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What causes hand and finger pain that’s not arthritis?

Hand and Finger Pain Not Arthritis
3 minutes, 58 seconds

Many times, people who feel pain in their hands or fingers assume they have arthritis, especially when they feel a dull, aching and consistent pain. However, that pain can be a result of many types of hand injuries. The hand consists of 27 delicate bones, as well as several tendons, ligaments and joints. Additionally, hand injuries are one of the most common injuries across the world. A medical study found that almost 17% of people had hand pain during a single one-month period. 

Many hand injuries can lead to pain that feels similar to arthritis. Those musculoskeletal injuries can include: 

  • Sprains.
  • Tears. 
  • Dislocations.
  • Fractures.
  • Compressed nerves.

Treating your hand and finger pain starts with determining what’s causing your pain. Whether you have arthritis or another condition, a physical therapist can help ease your symptoms through strengthening exercises. 

5 conditions that are not arthritis and cause hand and finger pain
According to the CDC, at least 26% of women and 19% of men have reported having doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Despite its prevalence, however, arthritis is not the only condition that can cause hand and finger pain. Some other conditions that can cause hand pain can include: 

  1. Carpal tunnel syndrome — This condition happens when the median nerve in the wrist becomes pinched or inflamed by the carpal tunnel. Often, carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain around the thumb, pointer finger and middle finger. It also most notably involves tingling, numbness and weakness.
  2. De Quervain’s tenosynovitis — De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is usually caused by inflammation in the tendons around the base of the thumb. The swelling of these tendons can squeeze nearby nerves, causing numbness and swelling around the thumb joint. It’s typically caused by overusing the thumb and wrist. 
  3. Trigger finger — This condition happens when the tendon sheaths around a finger tendon are inflamed. Trigger finger makes it difficult to straighten your finger. People also experience pain at the base of the affected finger through a tender bump or sense of heat. The stiffness and pain associated with trigger finger can make patients feel that they have arthritis in their hand.
  4. Raynaud’s phenomenon— This condition is characterized by cold and numb fingers. It occurs when a person’s hands react to cold by narrowing blood vessels faster and tighter than normal. As a result, a person may periodically feel a throbbing or tingling feeling throughout their fingers. They may also notice that their fingertips change colors.
  5. Boxer’s fracture — A boxer’s fracture is the most common fracture in the hand, and it occurs when a person breaks a bone at the base of the finger. It usually occurs in the pinky and can lead to swelling and pain at the site of the joint. Patients may also notice that their finger has limited mobility and is crooked compared to other fingers.

What can physical therapists do to treat hand and finger pain?

Once it’s confirmed that your hand and finger pain isn’t caused by arthritis, therapists can start treating the condition you do have. There are many therapy techniques that they can use to help ease your pain. A few of the most common techniques include: 

  • Joint mobilization — This physical therapy technique is intended to improve the joint’s range of motion and decrease pain. It allows physical therapists to slowly move a patient’s joints, even if it’s difficult for the patient to do themselves. This technique can be especially helpful for wrist and finger pain, as a physical therapist can isolate and mobilize the individual small joints in the hand.
  • Therapeutic exercise — Physical therapists can prescribe therapeutic exercises to patients struggling with mobility or pain. Hand exercises can help unlock stiffness, as well as stretch and strengthen muscles across the fingers and hands.
  • Ergonomic education — Physical therapists can provide education about exercises and stretches that patients can perform at home. As part of this education, they can suggest ergonomic habits that support healing hands. Ergonomics refers to the optimal body mechanics that align the body and reduce the risk of future injuries. Simple changes like adjusting desk and chair height can relieve excess pressure from the wrist.
  • Soft tissue mobilization — Soft tissue mobilization, or myofascial release, is often used to promote healing. During this treatment, a physical therapist uses their hands to release knots, built-up fluid and inflammation in the soft tissue beneath the skin. Physical therapists can massage a patient’s hands and around the site of injury to increase blood flow to affected areas. 

Alliance PTP can help you find top-notch PT for finger pain unrelated to arthritis 

At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and can help you address your hand and finger pain, whether acute or chronic.

Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. 

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

*Note: This article is a revision of one originally posted by Alliance Physical Therapy partner Armor Physical Therapy.


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