Finger Sprain

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What is a finger sprain?

A sprain is an injury to a joint that causes a stretch or tear in a ligament. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect one bone to another.

How does it occur?

A sprain usually occurs when there is an accident. For example, a ball may hit the tip of your finger or you may fall forcefully onto your finger.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of a finger sprain include pain, swelling, and tenderness in your finger.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your finger. You may have an X-ray to be sure you have not broken any bones in your finger.

How is it treated?

To treat this condition:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a cloth on the finger every 3 to 4 hours, for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Raise your finger by putting your hand on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.
  • Follow your provider’s instructions for doing exercises to help you recover.

Your healthcare provider will recommend that your sprained finger be splinted or "buddy taped" (taped to the finger next to it) for 1 to 4 weeks after your injury.

How long will the effects last?

Your finger may be swollen and have decreased range of motion and strength for many weeks. In some cases, this may be permanent. It is important to continue your rehabilitation exercises.

When can I return to my normal activities?

Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activities depends on how soon your finger recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury happened. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better. The goal of rehabilitation is to return to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.

In many cases, you will be able to return to your activities as long as you wear your splint or have your finger taped.

How I prevent a finger sprain?

Finger sprains are usually the result of injuries that are not preventable.

Written by Pierre Rouzier, MD, for RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2012.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-07-27
Last reviewed: 2010-06-21
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.
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