What Causes Finger Pain and Stiffness?

Health Writer

The use of our fingers has been important all the way back to the days of throwing stones and gripping clubs for hunting. Today, our fingers are just as valuable to us as they were in the days of the caveman. Pain and stiffness in the fingers can lead to lost productivity and work time and not being able to enjoy the things we love to do. There are many different reasons that fingers can become painful and stiff.

Joint sprain or dislocation

A dislocation of the finger occurs when the bones of the middle joint of a finger dislodge. A sprain occurs when the ligaments in a joint are torn or pulled. These injuries usually result from direct trauma to the hand, a fall, or extreme twisting of the finger. They can be painful. If you suspect a sprain or dislocation, ice can be applied to the area, and you should contact your doctor to have your finger examined.


Your fingers are made up of 14 small bones. These bones can be broken simply by closing them in a door or catching a ball the wrong way. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a broken or fractured finger is not a minor injury. Because the bones in your fingers line up precisely, a fracture could cause your whole hand to be out of alignment and remain stiff and painful even after the bone is healed. Your doctor will determine the type of treatment needed depending on the complexity of the break.

Arthritis or bony growth

Arthritis is a disease of the tissues inside the joints. With arthritis, the joints often begin to wear down and become painful. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. One of the signs of osteoarthritis is bony growth near the fingertips. Sometimes this bony growth can cause pain and stiffness in your fingers and prevent you from performing simple tasks like holding a pencil or opening a jar. If you suspect you have arthritis, your doctor may refer you to a rheumatologist for an evaluation.

Raynaud’s phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a syndrome of episodic attacks involving the small arteries of the fingers and toes. The attacks usually involve the fingers turning white or blue. Cold is a trigger for Raynaud’s. Stress and tobacco smoking can also cause symptoms. During an attack, the fingers can become stiff. Treatment for Raynaud’s may involve a concerted effort to keep warm, smoking cessation, and a variety of drug treatments.

Carpal tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a painful condition that involves a nerve traveling from the hand to the forearm that can get squeezed as it passes through the wrist. It is usually known as an overuse injury. People who use their fingers and hands in repetitive ways throughout the day may be more susceptible. According to a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association, dentists were more likely to get CTS in their dominate hand compared to those in the general population. Resting the fingers and hand is often the first line of treatment.

Inflammation as a result of a disease

Besides arthritis, other diseases can cause inflammation and stiffness in the extremities. Parkinson’s Disease is one example. Diabetes is another disease than can cause overall pain and stiffness in the fingers. If you have unexplained finger pain and stiffness, your doctor will do an evaluation to determine the underlying cause.

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Dr. Tracy Davenport is a health writer, advocate and entrepreneur who has been helping individuals live their best life. She is co-author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux. Follow Tracy’s love of smoothies on Twitter.