What Is Finger Tendonitis?

A finger with tendonitis may be splinted to prevent movement while it heals.
Typing can cause finger tendonitis.
Using a hand exerciser can help with finger tendonitis.
An ice pack, which can help with finger tendonitis.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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Finger tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendons in the fingers. This injury is most commonly caused by overuse and is relatively rare, with most injuries being observed in computer workers. There are several treatments available, depending on the causes of the injury, but the best treatment is usually extended rest. For people with use injuries like finger and hand tendonitis, changing work habits is also a key part of treatment.

The tendons in the fingers can become inflamed at any point along their length, although the most common spot is the first joint of the finger. The inflammation causes the tendon to stiffen and swell, losing flexibility. People with finger tendonitis have stiff, painful fingers and may experience a phenomenon known as trigger finger. In patients with this condition, when the hands are balled into fists and then released, the affected finger will stay clenched for a moment before releasing.

Computer work and other repetitive work with the hands can cause tendonitis even when people observe ergonomic precautions and rest their hands regularly. Workers should be alert to the early signs of finger tendonitis, including swelling around the joints, heat, stiffness, and redness. The hands should be iced and rested to allow the swelling to go down. Anti-inflammatory drugs can also be used to reduce the swelling.

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In people who experience recurrent bouts of finger tendonitis, the inflammation can get worse and may cause permanent damage. Treatments can include more aggressive medications to treat inflammation, as well as braces to support the hands and fingers. Surgeries are sometimes used to treat severely inflamed tendons. When people are forced to rest because of inflammation in the finger and hand tendons, it is important to wait for a doctor's clearance to resume work. Even if the hands feel better, some residual inflammation can occur, and if the patient returns to work, a flareup will occur again.

Changes in work habits can include using dictation software, when possible, to reduce the amount of typing the patient has to do. Other changes can include using an ergonomic keyboard and supports, structuring several rests into the day, and doing hand exercises to gently stretch and flex the fingers. A physical therapist can help a patient develop a series of exercises to do at work and during breaks to support healthy finger tendons. Repetitive stress injuries like finger tendonitis are a known problem in many workplaces and people should be proactive about prevention and treatment to avoid permanent damage.

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Discuss this Article

jpeters182
Post 4

I have stiff fingers. After carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand, two weeks later and the fingers are still stiff. Could I have something else? It started in my little fingers and now months later, all the fingers are stiff and hurt to bend except my little fingers and thumbs. I'm scheduling the other hand for surgery but not sure it is carpal tunnel problems.

Fa5t3r
Post 3

@KoiwiGal - Well, I think it depends on what you're writing. I did a masters in poetry a couple of years ago and a couple of other students told me that they ended up with some form of tendonitis in their hands, but that they just kept on going because they knew they had to finish their work.

I'm planning to try and learn how to use one of those voice recognition programs (the kind that learns as you go) so that I don't have to worry about that kind of problem. I've never had any problems with my hands so far, but it seems almost inevitable as you get older, if you type a lot. I'd rather be prepared than to feel frustrated.

KoiwiGal
Post 2

@clintflint - Yeah, I get worried about that a lot, because my current job really depends on my being able to type without having to worry about pain or stiffness. And I've had tendonitis in my Achilles tendon, so I know how annoying it can be.

I've heard some people say that if you get hand or wrist pain, the only thing to do is to just keep going and ignore it, but that seems like the exact wrong advice to take if you ask me.

clintflint
Post 1

This is really the kind of thing that you have to be vigilant in order to prevent it. Because once you've had it once, it's easy to get it over and over again.

Unfortunately, people tend to take typing for granted as a normal activity these days, when it really isn't. It bends the hand and wrist into a position that isn't really natural and the fingers are used in the same motions over and over again.

Getting an ergonomic keyboard is a good start, but resting and stretching the fingers should also be something you do all the time. Because once you start getting tendonitis in your fingers you won't be able to go back.

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