Causes of Finger Pain

Simple Injury Causes. Finger pain may simply be caused by a simple injury. Consider these causes:

  • Finger injury
  • Knuckle injury
  • Finger strain
  • Finger sprain
  • Finger fracture
  • Finger bruising

Finger Disorders: Physical disorder causes of finger pain include:

Systemic Nerve Pain Causes: A number of disorders cause damage to nerves, resulting in nerve pain or sensory changes that are pain-like (e.g. tingling fingers, finger burning sensations, finger numbness, paresthesias, neuropathic pain).

Physical Nerve Conditions: There are various disorders that affect the various nerves’ physical path (from the spine down to the fingers), such as by nerve injury, nerve entrapment or nerve compression at various points along the pathways, which may cause pain (i.e. nerve pain) or pain-like sensations (i.e. finger tingling, finger burning sensations, finger partial numbness, finger paresthesias):

Other Causes of Finger Pain:

There are other possible causes. See your doctor promptly for a full diagnosis.

One Hand Only vs Both Hands: An important distinction for finger pain is whether it is finger pain in one hand only (unilateral finger pain) versus in both hands (bilateral finger pain). Finger pain in both hands increases the likelihood of a systemic disorder that affects both hands, and greatly reduces the likelihood that’s its entrapment of a single nerve pathway (except the unlikely situation of nerve root disorders affecting both sides at the spine).

Unilateral finger pain is more likely to be caused by damage to the finger or some region of the affected arm, or somewhere along the nerve path from the spine to those fingers. Pain in the fingers of only one hand reduces the likelihood of systemic disorders, but doesn’t completely rule it out, as the pain might present in one hand first, and then move on to occur in both sides later.

Left Hand vs Right Hand Pain: It is only somewhat useful to determine if finger pain is in the left hand or right hand. More importantly, pain in the fingers of only one of the left or right hands is an important factor in that it is unilateral finger pain (see above). Left hand versus right hand finger pain is not extremely clinically significant unless more of the arm is affected (i.e. in the sense of left arm pain vs right arm pain regarding heart attack or other cardiac problem). But obviously it helps narrow the search for a cause to the nerve path on that side of the body, i.e. the path from the spinal nerve roots down that particular left or right arm.

It can also help to consider the history of the left vs right hand with respect to trauma, compression injuries, or nerve entrapment. For example, is there an occupational reason that fingers on one hand might be affected more than the other? Is the finger pain on the dominant hand? Has there been some activity (e.g. sports, gardening, etc.) undertaken that has injured or affected one particular hand? Is there a postural issue of the hands and fingers with regard to desktop keyboard work? Another consideration is sleeping positions on the left versus the right side, and with respect to a sleeping partner.

Index Finger vs Little Finger: Which of the five fingers are affected? Is it one finger or multiple fingers? Is there thumb pain? It is important to consider which fingers are affected by the pain, especially if the finger pain affects only one hand. The nerve pathways to the fingers are such that there are two main nerve pathways.

Little Finger and Ring Finger: The ulnar nerve connects to the little finger (“pinky finger”) and half of the ring finger. Pain or tingling in one of those fingers will often involve the other finger, and in the absence of a clear traumatic cause, any pain in those two fingers is likely to be an ulnar nerve disorder.

Thumb, Forefinger and Middle Finger: The other nerve is the median nerve, which connects to the thumb, index finger (pointer finger or forefinger), the middle finger, and the other half of the ring finger. A disorder of this median nerve may cause pain or pain-like sensations in those three-and-a-half fingers. An example would be carpal tunnel syndrome, but it’s far from the only possibility.

Specific Fingers: For the five specific finger symptoms, see:

  • Little finger pain
  • Ring finger pain
  • Middle finger pain
  • Forefinger pain (index finger pain)
  • Thumb pain

Similar Symptoms: See also the possible causes of related symptoms:

Nearby Symptoms: See also similar symptoms affecting nearby regions:



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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.