Finger‑Tapping Pain


Repetitive Strain injury


Do you tap your fingers on a desk or table when you hear a rhythmic beat? That should not be a problem if done occasionally. You tap fingers to dial a number or send a text message. Your digital phone or tablet has a keyboard beneath its glass. But unlike a mechanical keyboard, these keys do not retract when pressed.

Prolonged tapping against firm resistance strains the nerves and tendons within your muscleless fingers. It is a little-known fact that hands, not fingers, have muscles. Muscles in your arms control finger movement. Inflammation of tendons or sheath around them that hinders sliding through narrow passages.

Typing thousands of words over the course of days or weeks can cause trauma and pain. Trauma increases when tapping a solid surface that does not give in. This is evident when you are unable to completely bend your fingers. The repetitive strain injury (RSI) is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome. Habitual tappers switch to a fresh finger until that one becomes painful.

RSI Treatments

If you can tolerate the cold, many finger ice packs and stent products are available. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also provide some relief. Swelling can take months to subside without anti-inflammatory medication.

For severe inflammation, physicians may inject steroid injections with side-effects. Without relief, a surgical procedure to ease entrapment of nerves and tendons may be necessary.


The best treatment is prevention. Minimize the amount of finger tapping. Smartphones and tablets are for quick messages. Emojis and keyboard shortcuts can convey thoughts with minimal typing.

Use a stylus instead of your finger. For prolonged typing, pair a Bluetooth keyboard to your digital device. When the pain is at its peak, give your fingers a rest. Put on some relaxing music and try tapping your feet.

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