Painful hard bumps at finger joints near the nails


Original Post
Daniel Langdon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 0

I really don't know what's going on here.  I'm going to be 34 next month and I've been climbing my entire adult life.

In the past few years, I've noticed a few bumps raised on my fingers.  These bumps are on the last joint before the nails.  I believe it's called the distal interphalangeal joint.  These bumps are most prominent on my index and ring fingers, and they are on both hands.  The bumps are not dead center over the joints; they seem slightly offset towards the thumbs.

These bumps are tender, swollen, and painful when pressure is applied, such as if I blindly reach into a bag and rummage thru the contents trying to feel for something.  They usually don't get in the way too much when I climb because I don't climb cracks often, but sometimes, they become painful when I pull hard on an undercling hold.  I noticed a reduction in swelling earlier this year when I didn't climb for several weeks, so I suspect that this is climbing-related somehow.

Can anyone tell me what may be causing this painful swelling or what I might do about it?


FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 15

I'd guess they are ganglion cysts, if I were a doctor. But a real doctor would look at it and give you a real diagnosis.


Daniel Langdon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 0

Frank, would you suggest seeing a general doctor, or do you think a specialist might be in a better position to make a diagnosis?  I did ask my family care doctor about this last year before the swelling got worse, and she didn't seem to have much to say about it; at the time, I had other health concerns on my mind.


Silverplume · · Colorado · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 0

I experience something similar on the ring and index fingers of both hands, and while I can't tell you exactly what the nodules are, I'm reasonably sure they're the result of tendon injury or aggravation caused by climbing. In my case the nodules are most prominent on the lateral side of my ring fingers, and particularly on my strong/dominant hand. One finger has even started to exhibit deformation of the fingernail in line with the nodule. For me, climbing on plastic indoors seems to be what aggravates it the most and may even be what caused it due to my tendency to overcrank on crimps or likely because of poor technique.


Silverplume · · Colorado · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 0

Daniel: Try seeking out a hand/ortho specialist or even a rheumatologist. I'd start with an ortho myself and see what they say.


pat a · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 0

Maybe heberden's nodes?  Seems to be a thing among climbers, myself included.  Though mine aren't painful and I've got them on my pinky finger as well, which is weird because that joint never really sees much stress.  Doc just kinda shrugged her shoulders at that.


Ernest W · · Camarillo, CA · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 0

Sounds very much like a problem I had.  If it's on the fingernail side of the joint, and looks sort of like this:

Then it could be a form of ganglion cyst called a mucous cyst and often associated with arthritis of the finger joints.  They are filled with a highly viscous fluid and can be drained, albeit with difficulty and a large bore needle, and they often come back.  Don't try to drain it yourself, as you can cause some real damage.  If it recurs after draining, the option is to have it removed surgically.  Would suggest you go to a hand surgeon/specialist vs GP.  My experience only - I'm not a doc!!!!


FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 15
Daniel Langdon wrote:

Frank, would you suggest seeing a general doctor, or do you think a specialist might be in a better position to make a diagnosis?  I did ask my family care doctor about this last year before the swelling got worse, and she didn't seem to have much to say about it; at the time, I had other health concerns on my mind.

I think you're almost always better off seeing a specialist, but they are usually more expensive and more booked. A hand orthopedist seems appropriate.


Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 100
Ernest W wrote:

Sounds very much like a problem I had.  If it's on the fingernail side of the joint, and looks sort of like this:

Then it could be a form of ganglion cyst called a mucous cyst and often associated with arthritis of the finger joints.  They are filled with a highly viscous fluid and can be drained, albeit with difficulty and a large bore needle, and they often come back.  Don't try to drain it yourself, as you can cause some real damage.  If it recurs after draining, the option is to have it removed surgically.  Would suggest you go to a hand surgeon/specialist vs GP.  My experience only - I'm not a doc!!!!

That looks just like all the pics in google images if you search for "ganglion mucous cyst finger"...


Ernest W · · Camarillo, CA · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 0
Healyje wrote:

That looks just like all the pics in google images if you search for "ganglion mucous cyst finger"...

Nope, that's my very own finger. Had it drained about 4 yrs ago and been fine ever since. 


Daniel Langdon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 0

Thanks for the responses.  I'm definitely going to get this seen by a doctor.


Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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