Shooting pain in fingers and toes: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Shooting pain in fingers and toes: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
Photo source: Getty images

Pain shoots into the fingers due to several medical problems that are different from local ones. They mostly come from other areas in the body, e.g. the neck or hip area.

Pain radiating into the fingers originates in a distant area of the body. It is not a local problem, it is referred pain

Referred pain = pain that is less localised.
The source is in a remote location.
The cause may be inflammation, trauma, oppression and other damage or tumour. 

A common example is pain that is based in the cervical, lumbar or sacral spine. From there, it shoots further up the limb to the fingers.

The perception of pain is unpleasant, associated with burning, stinging and other discomforts.

Pain in the fingers indicates a problem in the cervical spine, and pain in the toes indicates a problem in the lumbar or sacral spine. 

In addition, tingling, tingling in the limbs, as well as impaired sensitivity of the skin and more severe weakening of the muscles are also associated problems.

It is a neuralgic form of pain.

Stabbing pain in the big toe, for example, could indicate the deposition of tiny crystals in the joint, which is typical of DNA disease.

Tu však ide o lokálny problém, za ktorým je síce metabolické ochorenie, ale bolesť vychádza z poškodeného kĺbu palca. 

Learn more: Gout: Causes, Symtpms, Treatment

Another similar example is diabetes. It is also a metabolic disease, but it affects the whole body.

And how does it relate to finger pain, you ask? The answer is the little word polyneuropathy. More specifically, diabetic neuropathy/polyneuropathy. This is a long term nerve damage based on this disease. 

The result is a sensitivity dysfuntion. This may be perceived as a pricking, burning or itching sensation in the skin, even without an existing trigger cause. 

Neuropathic/neurogenic pain tends to be resting, burning, stabbing, sharp, persistent, and shooting. It is accompanied by tingling, tingling, tingling, finger twisting, cramping, muscle weakness.

Pain is the body's basic defence mechanism.

Pain alerts us to a threat, a disease, an injury, an accident. However, neuropathic pain is pain that lacks this component and is the result of another disease problem that arises from mechanical, toxic, ischemic, infectious, or immune action.

What's behind the burning or stabbing pain that shoots into your fingers?
Why do my fingertips hurt?
Or what is the origin of the curvature of the toes?

With pain there are sensory discomforts such as:

  • anaesthesia - numbness, numbness of limbs, fingers
  • hypesthesia - reduced sensitivity
  • hyperesthesia - excessive sensitivity to pain or other stimuli
  • hyperpathy - excessively increased response to a stimulus
  • paresthesia - are unpleasant and painful abnormal sensations, without a specific cause
  • dyzentézie - are abnormally painful and unpleasant sensations
  • allodynia - the pain is the result of a stimulus that would not normally cause it
  • summation - the same intensity after repeated irritation causes an increase in intensity
  • Neglect syndrome - the person indicates that the part of the body from which the pain emanates does not belong to him
  • persistence of sensation - aftersensation - persistence of pain / sensation even after cessation of action

The main suspect is root syndrome

The problem has its basis in nerve root irritation. In the narrow space between the spinal vertebrae, nerve fibres emerge from the spinal cord and run to the periphery, i.e. the peripheral parts of the body.

They are the communication bridge between the brain and the rest of the body. 

Damage can occur on one side or both.

The patient describes his discomfort on the right side of the neck,
with radiating to the middle finger on the right hand. In bilateral involvement,
pain may radiate to both lower extremities. 
Bilateral complaints are less common. 

In root syndrome, local pain is usually present together with referred pain. That is, a person complains of shin pain with associated shooting pain in the lower limb. 

Root syndrome = radicular syndrome, radiculopathy.

Often this form arises due to oppression of the spinal cord or spinal root by a damaged intervertebral disc. 

Compression of the nerve by a damaged disc is not the only cause of radiculopathy.

Possible causes of radiculopathy: 

Learn more
Radiculopathy, or pinched nerve: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Root syndromes are divided according to the section from which they originate. In addition, according to the described difficulties, it is possible to preliminarily find out where their basis is.

Table: individual root syndromes

  • the most common type of radiculopathy, up to 55 %
  • the lesion is located between the L5 and S1 vertebrae
  • Symptoms
    • pain spreading from the sacrum through the gluteus maximus and down the back of the thigh 
    • pain can shoot up to the 5th toe
    • simultaneous limitation of muscle strength and impaired sensitivity
  • the second most common form, up to 45 %
  • the disability is between the L4 and L5 vertebrae
  • pain spreads along the outside of the thigh, calf to the back of the leg and II. to IV. toe 
  • sensitivity disorder with muscle weakness
  • approximately 5 % of cases
  • L3 and L4 area
  • spreading down the front of the thigh to the inner side of the shin to the instep of the foot - from the bottom of the foot
  • walking on stairs is problematic when the person does not walk on the stair treadmill, but puts the foot on the affected side
  • impaired sensitivity and muscle strength are also present
L1, L2 a L3 
  • rare, approximately 1-2 %
  • radiating down the front of the thigh
  • both sensitivity and muscle strength are affected
  • rare
  • pain in the temple area up to the area behind the eye
C3 a C4
  • the spread is to the outer part of the neck, trapezius, sometimes to the upper part of the chest
  • sharp pain exacerbated by movement and change of position
  • also the pain is spread from the edge of the neck
  • weakened muscle strength in the shoulder with impaired sensation in that location
  • pain spreads along the radial (spindle) side of the upper limb
  • except for the 1st and 2nd fingers
  • muscle strength is weakened with impaired sensitivity
  • spreading down the back of the forearm
  • up to the middle finger, i.e. the 3rd finger
  • muscle weakness with impaired sensitivity 
  • along the back of the shoulder, ulnar (elbow) side of the limb
  • up to the 4th and 5th fingers
  • muscle weakness and impaired sensitivity are also present

Other causes of referred pain

Of course, radiculopathy is not the only problem. A number of other diseases and conditions can be behind nerve pain.


  • carpal tunnel syndrome - narrowing of the tunnel through which blood vessels and nerves pass through the wrist into the hand
  • tennis elbow - pain spreading to the shoulder, forearm and fingers, tendon tendonitis
  • inflammation of other tendon
  • injuries to the shoulder, arm, cervical spine, sacrum and hip
  • inflammation of nerves - neuritis
  • osteoporosis
  • herpes zoster - shingles
  • multiple sclerosis - disseminated sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • rheumatism, rheumatic disease
  • peripheral neuropathy - tingling, pain, itching, crawling, and pins-and-needles
  • toxic effects of alcohol and chronic alcoholism
  • mineral and vitamin deficiencies
    • mineral - magnesium, calcium
    • vitamins B

Learn more: Nerve pain.

Have you ever heard about tetany? 

Tetany is a modern disease. It mainly affects young people.


The basis is said to be mental overload and stress. To which is added magnesium deficiency.


  • headache
  • fatigue, tension, lack of concentration and impaired concentration or irritability
  • dizziness
  • feeling of weakness in the limbs
  • pain that radiates to the fingers and tingling
  • numbness of the limbs
  • crooked fingers
  • spasms of muscles, fingers, feet, lips
  • painful night cramps in legs, calves
  • chest pain
  • heart palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • abdominal cramps
  • indigestion
  • menstrual disorders

But is it really only inappropriate lifestyle that is behind tetany? 

Learn more: 
Tetany, tetanic seizure: Symptoms and Treatment

Hyperventilation tetany is similarly affected.

It is caused by deep or accelerated breathing. The result is a feeling of difficulty breathing, trembling of the face, hands, fingers and even muscle spasms.

Learn more:
What is hyperventilation? Shortness of breath, facial tremors, hand tremors, muscle spasms

Could cardiovascular disease also be behind this type of pain?

You must have heard of cases of a person complaining of pain radiating to the fingers during a heart attack.

That is the usual course of events.

This is a serious example of transferred pain. It is not the rule, but it can occur.

This pain is visceral, i.e., deep, and originates from an organ. The cause is insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle, i.e. infarction

Typical symptoms of a heart attack:

  • chest pain
  • described as pressure, heaviness in the chest, tightness, burning and other sensations
  • may radiate to the neck, temple, shoulder, often to the left hand, up to the fingers, back, or upper abdomen
  • difficulty breathing
  • stomach ache, vomiting
  • pallor
  • sweating
  • fear, anxiety

In addition to acute anemia of the muscle of the heart, a long-term form occurs. The latter is referred to as ischemic heart disease. It is associated with angina pectoris, and therefore a feeling of tightness in the chest. 

In this case, some people also describe different types of shooting pain.

Learn more:

Diagnosis and treatment

In finding out the basis of this problem, a visit to several doctors is necessary. First of all, it is the general practitioner who will recommend a specialist. 

Based on the medical history, a neurologist or orthopedist may be involved. For trauma, a traumatologist (even without a previous visit to a general practitioner for adults or children).

During the neurological examination, the doctor determines the preliminary problem on the basis of the occurring difficulties. This is followed by an imaging examination such as X-ray, CT or MRI.

Diagnosis is followed by treatment.

Treatment focuses on the revealed cause. Since the problem may stem from several diseases, it is difficult to describe a general treatment.

However, for many neurological and orthopaedic causes, initial pharmacological treatment (analgesics, muscle relaxants, etc.) is helpful, followed, for example, by physiotherapy and rehabilitation. 

In necessary cases, neurosurgical or orthopaedic intervention is chosen.

Persistent discomfort with associated multiple symptoms = a visit to the doctor is recommended.

Please note that prevention is very important.

Prevention relies on regular movement. Many people have a heavy workload, spend hours at the computer, in the office, or work in a forced and unnatural position or with vibrations. 

In addition, the overall lifestyle has become sedentary and passive. Which forms a prerequisite for musculoskeletal problems.

Prevention includes a healthy lifestyle and:

  • adequate and regular exercise
  • regular exercise, yoga, SM system, pilates, swimming, cycling, hiking, but also walking and walking
  • correct posture
  • balanced diet, plenty of fruit, vegetables, fibre
  • reduction of overweight and obesity
  • nutritional supplements with minerals and vitamins
  • changing positions when working in a sedentary position - ergonomics not only in the workplace
  • beware of draughts or cool air from the air conditioner blowing directly on the body
  • a good bed, mattress and mattress are essential
  • appropriate footwear
  • sufficient treatment of the underlying disease
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Interesting resources

  • Peripheral neuropathy - NHS
  • Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (
  • Foot pain
  • Tingling-Hands-Feet
  • Pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Kaur, Jaskirat; Ghosh, Shampa; Sahani, Asish Kumar; Sinha, Jitendra Kumar (November 2020). "Mental Imagery as a Rehabilitative Therapy for Neuropathic Pain in People With Spinal Cord Injury: A Randomized Controlled Trial". Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair34 (11): 1038–1049. 
  • Sugimoto K, Yasujima M, Yagihashi S (2008). "Role of advanced glycation end products in diabetic neuropathy". Current Pharmaceutical Design14 (10): 953–61.
  • Singh VP, Bali A, Singh N, Jaggi AS (February 2014). "Advanced glycation end products and diabetic complications". The Korean Journal of Physiology & Pharmacology18 (1): 1–14. 
  • Jack M, Wright D (May 2012). "Role of advanced glycation endproducts and glyoxalase I in diabetic peripheral sensory neuropathy". Translational Research159 (5): 355–65. 
  • Hughes RA (February 2002). "Peripheral neuropathy". BMJ324 (7335): 466–9. 
  • Torpy JM, Kincaid JL, Glass RM (April 2010). "JAMA patient page. Peripheral neuropathy". JAMA303 (15): 1556. 
  • "Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet". National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 19 September 2012.
  • Zis P, Hadjivassiliou M (February 2019). "Treatment of Neurological Manifestations of Gluten Sensitivity and Coeliac Disease". Current Treatment Options in Neurology (Review). 21 (3): 10. 
  • "Volume 12, Spring 1999 | University of Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Journal". 
  • Sugimoto K, Yasujima M, Yagihashi S (2008). "Role of advanced glycation end products in diabetic neuropathy". Current Pharmaceutical Design14 (10): 953–61. 
  • Kassardjian CD, Dyck PJ, Davies JL, Carter RE, Dyck PJ (August 2015). "Does prediabetes cause small fiber sensory polyneuropathy? Does it matter?". Journal of the Neurological Sciences355 (1–2): 196–8
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