What Causes Finger Joint Pain?

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Finger joint pain can significantly impact your daily life, making it difficult to get dressed, drive and type. Sometimes the cause of your pain may be obvious, particularly if you have a traumatic injury. In other cases, pain develops gradually, and the cause may not be apparent. See your doctor for an accurate diagnosis of your finger joint pain.

Ligament Strain

Ligaments are strong fibers that connect one bone to another. Strains occur when your finger is forced too far in one direction, damaging the ligaments on the opposite side. This injury, commonly called a "jammed finger," initially causes sharp pain. Swelling often develops soon after injury, and you may see some bruising. Movement of the finger is limited due to swelling and pain. Severe ligament strains can cause tearing of the fibers and may require surgery.


Arthritis frequently causes finger joint pain. Osteoarthritis develops when cartilage -- padding between your bones -- wears down. Eventually your bones may rub together as you move your finger, causing sharp pain. At rest, you may have aching pain in your finger joints. This condition may affect one or more joints in your fingers.

Rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory condition that causes your body to mistakenly attack healthy joint tissue, typically affects multiple finger joints at the same time. Pain increases with activity and may decrease with rest. Arthritis pain may be treated with medications and activity modification.

Tendon Injury

Tendons connect muscle to bone. There are no muscles in your fingers, but long tendons that attach to muscles run along the front and back of each finger. Tendons attach close to each finger joint, and injury to these structures can cause joint pain. These injuries are typically caused by trauma or lifting something that is too heavy. Swelling, bruising and stiffness may accompany a finger tendon injury. Seek immediate medical attention if you're unable to bend or straighten your injured joint. This may indicate a torn tendon, which requires timely surgical repair.

Bone Fracture

Bone fractures are typically caused by trauma, such as slamming your finger in a door. These injuries immediately cause sharp pain, and your finger may appear deformed. Swelling and bruising often occur soon after the injury. However, finger fractures may not always be obvious. Ligament and tendon injuries may cause a chip fracture, breaking off a small piece of bone where these structures were once attached. You may have difficulty moving the injured joint. These fractures often require surgery to make sure the bones heal in the proper position, preserving joint function.