Finger pain

Prim Care. 1988 Dec;15(4):751-66.


The local, systemic, and referred causes of finger pain are generally recognizable by historical features and physical examination findings, although radiographs and laboratory evaluation are often required to support the diagnostic impression. Most minor traumatic causes of finger pain require only conservative management, including immobilization followed by exercise. Infectious causes of finger pain include cellulitis, tendinitis, paronychia, felon, and infectious emboli, which generally require antibiotics with or without drainage. Certain patients with finger pain resulting from infection should be referred to a hand surgeon. Vascular and ischemic causes of finger pain represent true emergencies, because tissue viability is dependent on prompt intervention. Whereas any sensory neuropathy may present with finger pain, carpal tunnel syndrome is among the most common. Systemic rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or vasculitis, may begin with finger pain. In addition, such pain may be the first manifestation of a serious systemic illness, as in hypertrophic pulmonary osteoarthropathy. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is an example of referred pain, presumably by way of neural mechanisms. Certain infectious, traumatic, and ischemic causes of finger pain must be diagnosed promptly to avoid significant morbidity; depending upon the cause of the symptoms, referral to a hand surgeon, rheumatologist, or neurologist may be appropriate. Symptomatic and functional improvement may also be hastened by the input of an occupational therapist.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fingers / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management