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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan and Physician Jolene Chong on July 29, 2022

What Causes Joint Pain in Your Fingers?

Most joint pain in your fingers is due to arthritis. Here are some other possible causes and remedies to help reduce the pain and swelling.

Finger joint pain min scaled

Joint pain in your fingers is not something you can easily ignore. After all, you probably use your hands and fingers for everything you do.

Even if the pain is mild or if you are able to treat it with pain medications, it’s a good idea to identify the cause. Most of the time, pain indicates tissue damage that may require special treatment.

Read on to learn what might be causing your finger joint pain as well as remedies that can help right at home.

What Causes Joint Pain In Fingers?

Arthritis is one of the most common causes of joint pain in fingers.

Joint pain can be caused by an injury, arthritis, or, in rare cases, cancer.

Injuries

Blunt traumas such as finger sprains, accidentally jamming your fingers, or finger strain from an activity like weightlifting can cause pain and usually stiffness of the finger joints.

As long as injury to the soft connective tissues within the joints is not extensive, the pain usually subsides within days. Simply give your fingers some rest. 

However, if the injury is more severe, the damaged soft tissue will be inflamed and will be noticeable in the form of tenderness, swelling, and dull pain that differs from the sharp pain of bone injuries. 

Cancer

In rare cases, finger joint pain may be caused by metastasized cancer cells. These are cancerous cells that have left their organ of origin and settled elsewhere in the body. It can easily be ruled out except in people with advanced-stage cancer. 

Arthritis

If the pain isn’t due to the abovementioned causes, it is likely caused by arthritis. Arthritis is inflammation of the joints and is often accompanied by pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduction in range of motion. It is more common in women than in men.

Arthritic finger joint pains are characterized by: 

  • Morning pain and stiffness that can last longer than an hour after waking up 
  • A “burning” sensation following heavy use of fingers involved, usually felt within hours or a day 
  • A swollen finger joint, which is warm or tender when touched, and deformed

Finger Joint Pain, According To TCM

Physician Jolene Chong explains that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) considers joint pain in fingers a combination of internal and external bodily factors. Internal bodily factors include predisposition to arthritis, anemia, a poor diet, aginglack of proper rest, as well as certain organ conditions.

In turn, these can lead to Cold-Dampness, Damp-Heat, circulatory insufficiencies, and Liver-Kidney-Essence Deficiency. Coupled with external factors, such as the invasion of Wind, Cold, Heat, or Dampness, they cause obstruction to the proper flow of qi and blood in the finger’s meridian channels. Over time, the Stagnation of qi and blood will cause stubborn pain at specific finger joints. 

A qualified TCM practitioner can address the root of the condition. Then, the TCM practitioner will customize herbal prescriptions and other treatment methods, such as acupuncture, moxibustion, and cupping. These TCM treatments will therefore emphasize the removal of Dampness, clearance of Heat, regulation of qiand pain relief

How To Relieve Joint Pain In Fingers

Some people experience joint pain that worsens every time they move, whereas others experience persistent pain even after taking over-the-counter medication. Take a step back and observe what you can do at home to ease the discomfort with these tricks and DIY therapies. 

1. Rest

This is especially effective against joint pain that is aggravated with further usage of the fingers. If you find yourself often using certain fingers for repetitive work, try learning to use your other hand or other fingers to give your painful ones a rest. 

2. Use finger tape

Isolating the painful joint using athletic tape can help ease wear and tear.

If isolating a specific finger in pain to rest isn’t feasible, an alternative is to tape that finger to an adjacent healthy finger. This provides support for the finger in pain and reduces its exertion. Finger splints can also be worn to the same effect, though the movement of the fingers may be more restricted. 

3. Apply gentle heat

The application of gentle heat is a proven method for reducing stiffness and joint pain relief, as it widens capillaries near the site of chronic inflammation in order to “flush out” the cytokines that stoke the swelling.

One popular treatment method uses paraffin wax heated to a melting temperature of about 50°C. A hand is dipped repeatedly to eventually form a thick layer of solid wax for slow and steady heat dissipation into the affected joints.

While physiotherapists offer this in their clinics, commercial and home models of paraffin wax heating tubs and paraffin wax are very affordable and easily available online. If you wish to make do with more commonly available household setups, hot baths or microwavable hot packs may be up-to-task too. Just be careful not to scald your skin. 

4. Try mind-body exercises 

Traditional Chinese exercises (TCE) such as Tai Chi, Ba Duan JinYi Jin Jing, and Wu Qin Xi can potentially alleviate joint stiffness. With slow movements and musculoskeletal stretching, combined with deep diaphragmatic breathing, your qi and blood circulation will improve and remove any blockage that causes joint pain in the fingers.

If you have arthritis, Physician Chong states that TCE brings warmth to the affected joints. “It also serves as a training to muscle building and joints strengthening, improving one’s agility and mobility,” she further explains. 

5. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet

Inflammation is a natural reaction of our bodies in response to tissue injury. However, there are various foods that can regulate inflammatory responses.

Avoid foods that are deep-fried or high in sugar content, saturated and trans fat. Instead, go for foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon or a flaxseed drink. 

Antioxidant-rich herbs, such as ginseng, goji berries, and Lingzhi mushrooms, can also help control inflammation in the joints and reduce pain by promoting circulation.

For targeted pain relief in your finger joints, consider taking a Joint Max supplement in addition to eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

6. See a doctor or TCM physician

As much as you may wish to treat the joint pain in your fingers, there are days that things are better left to the experts. Physical therapists have the required knowledge and tools to help you devise a treatment plan.

If the sight of needles doesn’t make you cringe, acupuncture can be effective in reducing inflammation and pain, and a qualified acupuncturist can assist you with that.

Certified TCM practitioners can examine your bodily conditions, recognize a pattern of disharmony and address the root of your pain. In the most severe cases, surgery performed may get rid of that joint pain in the fingers.

Finger Exercises For Joint Pain

Perform finger stretches and exercises to help alleviate pain and stiffness.

Jobs that require you to make repetitive motions with your hands may increase your risk of joint pain. To avoid the condition from worsening, Physician Chong advises allocating five minutes every day to do these simple finger exercises:  

  • Fist making: Slowly bend your hand into a fist with the thumb outside of the hand; hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then release.  
  • Thumb touching: Gently touch the thumb to each of the other four fingertips, one at a time, making the shape of an “O”
  • Finger bending: Gently bend each finger towards the center of the palm, then release.  
  • Thumbs up: Hold hand in a loose fist, point thumb up into thumbs-up sign, and then release.  
  • Wrist stretch: Lift arm with palm facing down; take the other hand and gently press the whole hand towards the ground, then release.  

Joint pain in fingers can happen at any age, and it’s best to act during its early onset. If you notice that you experience constant musculoskeletal pain or are working a physically demanding job, add a joint health supplement to your diet. Share this article with friends and family so you can help them be free from uncomfortable joint pain.

References

  1. Americal College of Rheumatology. 2011. Determinants of Incident and Persistent Finger Joint Pain During a Five-Year Follow-up Among Female Dentists and Teachers 
  2. New Straits Times, 2021, Rheumatoid arthritis in young adults

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