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How to Know If You Have Nerve Damage in a Finger

By Erin Moseley ; Updated July 27, 2017

Fingers are prone to injury and disease, and nerve damage is sometimes the result. Extended or prolonged pressure or constriction can cause finger nerve damage. Nerve damage slows or prevents a nerve from signaling and working properly. Nerve damage to the fingers can cause pain, numbness and tingling, burning, difficult or limited range of motion, finger droop and weakness. Injury to an arm or hand can cause nerve damage to fingers. Whatever the case, you can try some home testing, but you’ll need to confirm your suspicions at your doctor’s office, where they can perform nerve conduction and associated tests.

  1. Examine your fingers. Look at the affected fingers for deformities, abnormal color and smelly odor. If this is the case, you should go immediately to your doctor or emergency department to get it checked. You could have significant nerve damage.

  2. Determine if the fingers have appropriate sensation. Check to see if fingers feel numb or tingling, or if they have a burning sensation. Feel each affected finger to test for pain and whether any sensation is present. Apply pressure to the finger using the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. Use a metal fork to test the sensation on skin surface. Lightly touch the fork to the tips and sides of the fingers.

  3. Check your finger movement and range of motion. Test the ability of the fingers to move normally. Open and close the hand, extending all fingers including the thumb. Look for fingers that don’t move as expected. Notice if fingers droop.

  4. Test the strength of your fingers. See if you can grip a tennis ball; grip it in one hand and then the other. Hold a pencil in one hand and squeeze it with each finger of the other hand, one at a time. Alternate hands.

  5. Go to your doctor or a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in nerve disorders. They can provide thorough testing to determine the extent of nerve damage and how to treat the damaged fingers.

  6. Tip

    Damage to the ulnar nerve can affect the fourth and fifth fingers, and damage to the radial nerve can affect the second and third fingers.

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