A pinched nerve in your finger may cause symptoms like tingling, weakness, or pain. It’s unlikely the pinched nerve is actually in your finger, however.
The term pinched nerve indicates that one of your nerves is under pressure, injured, or damaged. There are several different nerves that may cause discomfort in your finger.
Treatments to ease pain for a pinched nerve in your finger are similar, and typically require noninvasive methods.
You may think of your back or neck when hearing the term pinched nerve, but it’s common for your fingers to be affected by a pinched nerve in your:
This condition develops when a nerve is pressed on, constricted, or stretched. You may experience a pinched nerve because of injury, other medical conditions like arthritis, or repetitive motions.
There are several types of nerve injury that may cause uncomfortable symptoms in your fingers.
Carpel tunnel syndrome
This type of pinched nerve happens when pressure occurs on the nerve traveling through your carpal tunnel. You can experience symptoms of carpal tunnel in your:
- pointer finger
- middle finger
- ring finger
Most people who experience this type of pinched nerve work with their hands a lot, such as using a computer, playing a musical instrument, or doing carpentry. You may be more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome if others in your family have it.
Cubital tunnel syndrome
This occurs when your ulnar nerve experiences pressure or is stretched. It affects your ring and pinkie fingers.
You may experience this condition if you apply direct pressure to the ulnar nerve, which runs from your shoulder to your hand, or if you keep it bent too long, such as when sleeping.
Radial tunnel syndrome
You may experience pain if you straighten your fingers because of radial tunnel nerve syndrome. This may occur especially on the back of your thumb and on your index finger.
Your radial nerve may experience pressure near the elbow, causing symptoms in the finger.
Finger pain can originate from cervical radiculopathy, which is a pinched nerve in the neck,. You may experience this condition because of arthritis, aging, or an injury.
Other nerve conditions
The pain in your fingers could be caused by other conditions that put pressure on your nerves, like:
- degenerating discs in your spine
- changes to your spinal cord
You may also experience pressure in multiple places along the nerve, known as double crush.
Symptoms of a pinched nerve in your finger can vary, but you may experience:
- burning feeling
- pins and needles feeling
- pain, either sharp or aching
- difficulty gripping with your fingers and hand
Sometimes you may experience more symptoms at night if your body holds a certain position for too long while you are sleeping.
If you have radial tunnel syndrome, you’ll experience weakness and dull, aching pain, and possibly a “pins and needles” feeling.
With so many different nerve conditions that can cause symptoms in your finger, you will need to consider your symptoms closely to identify the cause.
Certain conditions cause symptoms in specific fingers. For example, thumb pain may be more likely caused by carpel tunnel syndrome. Pain in your pinkie finger may be caused by cubital tunnel syndrome. Pain occurring in your finger as well as your wrists, elbows, and shoulder may be radial tunnel syndrome or cervical radiculopathy.
Seeing your doctor may help diagnose the discomfort in your finger. Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and discuss your symptoms and family history before proceeding with other testing.
Your doctor may ask you to perform certain exercises or stretches to identify the source of the symptoms.
For carpal tunnel syndrome, your healthcare provider may ask you to bend your wrist for a short time. Your doctor may ask you to move your fingers when applying resistance. Your ability to do these exercises and your description of how you feel when doing them may help with the diagnosis.
The doctor may also conduct tests to diagnose the cause of the symptoms. These may include:
There are many ways to treat a pinched nerve causing discomfort in your finger. Your doctor may recommend some conservative, first-line approaches to start treating the pinched nerve.
If your symptoms don’t improve, you may want to consider higher levels of treatment like certain medications or even surgery.
It is important to treat the pinched nerve early to avoid symptoms from worsening over time.
- Rest and modified activity. Your doctor may tell you to modify your behaviors and rest the area of the pinched nerve.
- Over-the-counter medications. You may want to try a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, or naproxen (Aleve) to relieve pain and discomfort in your fingers.
- Physical therapy. Your doctor may recommend that you meet with a physical therapist who will give you certain exercises and stretches to do near the source of your pinched nerve. These may help stretch the nerve or may help you modify your movements.
- Splints or braces. Wearing protective splints or braces that restrict your movement may help calm the area surrounding of your pinched nerve and alleviate symptoms.
- Corticosteroids. Your doctor may recommend corticosteroids to treat symptoms caused by a pinched nerve. You may be prescribed an oral medication, or your doctor may inject the corticosteroid near the pinched nerve. This type of medication targets inflammation and pain.
- Narcotics. In the case of cervical radiculopathy, your doctor may prescribe a short-term use of narcotics to relieve pain if the pain can’t be controlled using other methods.
If all other treatments fail to relive symptoms, your doctor may suggest surgery on the area surrounding the pinched nerve. Surgery can involve moving the nerve or the surrounding tissue to relieve pressure from compressing the nerve.
For carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor may focus on releasing pressure from the ligament that puts pressure on your nerve.
You can try to treat your pinched nerve at home using the following methods:
- Massage the area that feels discomfort using light strokes with the fingers of your other hand.
- Apply ice or heat to your fingers or other areas affected by the pinched nerve.
- Keep your arm and fingers elevated a bit when lying down with a pillow.
- Try stretches and exercises that target the affected area.
- Avoid doing anything repetitive with your fingers for too long without a break.
- Train your other hand to complete tasks that you would normally do with the hand experiencing discomfort.
- Make sure equipment you use with your hands is sized appropriately to your body, and that your workspace allows you to complete tasks with your fingers, hands, and wrists in a comfortable and natural position.
You may want to try a few stretches at home to relieve symptoms if your finger discomfort is caused by a pinched nerve. Be careful not to overwork your nerves by limiting the number of times you conduct the stretch each day.
One way to address cubital tunnel syndrome is to stretch your nerves with nerve gliding.
For carpal tunnel syndrome, you can do a slightly different stretch.
When to see a doctor
You should see a doctor if your pinched nerve is causing symptoms in your fingers or other areas of your body for a prolonged length of time, and if you don’t have any success finding relief on your own. Also see a doctor if the symptoms impact your day-to-day life.
The bottom line
You may experience discomfort in your fingers because of a pinched nerve near your:
Talk to your doctor about treatment methods, and try to begin treating the symptoms as soon as they occur to avoid worsening your condition. You can try several treatments at home to reduce symptoms or your doctor may recommend higher-level treatments for severe cases.