A child may develop pain in a finger for many different reasons. Talking children will be able to describe the specific features and location of the pain. Infants and toddlers may only be fussy, and identifying the source of pain may take some detective work. Joint damage, muscle irritation, bone disease and skin destruction are common causes of finger pain.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Direct injury to the finger is the most common cause of finger pain in children. Typically, there will be signs of bruising, a cut or a scrape that will help you to detect an injury. Other injuries can be more subtle. If a child complains of pain and you cannot see any injury, be sure to look closely. Use a magnifying glass to look for splinters or foreign objects like glass. Younger children can even have a piece of hair wrapped around a digit, cutting off the blood supply, known as a hair tourniquet.
- Direct injury to the finger is the most common cause of finger pain in children.
- Typically, there will be signs of bruising, a cut or a scrape that will help you to detect an injury.
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Children usually complain of an achy feeling when the muscle is the source of pain. Muscle pain can be the result of injury, which causes muscle bruising, or inflammation of the muscles, seen with viral illness such as the flu. The ligaments that attach muscle to bones may also tear or be strained, causing sharp pain.
The joints are cartilage-lined spaces where bones meet. Each finger has three joints; thumbs have only two. Irritation of the end of the bone, the cartilage or the fluid filling the space between the bones causes both pain and decreased range of motion. Damaged joints may look swollen or red when compared to healthy ones. Failure to promptly address joint pain can lead to long-term loss of function.
- The joints are cartilage-lined spaces where bones meet.
Sprains in Toddlers
The skin is one of the most sensitive organs to pain, having specialized receptors to detect pain from pressure, temperature or sharp sensations 5. Burns, cuts, scrapes and compression will trigger pain receptors to signal the brain, and the child experiences pain. Most of the time the source of skin pain will be clearly visible as bleeding, bruising or redness. Skin injury should be cleaned thoroughly, however, to look for additional injury to underlying muscle and bone.
- The skin is one of the most sensitive organs to pain, having specialized receptors to detect pain from pressure, temperature or sharp sensations 5.
- Skin injury should be cleaned thoroughly, however, to look for additional injury to underlying muscle and bone.
Nerve damage can also lead to finger pain. In 2009, the "Journal of Emergency Medicine" published the case of a teenage girl who experienced median nerve irritation, causing finger numbness, tingling and burning after she played video games excessively 6. Any repetitive movement of the wrist or hand can lead to nerve irritation and finger pain. Nerve injury can also be caused by vitamin deficiencies or genetic diseases, although these nerve problems usually cause symptoms in the feet and legs as well.
- Nerve damage can also lead to finger pain.
- Any repetitive movement of the wrist or hand can lead to nerve irritation and finger pain.
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- "Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine"; Michelle Wang, et al.; April 2001
- "Clinical Microbiology Reviews"; Bacterial, Fungal, Parasitic, and Viral Myositis; Nancy Crum-Cianflone; July 2008
- New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital: Hand Pain
- KidsHealth; Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis; Ann Marie Brescia; Jun 2008
- University of Washington: Skin Receptors
- "Journal of Emergency Medicine"; A New Variant of Wiitis; Kevin Boehm and Amber Pugh; Jan 2009
- Van veenendaal LM, De klerk G, Van der velde D. A painful finger as first sign of a malignancy. Geriatr Orthop Surg Rehabil. 2014;5(1):18-20. doi:10.1177/2151458514522125
- Oetgen ME, Dodds SD. Non-operative treatment of common finger injuries. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2008;1(2):97-102. doi:10.1007/s12178-007-9014-z
- Prucz RB, Friedrich JB. Finger joint injuries. Clin Sports Med. 2015;34(1):99-116. doi:10.1016/j.csm.2014.09.002
- Christensen T, Sarfani S, Shin AY, Kakar S. Long-term outcomes of primary repair of chronic thumb ulnar collateral ligament injuries. Hand (N Y). 2016;11(3):303-309. doi:10.1177/1558944716628482
- Spies CK, Langer M, Hahn P, Müller LP, Unglaub F. The treatment of primary arthritis of the finger and thumb joint. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2018;115(16):269-275. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2018.0269
- Deveza LA, Hunter DJ, Wajon A, et al. Efficacy of combined conservative therapies on clinical outcomes in patients with thumb base osteoarthritis: protocol for a randomised, controlled trial (COMBO). BMJ Open. 2017;7(1):e014498. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-014498
- Makkouk AH, Oetgen ME, Swigart CR, Dodds SD. Trigger finger: etiology, evaluation, and treatment. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2008;1(2):92-6. doi:10.1007/s12178-007-9012-1
- Alla SR, Deal ND, Dempsey IJ. Current concepts: mallet finger. Hand (N Y). 2014;9(2):138-44. doi:10.1007/s11552-014-9609-y
Amy O'Connell is a writer who has published research in scientific journals such as "Infection and Immunity." Her areas of expertise include allergies, conditions in children and celiac disease. She has a Ph.D. in immunology and a medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.