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Pain in the fingers of the hands that prevents us from performing the simplest activities makes us feel helpless. The causes of toe pain may be trivial, but they can also herald serious trouble. What are the most common causes of finger pain, what diseases may herald, and how is the diagnosis and treatment performed?

Pain in fingersmost often occurs as a result of overstrain or trauma. But it is also often the first sign of serious diseases, including degenerative changes, rheumatoid arthritis (pain appears symmetrically in both hands), carpal tunnel and other less common diseases.

Often, in addition to pain, there is also numbness, tingling and stiffness. Ailments in the fingers, although very similar, have different causes. Some are due to the aging of the body, others are the result of self-harm, and others are related to the work performed or the sport discipline practiced. Regardless of the cause, each of these ailments should be recognized and treated.

Pain in fingers - when does it hurt?

When the pain in the fingers is not the result of an injury, it is worth observing in what situations it occurs, how long it lasts, whether it affects the entire hand or just a fragment. Such observations, given to the doctor, will facilitate diagnosis and initiation of treatment, which not only can relieve pain, but also allow you to keep your hand functional.

Hand dexterity should be understood as maintaining the functionality of the hand, which consists of:

  • grip quality
  • grip value
  • manipulative abilities

The quality of the grip is the ability of the hand to adapt to the object that we want to pick up or grasp.

Grip value is the ability to withstand loads, which depends on the strength of the muscles and the quality and precision of the grip.

Manipulative skills, i.e. the dexterity of the hand, depend on the quality and value of the grip and on the ability to properly control the movement apparatus.

Pain in fingers - degenerative disease

Osteoarthritis is the most common disease of the joints and causes pain in the fingers. Its first symptoms can be observed after the age of 40. For many decades, osteoarthritis has been thought to be related to the wear and tear of the joints. He is now askingattention also to inflammatory processes that may take place in the joints and lead to their destruction.

The degeneration usually begins in large joints, e.g. the knees, but it happens that the first attack involves small joints in the hand. Symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain, stiffness, limited mobility, crackling in the joints, and distortion of the affected joint.

Pain occurs most of all when moving, and is relieved at rest. The pain is most severe in the evening.

The presence of Heberden's and Bouchard's nodules is characteristic of osteoarthritis of the hand joints. Heberden nodules develop on the dorsal surface of the distal interphalangeal joints, while Bouchard's nodules develop on the dorsal surface of the proximal interphalangeal joints. In their vicinity, inflammation may appear, causing pain in the fingers.

Osteoarthritis is incurable, but its effects can be mitigated. In case of minor pain, you can help yourself with painkillers ointments (or tablets). Rehabilitation and physiotherapy are also necessary. However, it is not enough to use a series of treatments at the clinic. You need to exercise every day.

Finger pain and rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is very often manifested by pain in the fingers. The disease is classified as an autoimmune disease, i.e. when the immune system acts against its host.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, inflammatory systemic disease of the connective tissue. It is incurable, but its course can be modified. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just a joint disease. As the name suggests, "systemic disease" covers the whole organism of the patient.

Characteristic for RA is that the changes in the joints appear symmetrically, e.g. the same joints are affected on both hands, although on one of them they may be larger or smaller.

Pain is constant, although it may vary in severity. Another symptom is joint stiffness, which is troublesome especially after getting out of bed, swelling and reddening of the skin around the joints. As the disease progresses, the deformation of the joints of the cancer becomes more and more visible. It happens that the fingers contract and, regardless of the patient's will, they have a tendency to bend towards the elbow.

Deformation of hand joints is often referred to as rheumatoid hand. It is related to damage to the ligamentous apparatus of the metacarpophalangeal, metacarpophalangeal, and interphalangeal joints of the hand. As a result of this damage, there is a relaxation of the joints, reducing themstrength and stabilization. Thumbs can also be deformed.

In addition to taking disease-modifying drugs, rehabilitation, physiotherapy and daily exercise are also required. People who train their hands regularly, their efficiency and grip strength last longer. Besides, the sick person must learn to save their hands, not to overload them, not to force them to make unnatural movements (e.g. like when unscrewing a jar). Some patients with RA require surgical restoration of the hand function.

Finger pain and psoriatic arthritis

The most characteristic symptom of psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is changes in the interphalangeal joints (near the nails) of the hands or feet. Another typical symptom of the disease is the formation of bone spurs around the affected joints and asymmetrical involvement of the joints. There is no rheumatic factor in psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis develops mainly in the peripheral joints, but can also affect the spine and sacroiliac joints. In addition to the joints, tendon attachments, synovial bursae and periarticular tissues may also be involved. The disease leads to joint deformities and very often to disability.

An example of an attack of psoriasis on periarticular tissues is the sausage finger symptom. The affected finger can actually be compared to a sausage because it is swollen, strongly red, and the skin on it is very warm. These symptoms are also accompanied by pain.

So far, no effective method of treating the disease has been developed. However, it is possible to get good control of psoriatic arthritis. As PsA leads to joint destruction and stiffening, the main goal of treatment is to prevent disability.

A huge role in the treatment of psoriatic arthritis is moderate exercise, which prevents the joints from stiffening. The type of exercise and the extent of physical exertion are best discussed with your doctor, as excessive strain on the joints may accelerate their deformation.

The patient should also know that the intake of fish oil has a positive effect on his body. Avoid all situations that may trigger another relapse, i.e. severe stress, infections and injuries.

If possible, psoriatic arthritis patients should avoid beta-blockers, anti-arrhythmic drugs and lithium s alts as they can accelerate the progression of the disease.

If the deformities are advanced and the joints are not very mobile, the doctor may offer the patient a surgical procedure. It is possible to carry out arthroplasty orsynovectomy, i.e. an operation to remove the synovial membrane in the joint, altered by the inflammatory process.

Pain in the fingers and the isthmus of the wrist

Another cause of pain in the fingers and the entire hand may be carpal tunnel syndrome (CCD). It is a disease caused by prolonged pressure on the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel. It is caused by inflammation of the nerve or the tissues surrounding it.

Stricture of the carpal tunnel can also occur due to degeneration or an injury. Carpal tunnel syndrome may be considered an occupational disease. People who have to perform repetitive movements at work, e.g. screwing in screws, suffer from it.

Carpal tunnel syndrome begins innocently. The fingers (usually the thumb, index and middle finger) suffer, there is pain in the elbow and shoulder joint. At night, the patient is awakened by pain in the hand or the feeling that "electricity is running" through the hand. With time, the pain appears more and more often, it is difficult to clench it into a fist, draw a circle precisely or evenly cut the paper with scissors.

With the isthmus of the wrist, the feeling in the fingertips can gradually deteriorate, objects begin to fall out of the hands, and in the advanced stage, the muscles of the withers of the thumb disappear, which means that it ceases to be the opposite finger and becomes flush with the other fingers. Doctors call it the "monkey hand effect".

Carpal tunnel syndrome also occurs very often in diseases such as:

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • diabetes
  • kidney failure

and also in alcoholics, obese people and people who walk on crutches.

If your doctor determines you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you will start with physical therapy, wearing an elastic band around your wrist, and taking high doses of vitamin B6 for at least 8 weeks. If that doesn't work, your doctor will likely advise you not to use your affected hand for up to 3 months, or to wear a plaster for 3 weeks. Such complete stillness is the most effective way to regenerate the nerve, and it is 90% effective in people with a less advanced disease.

In advanced cases, it is necessary to decompress the median nerve. The procedure is usually performed under local or regional anesthesia. You leave the hospital on the same or the next day. During the operation, the doctor cuts the flexor cord lengthwise and does not staple it. Thanks to this, the edges of the drawstring slide apart and a scar is formed above them, which becomes a new, wider drawstring. The nerve that runs through the wrist canal is no longer pinched and the symptoms disappear.

Pain in the fingers of the hand - snapping (slamming) finger

This ailment most often arises as a result of a mechanical injury (e.g. pressure of the hand on hard objects), which leads to inflammation with the formation of granulation tissue in the tendons of the flexor muscles of the fingers. The thickened tendon hardly passes through the physiologically narrowed sheath, and the strength of the flexor muscles is greater than that of the extensor muscles. This results in difficulties in straightening the bent finger. Hence the common name of the disease - snapping finger.

Doctors describe the condition as jamming tendinitis. Chronic tendinitis most often affects the thumb or other fingers. It is less common in the wrist, knee or elbow joints.

The causes of a crackling finger can be different, but it is always the result of repeated muscle overload. People who play musical instruments, sew documents, weave carpets by hand, repair tapestries, knit, and so on suffer from this type of tendinitis. Repeating the same movement keeps the same tendons and muscles constantly tense. Over time, it becomes overloaded and this leads to inflammation. The smoothness of movements is limited because a significant thickening forms on the flexor tendon.

Another cause of a snap finger can be RA. Sometimes the condition is a complication of diabetes or micro-injuries that occur while playing volleyball. People who have had a contusion or an injury to the hand can also suffer from this condition. Typical symptoms of jamming tendinitis include:

  • Formation of a lump at the base of the finger, on the outer part. The lump, or a thickened tendon, is painful to touch. It makes it very difficult to perform even simple activities, e.g. tying shoelaces or threading a needle.
  • Restriction of the ability to move smoothly with the entire finger or the part that is inflamed. You cannot bend and straighten your finger freely, and each movement is accompanied by a characteristic click (click) and severe pain.
  • The symptom of the advanced form of the disease is complete blockade. The most serious symptom is a complete blockage of the finger. If the patient does not seek help, a permanent contracture and loss of grasping ability will develop.
  • Swelling is a less frequently observed symptom. A symptom that appears and subsides by itself is reddening of the skin on the finger affected by the inflammation.

In young people and children, anti-inflammatory drugs and rehabilitation are usually used. The same is done in the case of mature people, but only ifwhen they see a doctor at an early stage of the disease and the finger's mobility has not yet been restricted. The doctor may also recommend immobilizing the finger (for three weeks) in an upright position.

If medications and rehabilitation do not bring the desired result, surgery is required. The procedure involves cutting the fibrous sheath of the inflamed tendon, which restores mobility. If the wrist is inflamed, the surgeon recreates the sheath rings and widens them during surgery. The operation takes several dozen minutes and is usually performed under local anesthesia. After surgery, you should keep your arm in a sling for four weeks for the operated tendon and the postoperative wound to heal properly. It is also necessary to rehabilitate a dozen or so days. Work involving the operated tendon must not be performed immediately after the operation. After completing the treatment, full fitness returns.

People who do not undergo surgery usually develop permanent finger contracture, and when the wrist is a problem - loss of grasping ability.

Finger pain - hammer finger (baseball finger)

The hammer finger develops as a result of an injury, which is a rupture of a tendon in the vicinity of the distal interphalangeal joint, that is, the closest to the tip of the finger. If the injury is serious, the finger cannot be straightened. It remains curved like a bird's claw.

The reason for such an injury to the joint connecting the two phalanges is a strong hit with the tip of the finger on a hard object. This is an injury typical of baseball players, people working on protective gloves on a construction site, etc. The symptoms of an injury are visible immediately. Very severe pain appears, followed by swelling and bruising. The finger is said to swell in the eyes.

First aid is to put ice or cold water on the finger. The low temperature causes the small vessels to constrict, thus reducing internal bleeding and swelling. If the blow was very strong and the pain persists after a cold compress, contact a doctor. Sometimes it is necessary to immobilize the finger on a special splint or insert it in a plaster. You can take over-the-counter painkillers for pain relief.

Pain in the fingers of the hand - skier's thumb

The essence of a skier's thumb injury is tearing or complete tearing of the ligament connecting the phalanx of the thumb to the metacarpal bone. This is because the thumb is flexed excessively, e.g. in a fall. The same can result in a skier's pole not being held properly or catching a thrown ball that is too tight.

Appears at the base of the thumb when injuredviolent pain that worsens in the first hours after injury. A bruise may appear due to an internal spill.

First aid is to apply ice or a cold compress as soon as possible. Sometimes it is necessary to immobilize the thumb in a splint or plaster. You can - to ease the pain - take painkillers.

About the authorAnna Jarosz A journalist who has been involved in popularizing he alth education for over 40 years. Winner of many competitions for journalists dealing with medicine and he alth. She received, among others The "Golden OTIS" Trust Award in the "Media and He alth" category, St. Kamil awarded on the occasion of the World Day of the Sick, twice the "Crystal Pen" in the national competition for journalists promoting he alth, and many awards and distinctions in competitions for the "Medical Journalist of the Year" organized by the Polish Association of Journalists for He alth.

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