How to Treat Painful Finger & Toe Joints

If you suffer from arthritis or an injury to a finger or toe, you know how debilitating this type of pain can be. Sufferers can experience pain with movement, and often pain is increased immediately after rest followed by movement. The good news--there are some fairly simple, inexpensive steps you can take to ease the pain.

Cold Threapy

Wrap three or four ice cubes in a clean, dry kitchen towel or face cloth.

Place the ice pack on the painful finger or toe.

Secure the cold pack in place with the tape.

Begin timing the treatment with a timer, watch or clock. Allow the ice pack to remain in place for no more that 20 minutes. If your skin begins to burn or feel painful, remove the ice pack.

Heat Treatment

Set your moist heat pad to medium, or open your heat dressing or fill your hot water bottle with hot, but not boiling, water and close the top.

Put a protective barrier such as a clean face cloth over the area and place heat pad, hot water bottle or heat dressing on painful finger or toe joint.

Sit or recline comfortably with heat treatment in place.

Time the application of the heat treatment using a watch, clock or timer for 20 minutes. If the heat becomes uncomfortable, remove the treatment from the affected joint.

Dry the skin and apply a thin layer of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory cream, as long as your doctor approves.


Do not use heat or cold treatments if your skin is irritated, cut or bleeding.

Always use a protective barrier between your skin and the heat or cold such as a clean towel, gauze or other type of dressing.

Do not use topical creams that either heat or cool skin during an ice or heat treatment.

Heat relaxes muscles and increases blood circulation to the painful joint. Cold therapy numbs the painful area and reduces inflammation.

Allow your skin to return to normal temperature before switching from heat to cold therapy or back again.


If your pain is acute and is accompanied by swelling, redness or exudate, it is best to consult a health care provider before beginning self treatment. If you have diabetes, skin or vascular disease, you should check with your health care provider before beginning any home pain management program. It is also best not to use heat and cold therapy on infants, small children or the elderly without permission from a health care provider. Check with your health care provider before using topical products that contain aspirin. Do not use a topical cream that includes ingredients found in other medications you are taking without approval from your health care provider.