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.
A finger sprain usually results from a blow to the finger. 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.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting an injury. Risk factors for a finger sprain include:
The doctor will ask 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.
Tests may include:
Finger sprains are graded according to their severity:
In consultation with your doctor, treatment may include:
Avoid using the injured finger.
Apply ice or a cold pack to your finger for 15-20 minutes, four times a day, for several days or until the pain and swelling goes away. Ice helps to reduce pain and swelling in the sprained finger. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin.
Wrap an elastic compression bandage around your finger. This will limit swelling and support your finger. Be careful not to wrap too tightly because it can cut off the circulation to your finger.
Try to hold the injured hand above the level of your heart as much as possible for the first several days or until the swelling goes down. This will help drain fluid and reduce swelling.
The doctor may recommend:
Splinting and Taping
You may need to wear a splint to immobilize your finger. If you play sports, you may need to tape your finger to the finger next to it when you return to play. Your doctor can show you how to splint or tape your finger.
Surgery may be needed to repair a finger sprain if:
If you are diagnosed with a finger sprain, follow your doctor's instructions.
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 Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Association of Professional Team Physicians website. Available at: http://www.orthopaedicweblinks.com/Detailed/1399.html. Accessed July 7, 2009.
Renstrom P. Sports Injuries: Basic Principles of Prevention and Care. Boston, MA: Blackwell Scientific Publications; 1993.
Sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Sprains_Strains/default.asp. Published April 2009. Accessed July 7, 2009.
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Last reviewed September 2012 by Michael Woods, MD