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What Causes Stiff Fingers?

Strenuous activities such as weightlifting can cause stiff fingers.
Nerve damage in the hands or fingers is a cause for stiff fingers.
A person with stiff fingers.
A stiff, injured finger may be set in a splint to prevent movement while it heals.
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  • Written By: Marco Sumayao
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 21 March 2014
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The most common reported cause of stiff fingers is joint and muscle strain. Activities that are strenuous on the fingers, such as weightlifting and golfing, can cause the fingers' ligaments to thicken, impeding movement. Numbness due to severe cold is another cause of stiff fingers. Finger stiffness can also be a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis, which causes inflammation in the joints. Carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition resulting from nerve damage, can cause joint stiffness in the hand. Other causes for stiff fingers include allergic reactions and nutritional deficiencies.

High-impact hand activity can damage the ligaments connecting the tendons to the finger bones, which increases friction on the tendons. When the ligaments heal, they tend to thicken, stopping the tendons' movement altogether. This hinders the ability of the fingers' bones to move as the muscles contract, resulting in a degree of finger paralysis. This type of finger stiffness can be remedied with rest and proper hand positioning during the individual's activities.

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Cold temperatures, on the other hand, can cause stiff fingers by numbing the hand's nerves. This is usually the cause for cases of finger stiffness in the morning; air temperatures tend to drop in the early hours of the day, especially in cooler climates. The cold air can also cause the muscles to contract, adding to the stiffness. In extreme cases, the stiffness can be an early indicator of frostbite, in which the body's fluids have begun to freeze. Barring any permanent nerve or muscle damage, a few minutes in warmer temperatures can remedy stiff fingers.

Finger stiffness can also be symptomatic of different medical conditions. Rheumatoid arthritis, for example, is a condition in which the body's immune systems mistakenly identify cells in the joints as harmful. Antibodies then attack the joints, which stimulates an inflammatory response. The inflammation of the joints can make movement either painful or difficult.

Carpal tunnel syndrome causes stiff fingers through damage in the median nerve. Abnormal pressure on the nerve irritates the hand's tendons, which respond by swelling up and cutting off circulation to the median nerve. This can result in joint pain, stiffness, and weakness. Patients might also experience a tingling sensation in and at the tips of their fingers.

It is possible that finger stiffness is caused by the presence or absence of certain substances in an individual's system. A food allergy, for example, can cause a person's fingers to swell to the point that moving them is difficult. A lack of certain vitamins can also contribute to the development of stiff fingers; a vitamin B deficiency, for instance, can result in weakened nerves, which impedes finger movement.

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Discuss this Article

lighth0se33
Post 5

I'm only in my thirties, but I think I'm already getting arthritis in my fingers. If I do much gardening or typing, my fingers start to feel stiff, and sharp pains shoot through them.

A few years ago when I started gardening, I could pull up weeds by hand for a long time without any issues. Now, if I yank up a few strong weeds for just a short period of time, I get stiff fingers the next day, along with throbbing and shooting pains.

Also, I can't type for hours at a time like I once could. I used to type up manuscripts for authors who preferred to write with a pen, but now, I have to take long breaks, and I can't be nearly as productive as I once was.

Kristee
Post 4

@healthy4life – Imagine having to play guitar at an outdoor concert in freezing temperatures! I had to do this once, and it was not easy.

I actually held back a little on the solos, because I felt like my fingers could not move quickly enough to hit all the notes. If I had a say in what the band did and didn't do, I would refuse to play outdoor shows in the cold.

Only guitarists fully realize how much of an impact cold air can have on your fingers. I might as well have been suffering from arthritis that day!

healthy4life
Post 3

I get stiff fingers in the morning while I'm driving to work. My car is so cold in the winter, and unless I remember to bring gloves, I just have to deal with the stiffness until the heater kicks in and warms it away.

If I'm going to be outside in the cold air for very long, I always wear gloves. I don't like that stiff feeling, because I feel partially paralyzed.

Perdido
Post 2

My finger became stiff after I got stung by a wasp. It swelled so much that I could barely bend it!

I took an antihistamine and put baking soda on the sting to relieve the burning sensation. After the oral antihistamine wore off, I started applying antihistamine cream to my finger.

I'm sure this helped reduce the stiffness a little, but time was the only thing that could heal it altogether. It took about three days for the stiffness to go away so that I could use my finger again.

turquoise
Post 1

I get stiff fingers and hand pain sometimes when I type on the computer for a very long time or when I work out. When I use equipment at the gym to work out my arms, sometimes the weight of the equipment causes my fingers to get stiff for a short while.

In both of these situations, the stiffness doesn't last long. It also helps to take breaks in between and do spirit fingers to relax the muscles.

I know I need to be more careful though. My mom has carpal tunnel syndrome and I know how continuous stress on the hand muscles can cause stiffness for the long term. I certainly don't want that.

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