Arthritis in Fingers?

Just like you can have hip and knee arthritis, arthritis in fingers is also possible. If you are experiencing finger joint pain, you could have finger arthritis.

How do you know if the pain you are experiencing is finger arthritis? If you do have arthritis, what are potential arthritis treatment options?

Arming yourself with information will be the best defense against letting arthritis pain limit your activity.

Types of Finger Arthritis

Arthritis in fingers can be caused by a number of different arthritic diseases. Typical Osteoarthritis simply involves inflammation of the joints. Just as with other joints of the body, the ends of the finger bones are lined with a thin cartilage called articular cartilage. Damage of this cartilage lining can result in inflammation of the underlying bone, causing arthritis.

Another common source of finger arthritis is Rheumatoid Arthritis. As compared to osteoarthritis that generally affects one joint, rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease that affects multiple joints. With RA, the body attacks the soft tissue of the body resulting in joint and tissue inflammation.

Another autoimmune disease that can create finger arthritis is a combination of psoriasis and arthritis called Psoriatic Arthritis. This disease is similar to RA in that it affects multiple joints but also involves the skin condition of psoriasis.

What causes Arthritis in Fingers?

The most common type of finger arthritis is osteoarthritis. Causes for osteoarthritis in the fingers are generally related to overuse, injury, or trauma. As we use our hands on a frequent basis with daily activities, our fingers can become overworked. Of course people that use their hands for their occupations are at a greater risk of developing finger arthritis. Previous trauma, such as a finger fracture or jammed finger, can also contribute to the development of arthritis down the road.

Typical Symptoms

As with most arthritis symptoms, finger pain, swelling, and stiffness are the most common finger symptoms. Because of pain, strength is also affected making activities involving gripping difficult. Simple tasks such as opening a jar or turning the key in your car can become difficult and limited.

Arthritis Treatment

As with the treatment of most arthritic conditions, reducing inflammation is step number one. Use ice therapy to reduce local swelling and pain. The joints of the fingers respond well to ice massage. Simply fill a Styrofoam cup with water and freeze it. Once frozen; peel off the top of the cup to expose the ice. Massage the finger joint with the ice for three to five minutes.

Of course, limiting inflammation can only be achieved if you reduce aggravating activities. Minimize activities that involved prolonged gripping or vibration of the hands and fingers.

Anti-inflammatory medication is also commonly used to treat arthritis (consult your doctor regarding medication). Anti-inflammatory creams such as Voltaren gel works well with the superficial joints of the fingers.

In addition to medication, some arthritis supplements may also be a beneficial treatment option. Although not extensively studied exclusively in the fingers, some studies indicate supplements can be beneficial for osteoarthritis symptoms.

Physical Therapy

Formal treatment for finger arthritis can be very effective. The use of modalities such as ultrasound, iontophoresis, and fluido therapy can be useful in reducing inflammation and improving joint mobility. Manual joint mobilizations and soft tissue massage help restore joint mechanics and reducing joint swelling. Because muscle strength is greatly important in restoring finger function, exercises utilizing hand putty can be utilized to help restore hand and finger strength.

finger extension with putty

In addition to modalities and exercises, splinting can also be helpful in reducing finger joint pain associated with arthritis in fingers. Certified hand therapists and Occupational Therapists can fabricate splints specific to your type and location of finger pain.


When conservative treatment of medication, injections, and therapy fails, surgery for finger arthritis in an option. In a similar fashion to knee and hip replacements, finger joints can also be replaced. The process involves removing the diseased end of the finger joint and replacing it with a prosthetic joint.

Arthritis in fingers can have a significant influence on function and quality of life. Investigate various treatment options to help minimize your pain and improve your quality of life.

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J Hand Surg Am. 2011 Feb;36(2):345-53.Metacarpophalangeal joint arthritis.Rizzo M

Ann Rheum Dis. 2011 Oct;70(10):1835-7. Epub 2011 Jul 8.Osteophytes and joint space narrowing are independently associated with pain in finger joints in hand osteoarthritis.Kortekaas MC, Kwok WY, Reijnierse M, Huizinga TW, Kloppenburg M

J Hand Surg Am. 2010 Dec;35(12):2117-25.Osteoarthritis of the distal interphalangeal joint.Kaufmann RA, Lögters TT, Verbruggen G, Windolf J, Goitz RJ.