What to do about small painful lump near finger joint?
August 14, 2018 6:38 AM   Subscribe

I've got a small painful lump at the base of my finger. The doctor says it's a nodule and recommends no treatment for now, but it's bothering me. Why have I got this, is there anything else it could be, and is there anything I can do about it?

For the last few months I've had a lentil-sized lump under the skin just above the base of my middle finger, on the palm side. It's painful when pressure is applied to it.

I recently went to my doctor about it, and they told me that it was a nodule, suggested a steroid injection, and sent me to another doctor for a second opinion. That doctor said that a steroid injection was not definitely likely to help, and came with a risk of causing issues in an area that's so dense with nerves etc., and so suggested just monitoring it to see if it got any worse for a while.

It's stayed the same since then (perhaps gotten slightly bigger), but it is impeding me in awkward ways - for example, having to grip things such as the car handbrake in a weird position for it not to be painful.

So - I have two questions for anyone who has either had something similar, or who knows about this sort of thing.

1. Why have I got this? the internet seems to think that it's definitely a symptom of well-established arthritis, but I don't have arthritis or any symptoms of it. Is there something else it could be?

2. Is there anything else I can do about it? Should I be keeping pressure off it, or massaging it to try and make it go away?

(Previous question about trigger finger, which I don't have (yet!), so I'm not sure it's a similar situation. And another previous about a ganglion cyst, in a similar place to mine, but my lump doesn't seem that big.)
posted by chrismear to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Aw - this sounds so awful. I would proceed to get more opinions. Find a specialist that focuses on hands. They exist - and someone out there is willing to cut that thing out for you.
posted by bbqturtle at 7:26 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I get these on my ring finger periodically for no apparent reason and have for fifteen years on and off. Mine go away if I leave them alone, but as you say are quite painful with pressure. I had a hand surgeon evaluate for a particularly recalcitrant one, but was warned even with surgery it could recur. I’d go with monitor and see if it resolves, but IANAD.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 7:46 AM on August 14, 2018

Ganglion cysts used to be called "Bible Bumps" because people would pop them by smashing them with a Bible. Worth a try? (IANAD/IANYD)
posted by wearyaswater at 8:00 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I had a ganglion cyst on the second joint of my left ring finger, on the palm side. Like yours, it was causing grip problems. I had surgery to remove it. TL;dr: no regrets, would do again.

Pros: It's gone. No problems with grip, strength, flexibility or comfort. My ability to type is undiminished. I have a cool scar. Minimal pain during recovery.

Cons: It was expensive (even with insurance). The surgeon had to make a V-shaped incision about 2cm long, so there were stitches and a wound that took a couple weeks to really heal. I can't wear a ring on that finger anymore.

I'm heathen, but smacking the cyst with a copy of Njáls Saga just made my finger hurt. (Someone also accidentally stepped directly on that finger during a home improvement project. This likewise did not pop the cyst; it led only to substantial cussing.)
posted by sourcequench at 8:39 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had a ganglion at the base of my middle finger; similar symptoms to yours. It went away on its own within a few months.
posted by heatherlogan at 9:00 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

If it is indeed a ganglion cyst, a friend of mine recently had surgery to remove one that was making his wrists hurt... and it came back a few months later. He also has slightly reduced range of motion in the joint now, although that may be due to skipping out on PT.
posted by serelliya at 9:18 AM on August 14, 2018

I had a similar bump. Doctor wasn't sure if was a fluid filled or a calcium build up. (obviously not he medical terms for it.) Doctor poked it with a needle to see if he could extract some fluid. Didn't work (no fluid) but the poking seemed to help - pain gone and lump reduced somewhat . I went back a few weeks later, he said that sometimes the poking can help break it up so body can reabsorb it and/or release some of the fluids. At any rate, he poked it again and it reduced it a little more to the point that I can feel it but it isn't noticeable or causing any problems.
posted by metahawk at 9:43 AM on August 14, 2018

Ganglion cysts are pretty common, and they are the ones with fluid.

If you have any Northern U.K./Viking heritage, one other possibility could be Dupuytren's disease, which at the beginning can cause "a small lump or series of lumps and pits within the palm. The lumps are generally firm and adherent to the skin." (Not saying this is your issue. This just happens to be on my radar because a colleague told me recently he has it.)
posted by gudrun at 10:41 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had one of these in the same position. Extensive research didn't produce any solution (other than the uh Bible thumping trick). I planned on resorting to popping the cyst, but eventually I forgot about it (my grip adjusted to avoid pressure on it), then it went away on its own.

Depending on placement, a ring splint could help keep pressure off it to avoid pain, although it'll reduce your range of motion.

Sorry this isn't more helpful. Mine probably took 6 months to go away - it sucks, but I'd suggest waiting before trying anything invasive.
posted by ersatzhuman at 12:28 PM on August 14, 2018

I had one at the base of my pinky finger that was growing and made grabbing things painful. My doctor poked it and squeezed the liquid out of it. Said it would need to be surgically removed if it came back, which it hasn't. Yet.
posted by rhapsodie at 3:46 PM on August 14, 2018

Had Meemaw Gambol not shuffled off this mortal coil, she'd encourage slathering that bump with castor oil and applying a warm compress. (Her standard cyst advice.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:54 PM on August 14, 2018

Thanks for the advice and stories, everyone! It’s certainly helped me keep this in perspective, and get a better understanding of the possibilities here. So far, I’ve adopted the ‘wait and see’ approach, and it’s gotten a bit wider, but also softer and less painful. Going to check in again with a doctor before long, but I’m optimistic that it might just be sorting itself out gradually.
posted by chrismear at 1:14 PM on September 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

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