What are the Most Common Causes of Finger and Hand Pain?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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Common causes of finger and hand pain include arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and overuse. Typically, in addition to finger and hand pain, arthritis causes stiffness and joint swelling. Patients may also experience deformity, as well as redness. Carpal tunnel syndrome generally occurs after years of using a keyboard, crocheting, or other repetitive motions. Although finger and hand pain can be significant with carpal tunnel, wrist pain, numbness, and tingling are also common.

Injuries can also cause finger and hand pain. For example, a broken finger can cause pain to the hand area, as can a tendon injury or sprain. Sometimes, cardiac-related finger and hand pain can occur, however, this is generally accompanied by left arm pain that has radiated down to the hand. It is important for people to understand that if they experience chest pain that has radiated to the left shoulder and down the left arm, they should seek immediate medical attention because this can signify a heart attack.

Generally, finger and hand pain responds well to over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, which is categorized as an anti-inflammatory drug. Although acetaminophen is also useful in relieving pain, it does not help alleviate inflammation. It is, however, an effective method of pain relief for those who cannot tolerate anti-inflammatory medications.


Diagnosing the cause of finger and hand pain might include a physical examination and x-rays. If arthritis is causing pain, deformity might show up on an x-ray. If, however, pain is caused by a torn tendon, other tests might be needed, because only bones show up on x-rays. Tendinitis or a torn tendon might cause the x-ray to appear abnormal, however, cluing the doctor in on the diagnosis.

If the pain is caused by heart problems, diagnostic tests might include an electrocardiogram or EKG. In addition, blood tests that check for elevated levels of cardiac enzymes can tell if a heart attack recently occurred. Sometimes, the source of finger and hand pain is never determined, and goes away on its own. Resting the hand with a splint, and applying an ice pack can significantly help alleviate pain and swelling, as can using a sports cream pain reliever.

Physical therapy can help relieve pain when the cause is tendinitis, arthritis, or sports injury. The physical therapist can recommend a series of exercises to reduce pain and help restore motion and flexibility. Prevention of hand and finger pain might be possible by taking frequent breaks from repetitive motions, taking care when playing sports, and experimenting with different methods of pain relief as recommended by the physician.



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