Finger Pain

Described as any pain from your knuckles to the tip of your fingers. For the purpose of this article we will be discussing the index, middle, ring and little fingers. To establish where exactly your finger pain is coming from it can be very helpful identifying what structure is causing your pain. This is our field of specialty, we are the experts.

Any pain or problem in your finger will have a ripple effect on your hand, wrist and elbow. So if you are uncertain what the cause may be, rather let us have a look at it before you cause even more problems. Causes of finger pain include any of the muscles, joints, tendons or nerves in your finger, so let’s look at each of these structures:

Click here if you have pain in your thumb, the thumb will be discussed separately.

Finger pain

Why is your finger pain lasting longer than it should?

Does this sound like you?

If any of these have happened to you – we would love to help you. The fact that you’ve tried any or all of these things already is actually a good thing, because when you know what doesn’t work – you are closer to finding the thing that does!

We invite you to come and see us. Why? Because we do things differently. We’ll do a thorough assessment and test all the possible causes. After we’ve diagnosed your problem, and explained what it’s going to need to heal, we’ll make sure you understand why this is happening.

What can you do to get rid of your finger pain?

Decide to get help

So many people rest for weeks, hoping that the pain will ‘just go away with time’, but 6 weeks down the line they’re still putting up with it, and nothing’s changed… Or the pain & swelling gets even worse. You may even cause other problems. Lack of treatment could end up costing you more time & money the longer you wait.

Do the right exercises

One of the best things to help ease your finger pain is to do the right series of progressed exercises – as advised by a Hand expert. The right kind of activities can reduce your pain, and help your healing. Above all, exercises ensure that problems don’t come back. However, the wrong kind of exercises have the potential to increase the pain in your finger even more.

Get hands-on treatment

Hand therapy is proven to improve pain & accelerate healing of people suffering from finger pain. Finger pain could be affecting your physical performance in a professional or private capacity, you may not even notice. It could even threaten your work or get in the way of spending quality time with your family & friends. Annoying finger pain can leave you frustrated, irritated & miserable. We can enable you to live the life you desire as quickly as possible.

If you’re looking for solid advice on how to start solving your problem, you might not know if our treatment is the right thing for you, we encourage you to give us a call. This is an opportunity to get an expert’s advice about your situation. Our goal is to help you make the right decision about what to do next.

Get rid of your finger pain in the next few days!

Muscle pain

There are only two groups of muscles that extend into the fingers from the hand. One group bends the knuckles forward (lumbricals) and the other spreads the fingers apart as wells as bring them back together (interosseous).

Both groups of muscles attach onto the first bone in the fingers (closest to the palm). The lumbricals are on the palm side of the hand and the interosseous muscles are more towards back side of your hand.

Injury to these muscles can occur due to forcefully splitting the fingers apart or from trauma such as a cut to the side of the fingers.

Trauma to the muscle in the finger will cause swelling and pain due to an inflammatory process that the body naturally implements. The swelling will restrict the movement of the finger.

Tendon Pain

On the palm side of the finger there are two groups of rope-like tendons that run from the forearm to your fingertips. The Flexor Digitorum Superficialis, and Flexor Digitorum Profundus, that gives you the ability to close your fingers into a fist.

The back of the finger has the Extensor Digitorum Communis that allows you to straighten your fingers. Injuring these tendons will leave you unable to straighten your fingers.

Unfortunately the Flexor group on the palm side of the hand is more prone to injury. You can cut these tendons by either glass or a knife. Defending yourself against an incoming knife by shielding yourself with an open hand may lead to severing your flexor tendon group. Another scenario may be washing dishes and the glass breaks in your hand, or even trying to catch a falling sharp object.

Trigger finger is a common phenomenon that involves the tendon running in the finger. This leaves the finger stuck in a bent position.
A Mallet finger is when the tendon (EDC) that anchors onto the tip of the finger, rips out a piece of bone (avulsion fracture) that leaves the last joint of the finger to stay bent.

Nerve Pain

There are three branches of nerves that supply the power and feeling to your fingers. The Median nerve supplies the palm side of the Thumb, Index and middle finger. Similarly the Ulnar nerve supplies the palm side of the Ring and Little fingers. On the other side the radial nerve gives feeling to the back of your Thumb and fingers.

In most cases nerves are compressed, irritated or injured closer to the wrist, but the dominant pain, burning, shocks, cramps, tingling, pins & needles or any other nerve pain is felt at your fingertips.

A web of nerves that spreads out over your finger to give your skin feeling is present in the finger. These digital nerves are always involved when a tendon is severed, which cuts off the sensation to the skin after the laceration.

Joint pain

The first joint of your finger is where the finger and the hand meet, commonly known as your knuckles but medically known as the Metacarpal phalangeal joint (MCPJ for short). After that the finger can bend at two points the first, known as the Proximal Interphalangeal Joint (PIPJ). Second is the Distal Interphalangeal Joint (DIPJ).

Enlarged or swollen finger joints (mostly the DIPJ’s or PIPJ’s) is one of the clear signs of osteoarthritis. Heberden’s node’s are nodules that form on the DIPJ or PIPJ, associated with osteoarthritis, which is distinctively different from rheumatoid nodules.

When the MCPJ’s deviate from a straight position, drifting towards the outside this may be a sign of Rheumatoid arthritis.

Any swelling in a joint will lead to pain and difficulty moving the finger.

Ligament Injuries

Volar Plate is a ligament that prevents your finger from hyperextending. Trying to catch a ball but the ball overextends your fingers, may rupture these sensitive yet vital ligaments.


Ulnar Collateral ligaments are ligaments on the side of the pinky that prevents your fingers dislocating towards your Thumb’s side. Radial Collateral ligaments are on the Thumb’s side of your fingers that prevent the fingers deviating towards the pinky finger. These ligaments are at every joint MCP, PIP and DIP joints.

The finger joints are more vulnerable to dislocate. Any overload and force to any of the fingers may dislocate the finger in any direction. During a dislocation it is important to note that torn ligaments are common. Ligaments are responsible to keep the MCPJ, PIPJ and DIPJ stable, if these ligaments sustain an injury, the risk of you dislocating your finger again is high. A dislocation and/or torn ligaments are associated with swelling and bruising in the finger and joints.

Finger fracture

The bones in your fingers are called phalanges. Each finger has three phalanges. Starting at the tips the bones in your fingers are the Distal Phalanx, then the Middle Phalanx, and your Proximal phalanx that connect to your knuckles.

A fracture of the finger involves the crack or splinter of any of the three bones that makes up your finger. You may not always be sure if your finger is broken. If it’s broken and you try to bend it, it will be painful, but you’ll still be able to move it. Don’t be fooled if you can still move the finger, this does not mean the finger in not broken.

When an egg is in an upright position it is able to hold a much greater weight than when it’s turned onto its side. In the same way, when a force is applied to the finger bones at the wrong angle, it can be very fragile to break.

Finger pain in the …

  • Flexor Digitorum Superficial tendon avultion
  • Fractured finger
  • Flexor tendon rupture
  • Nerve pain in your fingers
  • Volar plate sprain
  • Torn Pulley

What causes my finger pain

To understand where your finger pain is coming from, you’d have to determine how you injured it, or if you can remember when it started. Some are outright obvious like when you slam the door onto your fingers, meanwhile others are subtle and creeps up on you – getting worse day by day. So, it’s easier to establish how your pain started and changed until now. Changes in your finger pain gives us many clues to understand where your pain is coming from.

Our body consists of various types of tissue, some elastic like tendons, or strong like cables (ligaments), some tissue can generate movement & force like muscles. We rely on your finger ligaments to keep joints stable, tendons to coordinate movements, and muscles to generate power to grip. The structures in your fingers are quite vulnerable to injury, especially trauma. There are more than 95 structures in your fingers that can get injured, some problems are more common than others, but just to be safe – we test them all.

Here’s a breakdown of a few structures that can get injured that gives you different types of finger pain:

Get to the root of your finger pain

Different structures, cause different types of finger pain, although these are not concrete it’s a good guideline to which structure produces what type of pain

Muscle — Dull ache or stiffness, sharp pain with contraction
Nerve — Numbness, tingling, weakness, electrical stabbing feeling
Tendon — Burning pain with certain specific movements, pain comes & goes
Ligament — Pain at the end of range, unstable, clicking
Bone — Constant pain, sharp pain with certain movements
Joints — Cramp, constant stiff feeling, worse after rest, better with movement
Cartilage — Sharp pain when at certain point, painful arch of movement
Arteries — Pins & Needles, dead leg feeling, heavy feeling
Fat pad — Pinching pain, pressure increases or decreases pain immediately
Bursa — Pain only comes on after being active, better with rest
Referral from other joints — Difficult to pinpoint pain, vague painful area

Types of finger pain and the structures they may relate to:

Nerve pain in finger

  • Burning pain

  • Pins & Needles

  • Tingling

  • Sharp stabbing, shooting pain

  • Electrical shock pain

  • Numbness

  • Unable to control movement

  • Dead feeling over skin

Muscle pain in finger

  • Pain gets worse during activity

  • Burning or cramp like pain

  • Stiffness and tightness

  • Dull pain when stretched

  • Pain only at the end of range

  • No loss of muscle strength

  • Able to move your finger through the full range of movement

  • Little swelling

Joint pain in finger

  • Sharp sudden pain

  • Worse when moving as compared to static positions

  • Pain when doing a specific moment

  • Muscle tightness surrounding sharp pain

  • Deep pulling feeling when stretched/ moved

  • With or without swelling

  • Pinching feeling at end of range

  • Unable to pinpoint it to one specific spot

  • Dull ache over a large area

  • Unable to find a pain-free position

Symptoms of finger pain

How bad is my finger pain, really?

Size – The larger the area of your finger pain, is better, because tendons in your hand stretch from your finger tip to your elbow. Pain tends to radiate along the tendons and affect large areas. Tendons heal easier & recover faster.

Colour – Bruising in & around your fingers are quite common after a crack, splinter or fracture, because of the high concentration of small blood vessels in your hands. These capillaries rupture & leak plasma that pools in your fingers. Clearly something is wrong. Blue discoloration closer to your knuckles is more concerning for it involves your possible injury to the small bones in your hand & fingers.

Swelling – Swelling is your body’s way of healing itself by sending cells to heal the tissue. More swelling could mean more tissue damage, however not all hand injuries swell. Injury to tissue that develops over a few weeks doesn’t swell, because the tissue trauma is continuous and repetitive, so your body stops the inflammatory reaction. A new injury on an old problem is also possible.

Area – Finger pain on the palm’s side are more restrictive when you grip & hold things, while pain at the back of your fingers limits you from typing or texting. If your finger pain renders you unable to make a fist you must be more concerned. Sharp pain over a small area makes it easier to pinpoint structures near your pain. Vague, dull & deep finger pain can take longer to identify the root cause. Compensatory patterns develop, sometimes it takes a while to just get rid of those.

Motion & sore fingers

Stiff – Finger stiffness followed by pain is regressing and getting worse. Seek help. However, pain followed by stiffness is a good sign of tissue healing, specifically scar tissue formation. Scar tissue is hardening wound tissue that tends to shorten and pull on structures surrounding the injured site. This is more pronounced in muscle strains & tears, where the normal slide of muscles is restricted during a contraction.

Range of movement – Difficult moving your finger through its range is a big problem. A painful arch means the structure injured only takes tension over that specific range i.e Only painful when you straighten your finger the last 10 degrees. Finger pain over a smaller range of movement is not necessarily better. This may point to connecting joint surfaces being injured like cartilage. If you feel pain only at the end of your range its less severe and easy to fix. When your finger pain stops movement completely and its too painful to move, you should definitely come see us as soon as possible.

Changes over time

Intensity – When you grade your pain from 0 – 10. You may think it’s not that bad because it’s not that painful. On the contrary, pain intensity is not a sign of how severe your tissue injury is for example, complete ruptures of ligaments are less painful than partial tears. When fibers are stressed while it’s anchors are completely loose, there’s not much pain, but fibers that are partially torn will produce severe finger pain. People have different pain thresholds, so be careful not to ignore your finger injury.

Frequency – Pain that’s fleeting or intermittent, short burst of pain must not become more frequent and constant. This shows that the tissue damage is not getting any better. Pain that only lasts for a few seconds tend to heal faster, so the longer your pain lasts the faster you should get to us.

Latency – If your pain lags to come on and builds up over the day you must be very cautious. This is a sign of a relapse of your tissue pathology. It’s difficult to judge what makes it worse, because the pain only comes on a few hours after your activity, and not during. Your pain tends to be worse in the afternoons rather than in the morning.

Loading – Pushing through your finger pain while you work is not a good idea. Putting compromised tissue under strain is dangerous. Would you tow a car with a partially torn cable? No! Because it just needs that final pull or jerk that could cause catastrophic tissue damage. Loading soft tissue without knowing what it’s able to handle is dangerous & reckless.

100% Covered by Medical Aid

Hand therapy claims directly from your medical aid.

Hand therapy claims directly from your medical aid.

No co-payments. No extras. No unexpected bills. Plain and simple payments. Pay with cash or medical aid. Your choice.

Diagnosis of finger pain

Our experts know and understand the intricate anatomy of your finger. There are many structures to test, and we even consider the complex biomechanics of each knuckle. We’ll accurately diagnose which structures are involved, and to what degree. This gives you a good idea what exactly is happening inside your finger in order to establish the extent of the tissue damage.

During your evaluation, we’ll be stretching & stressing the soft tissue structures like muscles, ligaments, nerves and tendons. This way we can diagnose muscle tears, ligament sprains, tendinitis’s and nerve irritations. We’ll test different aspects like muscle strength, range of motion, flexibility and stability in order to confirm how severe your tissue damage is, which will lead us to tailor a treatment plan. Then we’ll customize the treatment to your specific needs. Therefore our specialists are the best at diagnosing finger pain & finger injuries.

The Process of Diagnosis

Diagnosis is a process of exclusion, not inclusion. Medical professionals are taught a process of elimination and deduction to identify the most possible diagnosises for your finger pain. The better you can describe & elaborate on your pain, the better picture you’ll give us to understand what’s happened & what you’re feeling.

The practitioner uses their skills to eliminate diagnosis’s it’s not and zoom in on your problem. This elimination brings us to only a few possibilities to what could be causing your finger pain. Then we test & assess all our possibilities to get to the root cause of your pain. We encourage you to be honest and open about what you’re feeling – to clarify, carry on or change our approach.


  • No ibuprofen or other forms of Anti-inflammatories in the first 48 hours after an injury

  • Do not use heat packs or soak your hands in warm water for the first 2 to 3 days after an injury

  • Don’t try to lift heavy objects or grip anything too tightly

  • Click, pull or your fingers

  • Try to stretch through the pain

  • Ignore swelling (clearly something is wrong)

  • Treat it without a proper diagnosis, you may end up causing more harm

  • Ignore the pain (it may be a sign of a deeper problem)

  • Leave it untreated & hope it’ll heal

Must Do

  • Protect it from further injury

  • Put an ice pack in a towel and place it on your wrist for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours

  • Take off any jewelry if your finger starts swelling

  • Stop, cut down or limit activities that brings on your pain

  • Wear a splint to support your finger, especially at night – you can get these at our reception (if you’re strapped for cash)

  • We can diagnose your problem fast & treat it

  • If you’re unsure what it might be – rather get an expert’s opinion

  • Give us a Call to set up an appointment to determine the tissue damage & how severe your problem is.

Makes it worse

  • Typing

  • Writing

  • Painting

  • Carry bags

  • Texting

  • Driving

  • Unlocking a door

  • Pushing onto it

Treatment for finger pain

We have seen many patients with finger pain and provide the best possible treatment for a faster recovery. Pain and stiffness after a finger injury prevent you to grip or hold things. You might feel afraid to move, or scared you’ll damage it even more. We know that you’re anxious about the unknown, so that is why we are here to guide you and give you all the answers.

Your finger pain treatment will be tailored according to various factors, but just to give you a broad idea, our focus of our treatments are;

  1. Determine what structures are injured in your finger.
  2. How bad is it injured?
  3. Protect it from further injury.
  4. Help accelerate healing.
  5. Re-evaluate to monitor progress.
  6. Change and adapt as you get better.

Finger expert

Our experts can diagnose, test and treat any kind of finger pain. We guide you to get rid of your pain as fast as possible. Our world class techniques & machines make sure you get the best value for your money. We will test a lot of different possibilities why you’re feeling this finger pain in order to explain what’s going on in your body. It all depends on the results of our tests to determine what needs to be done. All our experts are hand specialists that can determine the slightest problem coming from your finger, hand or wrist, so if you’re uncertain – we can help you.

Our experts determine multiple problems that can be involved, this means that we test everything to ensure we’re treating it the right way. This is our expertise & what we’re best at. We take on many roles to achieve your goals: Teacher, counselor, trainer, coach and engineer. As a teacher we explain the extent of tissue damage & the intricate details of your finger pain & how it may affect other problems. As a counselor & pain expert, we’ll guide you every step of the way. As engineer we check the structural integrity of the tendons, ligaments & joints in your finger.

What our patients say:

“Please consider seeing Elmarie before you consider finger surgery!”

C Legge

“Elmarie is a super qualified expert. She is professional and puts your mind to rest regarding the road ahead. I can definitely recommend her.”

T Heard

“Amazing service, took my son because of an broken finger. She’s just brilliant and he is healing fast.”

O Swanepoel

Trigger finger, trigger thumb, trigger finger treatment, bent finger, lock finger

Finger treatment is a process of understanding

Finger treatment is a process of understanding

We have a whole range of finger treatments, but first we must know what we’re dealing with. An accurate diagnosis gives us a better understanding why you’re in pain. Then we can change it.

Our Partner

Well Health Pro is a medical group of professionals that treat a wide range of muscle, joint, tendon & nerve problems.