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Why do my fingers ache? The 12 possible reasons for finger pain

Osteoarthritis: Elaine reveals her experience of the condition

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If you have pain in a finger or multiple fingers, there may be a whole host of underlying causes. From arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome to trauma and writer’s cramp, you should never assume your achy finger is minor. chatted to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy to find out why your fingers might be aching.

The finger is made up of bones, muscles, joints and ligaments, and it has a rich blood supply, and anything that causes damage to any of these structures can cause finger pain.

Anything that causes local trauma to the finger will result in local inflammation, meaning the finger is likely to look red and feel hot, painful, swollen and tender.

It’s well-known that inflammation within the finger joints is painful and is often due to arthritis.

It causes the finger joints to become swollen, and boney nodules may develop, which sometimes cause the finger or fingers to look misshapen.

Soft tissue pathology can also develop in the fingers as it can anywhere on the body, such as cysts, boils, abscesses, ganglions and tumours.

A sore finger really could be down to a whole range of things, so do some research and see a medical professional before you jump to conclusions.

Dr Lee has broken down the 12 possible reasons for finger pain.


Falling on the hand, knocking it, bending the fingers too far back can obviously cause finger pain

Repetitive strain injury

Repeatedly using your hands means your fingers are under constant stress.

This can result in inflammation in the tendons – or tendonitis.

Does your job involve lots of physical labour? Or maybe you’re on your phone or laptop too much? It could be RSI!

Writer’s cramp

Writer’s cramp is what it says on the tin – an uncontrollable muscle cramp that occurs when you are writing.

In some people, it can become more severe and affect other activities such as shaving or putting on makeup.

Trigger Finger

In this condition the tendon sheath at the base of the tendon becomes inflamed, meaning the tendon catches when you try to bend the finger.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the median nerve becomes compressed as it passes through the bones of the carpus, which connect the hand to the forearm, known as the carpal tunnel.


Fluid-filled cysts occur near the finger joints.


These can develop in the finger as they can anywhere on the body, resulting in boils, cysts and abscesses.


You’ve definitely heard of arthritis, but did you know it has more specific categories such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis?

See your GP immediately if you think you have arthritis so you can get proper treatment.

Dupuytren’s contracture

In this condition the tendon in the palm of the hand start to thicken, causing the fingers to curl over the palm.

Medical conditions

Medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, scleroderma, and Raynaud’s syndrome, can all result in painful fingers.


Spondyloarthritis is inflammation of the spine, which also occurs in the fingers, and can occur in association with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), sickle cell disease, gout, TB, sarcoidosis, TB, and syphilis

Peripheral neuropathy

This causes pain, numbness and tingling in the extremities, such as fingers and toes.

It can be caused by diabetes, excess alcohol, an underactive thyroid, chronic liver or kidney disease, and many other common conditions.

What to do about finger pain

The treatment for your finger pain depends on the cause, but in general, Dr Lee recommended the following to soothe the pain:

  • Try reducing the inflammation in your finger by applying ice for 20 minutes every two to three hours to the affected area.
  • Rest the finger and elevate your hand.
  • Don’t do any of the movements that may have brought on the pain.
  • Take paracetamol for pain relief. You can also take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, but if you have had gastric irritation to NSAIDs in the past, speak to your GP before you start taking these medicines. If you get any gastric symptoms while taking NSAIDs, you should also see your GP without delay.
  • Remember to remove any rings from the affected hand.
  • You could ask your pharmacist for advice, for example, about the best pain medication, and about finger splints and bandages.
  • If the finger is not improving after about two weeks, and the condition is interfering with your ability to carry out your usual daily activities, you should see your GP.

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