A sprained finger occurs when the finger is bent in some way causing damage to the ligaments which connect bones together. It is a common injury in sports. Here we explain the symptoms, causes, and treatment for a finger sprain.
Sprained finger symptoms
Symptoms of a sprained finger include:
- Finger sprain symptoms include pain in the finger at the time of injury.
- Swelling is likely to develop over the joint and there will be restricted movement in the finger. Later on, pain is likely to be more specific when bending the finger.
- Identifying which ligaments might be injured by bending the finger in different directions to stretch the ligaments will reproduce pain.
- If there is a severe or complete rupture of the ligament then the joint will be unstable.
What is a sprained finger?
A sprained finger is a tear of any of the ligaments which connect the finger bones (phalanges) together. The ligaments at the side of the joints of the phalanges are called the collateral ligaments. These are injured by a sideways type force, bending the finger laterally.
The ligament underneath the middle joint is called the ‘volar plate’. It is a strong, thick ligament that is injured when bending the finger back too far (hyperextension).
Read more on Volar plate finger sprain.
Finger sprain treatment
- Rest the finger and apply ice. Ice or cold therapy can be applied for 10 minutes every hour initially reducing the frequency as symptoms ease.
- Do not apply ice directly to the skin as it may apply ice burns unless it is in the form of an ice massage. Keeping an ice cube moving over the area should avoid ice burns.
- During the acute phase which is usually the first 24 to 48 hours an elastic bandage or small finger-sized compression bandage can be used to help reduce swelling.
- Once the swelling has died down the finger should be taped to protect the injured ligament while it heals. The taping will be specific to the ligament injured.
- When returning to sport it may be necessary to use a finger buddy taping where the injured finger is taped to the adjacent one for protection.
Finger buddy taping
- The aim of this taping is to prevent movement of the injured finger during the healing stage of rehabilitation.
- Fingers 1 and 2 are usually ‘paired’ for taping and 3 and 4 are usually best taped together.
Read more on finger sprain taping.
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- As soon as pain allows mobility exercises to restore full movement in the finger should be done.
- Eventually, hand strengthening exercises with putty or hand exercise balls can restore strength.
- A surgeon may operate if required for more severe cases or a complete rupture.
Read more on finger exercises.