Ouch! What's up with my finger?
June 1, 2011 10:22 AM   Subscribe

What's wrong with my finger? Pain since December.

I've been having pretty severe pain in my right pointer finger near the joint. It's bad enough to wake me up at night and aches all day throughout the day. The pain seems localized in the joint the meets my hand (the lowest joint, I am not familiar with the terminology) but sometimes it seems like it travel up to the second joint on my index finger as well).

Anyway, I've been to my regular doctor who took x-rays in January. Didn't see any inflammation. She did see a white area in the place I am complaining about pain but the radiologist she sent the x-ray to said it was nothing.

I've seen an orthopedic specialist twice. He looked at my x-rays and said there was no abnormalities. The second visit he said he's referring me to a nerologist to do a nerve conduction test.

I've yet to make that appointment but in the mean time I've been wearing a hand brace designed for people with carpal tunnel. It has not helped the pain in any way whatsoever. What does help the pain is stretching the finger as far as I can toward my pinky. If I try to go the other way it is such intense pain it will almost take my breath away.

Has anyone had similar pain without any obvious reasons? I take NSAIDs to help the pain but it's not cutting it lately. Nothing I do at work seems to necessarily aggravate the pain. It doesn't seem like one specific motion is doing it. I wake up and it hurts and it just stays that way, with periods of intense pain, and periods of a more dull ache.
posted by rainygrl716 to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
You might want to check with a rheumatologist. Someone I know had very similar symptoms when their psoriatic arthritis first flared up; rheumatoid arthritis is very similar, from what I understand.
posted by janewman at 10:35 AM on June 1, 2011

My doctor basically ruled out anything like that after doing an ESR and saying there is no inflammation or redness. I agree that along with my other symptoms (fatigue, etc) it does sound like it could be something like that, but at this point all my labs are normal.
posted by rainygrl716 at 10:41 AM on June 1, 2011

I've yet to make that appointment

What's the hold up? The sooner you make the appointment, the sooner you will have your answer, or at least you will be further on your way to an answer.

Not to be snarky, but you could have made that appointment in the time it took you to open your browser to get here to ask your question.
posted by TinWhistle at 10:48 AM on June 1, 2011

I've had broken joint capsules before, which can be painful (though not enough to wake me up) and can take several months to go away.
posted by Lucinda at 10:49 AM on June 1, 2011

The appointment is to rule out carpal tunnel which the orthopedic specialist really doesn't think I have anyway but he just wants to rule it out officially. Because of that I haven't been rushing to do it. My orthopedic specialist is really just waiting to see if the pain goes away since he can't find any obvious reasons for it.
posted by rainygrl716 at 10:51 AM on June 1, 2011

Do you use a mouse a lot? Ie: more than two hours a day?

Repetitive strain injuries, particularly computer related, cause all sorts of different problems. Carpal tunnel is one specific form of damage regular keyboard and mouse work can cause, but there's a whole set of other possible injuries in the hands and wrists. Consider everything you do with your right hand, particularly that finger, and think if there's some regular small but stressful motion you make with it.

BTW a brace can make problems worse, not better.
posted by Nelson at 10:59 AM on June 1, 2011

Do you ever support your weight on just your fingers, as a rock climber would? Injury to the A2 pulley tendon can cause pain at the base of your finger.

I can't really fathom how you might cause that injury without climbing, though. Also I'd think your doctors would have checked for pulley injury. (Side note: NSAIDs aren't appropriate for every injury, especially after the first few days; but they might be great for you if your problem is inflammation not caused by injury).
posted by nat at 11:15 AM on June 1, 2011

Have you seen a physical therapist?
posted by TheBones at 12:23 PM on June 1, 2011

Check out an acupuncturist. If the X-rays didn't show any inflammation, chances are the pain you're experiencing is coming from injured tissue around the joints.

I had a similar problem this past year, where pain would linger in my fingers/joints for several months after I had jammed them from playing basketball. I had expected the pain to go away naturally over time with enough rest (normally for me, the bruises go away on their own after a few weeks), but it stuck around long enough that it even affected my typing speed, and I worried I might have had fractured/dislocated fingers.

I saw an acupuncturist after a few months of nagging pain. What he did was feel up my hands and check for points of tension in my tendons, then stretch out and flex the affected fingers/joints gently but firmly with a small *snap* (it didn't hurt at all), which had the immediate effect of relaxing the injured tissues. He put some ointment around my joints, and wrapped them with some tape, which he instructed me to remove the next day. That was basically it.

Almost like magic, the joint pain I had over several months vanished within just a few days, thanks to one visit to the acupuncturist.

I will admit that I was skeptical at first about the effectiveness of acupuncturists; I had originally planned to see an orthopedics specialist to X-ray my fingers. But the acupuncturist I've seen has cured my fingers on enough occasions that I feel qualified to recommend that you see one if the conditions of your joints are anything similar to what I had, especially if there was no detection of bone damage.
posted by matticulate at 1:07 PM on June 1, 2011

My physical therapist diagnosed what was wrong with three of the fingers in my right hand. The pain message is in my fingers, but the inflammation and irritation is cervical. Traction and stretching helped a lot. I really thought that I was developing arthritis.

So nerve irritation, not necessarily at the source of pain: follow up with the neurologist soon.
posted by francesca too at 1:55 PM on June 1, 2011

Thanks for all the ideas. I'll definitely follow up with the neurologist. I am lacking in sick time right now to use when I make an appointment since I've been so fatigued and sick lately, so I kind of have to wait until one of my days off during the week which won't be for another two weeks so that's another reason I've been procrastinating on that. I work during appointment hours unfortunately.

My job really doesn't entail much repetitive motion. I do a variety of different tasks throughout the day, some of which is computer use. The NSAIDs were recommended by my GP (she said to take extra if the recommended strength didn't do the job, but I don't feel comfortable exceeding the doses on the bottle), and the brace recommended by the orthopedic specialist.

One weird thing about the brace is that when I don't wear it, I can't pop the knuckle of that finger. It feels like it needs to pop, but it won't and bending it in an attempt to pop itt really hurts. With the brace on for an extended period of time, I can get the knuckle to pop and there is brief relief from that.

The x-ray showed absolutely no signs of swelling or issues with the finger, so whatever is happening isn't causing anything that would show up there.
posted by rainygrl716 at 6:21 PM on June 1, 2011

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