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About proximal interphalangeal joint pain

Updated July 19, 2017

Proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint pain is common because people use their hands and feet all the time. Jammed fingers and stubbed toes can cause moderate to severe injuries. When these joints are painful without injury, they may reveal hidden health issues.

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Location of PIP joints

The knuckle joint that joins the finger to the palm of the hand (or toe to the foot) is called the MCP joint. The joint nearest the MCP joint, near the middle of the finger (or toe) is called the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint.

Causes of PIP joint pain

It is easy to injure (or sprain) the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint in either your hand or foot. Disease rather than injury may also cause these joints to become inflamed.

When a joint is sprained, the connective tissue (ligaments and cartilage) may be stretched or torn. That causes joint swelling and pain. If a bone moves out of the joint, it will look deformed, rather than just swollen.

Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can both cause swelling, pain, and decreased motion in any joint, including the PIP joints. Lupus, an autoimmune disease, can cause the same symptoms.


If your painful joint is from an injury, a doctor may diagnose the problem from an examination. He may take an X-ray to assure that the joint is properly aligned or to check for a fractured bone.

If your painful joint is from a form of arthritis or autoimmune disease, further testing is required.


A doctor generally treats a sprain by immobilising the finger(s) or toe(s). To prevent stiffness from developing, taping the injured finger or toe to the next one (buddy taping) is common. Or the doctor may apply a splint or brace.

Severe injuries may need surgery to realign the joint. A doctor may also prescribe exercises during the healing process.

If your painful joint is not from an injury, further testing is required to find the cause. Then the doctor will prescribe proper treatment for the underlying cause, such as arthritis.

Doctors may also prescribe pain and/or anti-inflammation medication. For arthritis or lupus, a steroid may reduce inflammation.

Recovery Time

If the cause of your joint pain is a sprain, recovery may take four to six weeks. If the cause of your joint pain is from arthritis or lupus, recovery time varies.

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About the Author

Arlene Knickerbocker attended a business college before working in management and marketing. She has written and edited professionally since 1996, and has penned 16 teaching manuals for Union Gospel Press. Various publishers have purchased one creative non-fiction book, one book of poetry, as well as several hundred stories, articles, devotions and poems.

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