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 ball games such as American football, basketball, cricket and handball. A sprain can be helped by rest, ice and compression and also a taping method, details of which can be seen below.
Symptoms of a sprained finger
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. To identify 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 a complete rupture of the ligament then the joint will be unstable.
Sprained finger ligaments
The finger has a number of ligaments which connect the finger bones or phalanges. The ligaments at the side of the phalanges joints are called the collateral ligaments. These are injured by a sideways type force bending the finger laterally or sideways. The thick volar plate is a kind of ligament which sits underneath the middle finger joint. A finger sprain can also occur through hyperextension or bending back of the finger joint.
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 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 elastic bandage or small finger sized compression bandages 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.
As soon as pain allows mobility exercises to restore full movement in the finger should be done and eventually 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.
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
What is Required?
- 2.5 cm (1 inch) nonstretch white tape.
- If necessary for small fingers a narrower tape can be used or the tape can be torn along its length to make thinner strips.
- A thin strip of padding foam to place between the fingers for comfort and protection.
- Apply two strips of 1.25 cm (half an inch) white nonstretch tape - one above the injured joint and one below.
- These will provide an anchor from which to attach the supporting strips.
- Place the strip of padded foam between the fingers to be taped.
- Apply two supporting strips from the two anchors above and below the joint around the 'buddy' finger.
- This taping should allow the fingers to bend together but sideways movement should be limited.