that protects the joints breaks down. When this occurs around the finger joints, it can cause pain and affect the finger function.

When the discs in your spine wear down, you can develop a condition called cervical spondylosis. In severe cases, the pain from this condition may radiate through the arm to the hand and fingers. Pain that originates in one part of the body and spreads to other regions is called referred pain.

Treatments

Doctors usually recommend medications and physical therapy to treat degenerative conditions. If these treatments are ineffective or the conditions cause serious complications, you may need surgery.

Inflammatory conditions

Finger pain can occur with certain inflammatory conditions, including:

  • bursitis, or inflammation of the bursa sac that protects and cushions joints
  • rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes chronic joint inflammation
  • Buerger’s disease, which is acute inflammation and clotting of arteries and veins
  • systemic lupus erythematosus, a condition in which the immune system damages the body’s healthy cells and tissues

Treatments

Treatment for inflammatory conditions typically involves medications to manage the inflammation. For conditions arising from autoimmune disorders, your doctor may prescribe immunosuppressive drugs. Because Buerger’s disease commonly affects Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source people who smoke, smoking cessation is an essential factor in treating the condition.

Bursitis develops from overuse or repetitive motions. Resting the finger and avoiding the activities that cause pain can encourage healing.

Neurological conditions

Finger pain can occur with a variety of conditions that can affect or damage the nervous system, including:

  • diabetic neuropathy, which is nerve damage due to high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes
  • multiple sclerosis, a condition that affects the brain and spinal cord
  • transverse myelitis, a neurological condition that causes inflammation of the spinal cord

Treatments

Certain medications — such as pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, or immunosuppressants — can help treat neurological conditions that cause finger pain. People with diabetic neuropathy may also need to take insulin and make healthy lifestyle changes Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source to manage their diabetes.

Other causes of finger pain

Finger pain can be associated with other conditions, including:

  • circulatory issues like Raynaud’s disease, which involves spasms of small blood vessels in the fingers and toes and blood circulation disruption
  • frostbite or freezing temperatures
  • conditions that compress or damage nerves, like carpal tunnel syndrome or ulnar nerve entrapment
  • ganglion cyst, which is a benign growth or swelling on top of a joint or tendon
  • finger neuroma, a benign growth of nerve tissue that can press on nerves and cause pain

What are some potential complications of finger pain?

Complications associated with finger pain vary depending on the underlying condition and can be severe. It is important to talk with your doctor if you experience persistent finger pain or other unusual symptoms. Following your doctor’s treatment plan will minimize the risk of complications such as:

  • chronic disability
  • finger amputation
  • changes in the finger’s form
  • difficulty performing daily tasks
  • infection spreading to other tissues

What other symptoms might occur with finger pain?

You may experience other symptoms with finger pain. For example, infections in the finger can spread to the blood and cause fevers, swelling, and chills.

Other symptoms that can occur with finger pain may include:

  • arm or wrist pain
  • bruised areas
  • other skin discoloration
  • grip weakness
  • drainage or pus
  • fingernail problems, such as bruising under the nail or detachment of the nail
  • flu-like symptoms
  • lacerations, sores, lesions, or abrasions
  • bumps along the finger
  • reduced range of joint movement
  • stiffness
  • swollen areas
  • numbness

When should you contact a doctor about finger pain?

In some cases, finger pain may occur with symptoms that could indicate a condition that requires immediate evaluation in an emergency setting. Get immediate medical care by calling 911 or going to an emergency room if you have finger pain along with any of these other symptoms:

  • fever higher than 101ºF (38°C)
  • difficulty moving the finger, wrist, or arm
  • partial or total amputation of the finger
  • red or discolored, warm, and tender skin
  • discolored or red streak up the arm
  • severe pain
  • uncontrolled bleeding
  • visible changes in form

Frequently asked questions

Here are a few other commonly asked questions about finger pain. Dr. Angela Bell reviewed the answers.

Can finger pain be an early sign of arthritis?

Yes, finger pain may occur in the early stages of arthritis. You may also experience joint swelling, warmth, and stiffness.

Why do my finger joints hurt all of a sudden?

Injuries and infections can cause sudden pain in your finger joints. Some chronic conditions, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, can also make your finger joints hurt. Talk with your doctor if you experience sudden finger pain.

Summary

Many conditions can cause finger pain. These may include injuries, infections, and degenerative, inflammatory, or neurological conditions. While some causes may be mild and treatable with at-home remedies, others may require professional medical treatment.

The underlying causes of finger pain can lead to complications if left untreated. These complications can range from difficulty performing daily tasks to changes in the finger’s form or amputation.

Talk with your doctor if you experience persistent or severe finger pain. They can help you determine the cause and the proper treatment plan.

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  1. Diabetes. (2022). https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/index.html
  2. Momodu, I. I., et al. (2022). Septic arthritis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538176/
  3. Osteoarthritis. (2017). https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/osteoarthritis
  4. Rivera-Chavarría, I. J., et al. (2016). Thromboangiitis obliterans (Buerger’s disease). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4840397/
  5. Throckmorton, T. W. (2021). Fractures (broken bones). https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/fractures-broken-bones/

Medical Reviewer: Angela M. Bell, MD, FACP
Last Review Date: 2022 Aug 3
View All Bones, Joints and Muscles Articles
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