Finger Sprain

Overview

Definition

A finger sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments of the finger. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other.

Finger Sprain
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Causes

A finger sprain may be caused by a blow to the finger. This makes the finger bend too much or in the wrong way. This can happen during sports when you jam a finger into someone else, the ball, or piece of equipment. Finger sprains may also happen in other ways, such as falling on the hand.

Risk Factors

Here are some factors that may raise your risk:

  • Playing sports where you use your hands, such as basketball or volleyball
  • Poor coordination or balance
  • Weak ligaments

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

Having this problem may cause:

  • Pain in the finger
  • Swelling

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and how you injured your finger. The doctor will look at your finger.

Pictures may be taken of your finger. This can be done with:

  • X-rays
  • MRI scan (rarely)

Finger sprains are graded from 1 to 3:

Grade 1

  • Stretching and microtearing of ligament
  • Stable joint

Grade 2

  • Partial tearing of ligament
  • Mild instability of the joint

Grade 3

  • Severe or complete tearing of ligament
  • Significant instability of the joint

Treatments

Treatment

Treatment may include:

RICE Therapy

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 problem within several weeks.
  • Ice—Use ice in 15-minute periods during the first 24 hours and for several days after if needed. Do not put ice right on the skin. Ice helps with swelling, inflammation, and pain.
  • Compression—Wearing an elastic compression bandage may help prevent swelling. It also supports the finger and nearby tissues.
  • Elevation—Keep the hand raised for the first 24 hours, even when you sleep. This helps with swelling.

Medication

In addition to RICE therapy, anti-inflammatory medicines can help with pain.

Splinting and Taping

A splint may be needed to keep the finger in place. The finger may need to be taped to the finger next to it when you go back to sports. This is known as buddy taping.

Surgery

Surgery may be needed to repair a finger sprain if:

  • A small piece of bone has been broken off
  • A ligament is torn completely

Prevention

You can lower 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.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

RESOURCES

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org 

OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.aaos.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org 

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org 

References

Derry S, Moore RA, Gaskell H, McIntyre M, Wiffen PJ. Topical NSAIDs for acute musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2015;(6):CD007402.

Sprains and strains: What's the difference? Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00111. Updated July 2015. Accessed June 11, 2018.