A sprain is an injury to one or more of the ligaments in the finger. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect one bone to another to form the joints. When a ligament is injured, it can be stretched, partially torn, or completely torn.
What is the cause?
A sprain is caused by a sudden activity that twists or tears a ligament. This could happen, for example, when a ball hits the tip of your finger or if you fall onto your finger.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
Swelling and bruising
Trouble using or moving the finger
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history and examine you. You may have X-rays or other scans.
How is it treated?
You will need to change or stop doing the activities that cause pain until the ligament has healed.
You may need a finger splint or you may need to have the injured finger taped to the finger next to it (“buddy taping”) for several weeks after the injury.
Your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help you heal. It is important to do these exercises as directed to prevent stiffness and weakness. In many cases, you will be able to return to your activities as long as you wear your splint or have your fingers taped together.
The pain often gets better within a few weeks with self-care, but some injuries may take several months or longer to heal. Itâ€™s important to follow all of your healthcare providerâ€™s instructions.
How can I take care of myself?
To keep swelling down and help relieve pain for the first few days after the injury:
Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on the injured area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
Keep your finger up by putting your hand on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
Take nonprescription pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take these medicines for more than 10 days.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Putting an NSAID gel on your skin can decrease pain, with fewer side effects than pills taken by mouth. Ask your healthcare provider if a prescription is right for you.
Acetaminophen may cause liver damage or other problems. Unless recommended by your provider, don’t take more than 3000 milligrams (mg) in 24 hours. To make sure you donâ€™t take too much, check other medicines you take to see if they also contain acetaminophen. Ask your provider if you need to avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine.
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions, including any exercises recommended by your provider. Ask your provider:
How and when you will hear your test results
How long it will take to recover
If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
How to take care of yourself at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
How can I help prevent a finger sprain?
Warm-up exercises and stretching before activities can help prevent injuries. Follow safety rules and use any protective equipment recommended for your work or sport.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-10-21 Last reviewed: 2014-09-23
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Finger Sprain: References
Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2010 Jun 16;(6):CD007402.
DeLee, Jesse C., David Drez, and Mark D. Miller, Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice, Saunders; 3rd ed. 2009.
Greene, Walter B., M.D., Griffin, Letha Y. (Ed), Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 4th ed. Amer Academy of Orthopaedic. 2010.
Kisner, Carol, and Lynn Colby, Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques, F. A. Davis Company; 6th ed, 2012.