What are the Most Common Causes of a Sore Finger?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2018
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The most common causes of a sore finger are arthritis, finger injury, or finger fracture. In addition, gout, degenerative joint disease, and overuse also commonly cause a sore finger. Before appropriate treatment can be put into place, a definitive diagnosis must be made. If a finger fracture is determined to be the cause of a sore finger, the finger is typically splinted, and in some cases, surgery is necessary.

For the most part, a sore finger can be effectively treated with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Ibuprofen is effective for pain and subsequent inflammation, while acetaminophen is useful only for pain. Arthritis is typically treated with anti-inflammatory medications because they treat the swelling associated with the condition. Although effective for pain, these medications can cause stomach upset and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Sometimes, when a physical examination can't determine the cause of a sore finger, the physician may need other tests to diagnose the cause of a sore finger. An x-ray can usually detect a broken finger bone and reveal arthritic changes. When arthritis is present, the x-ray frequently shows a deformity of the finger and other hand structures. Ligament, tendon, or soft tissue problems are usually not visible on an x-ray, and problems caused by these sources are usually diagnosed by MRI or ultrasound.


A sore finger, especially if the discomfort is mild, can benefit from the application of ice packs. Applying ice throughout the day can soothe a sore finger and decrease swelling. As long as the ice pack is not directly touching bare skin, this treatment can be done as frequently as the individual desires. When the ice comes in direct contact with the skin, there is a danger to soft tissues, and this can result in frostbite, in some cases.

Occasionally, avoiding repetitive hand and finger movements can bring relief to a sore finger. Minimizing use of the computer can help rest the finger and hasten healing. In severe cases, where a sore or swollen finger disrupts activities of daily living, the physician can recommend occupational therapy treatments. During occupational therapy, exercises focus on restoring mobility and strength in the upper body, including the hands, fingers, and shoulders.

A paraffin wax soak can also soothe a painful finger and improve mobility. In some physical and occupational therapy settings, a paraffin wax soak is set up for patients who have bone and joint injuries because the warm wax helps improve circulation and blood flow to the fingers, restoring range of motion. This type of treatment should not be tried at home because it can cause a serious burn if the temperature is set too high, and it can cause complications if not done under direct supervision of a licensed professional.



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