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A finger sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments that support the small joints of the finger. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other or to cartilege.
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A finger sprain usually results from a blow to the finger causing the finger to bend too much or in the wrong direction. This often occurs during athletic activity when an athlete jams a finger into another person, the ball, or piece of equipment. Finger sprains may also occur in other situations, such as falling on the hand.
Factors that may increase your risk of finger sprain include:
- Playing sports, especially those involving the hands, such as basketball or volleyball
- Poor coordination or balance
- Weak ligaments
- Pain and tenderness in the finger
- Pain when moving the finger joint
- Swelling of the finger joint
You will be asked about your symptoms and how you injured your finger. The doctor will examine your finger to assess the stability of the joint and the severity of the injury.
Images may be taken of your finger. This can be done with:
Finger sprains are graded according to their severity:
- Stretching and microtearing of ligament tissue
- Stable joint
- Partial tearing of ligament tissue
- Mild instability of the joint
- Severe or complete tearing of ligament tissue
- Significant instability of the joint
Treatment may include:
RICE therapy may be advised to reduce discomfort:
- Rest—Take a break from the activity that caused the pain. This is often enough to clear up the finger sprain within several weeks.
- Ice—Apply ice in 15-minute periods during the first 24 hours and for several days after if needed. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. This helps reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain.
- Compression—Wearing an elastic compression bandage may help prevent swelling and provide support for the finger and nearby soft tissues.
- Elevation—Keep the injured hand raised for the first 24 hours, including during sleep. If there is local swelling, this may help.
In addition to RICE therapy, anti-inflammatory medications may be advised to relieve pain.
Splinting and Taping
A splint may be needed to immobilize the finger. The finger may need to be taped to the finger next to it when returning to sports. This is known as buddy taping.
Surgery may be needed to repair a finger sprain if:
- A small piece of bone has been broken off by the injury to the ligament.
- A ligament is torn completely.
You can reduce your risk of getting a finger sprain by learning and practicing correct technique in sports and using proper equipment. However, in many cases, sprains cannot be prevented.
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health%5FInfo/Sprains%5FStrains/default.asp. Published January 2015. Accessed June 8, 2016.
1/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.
- Reviewer: Marcie Sidman, MD
- Review Date: 06/2016
- Update Date: 09/30/2013