Sprained Fingers: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

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Sprained FingersAt one point or another, we have all done it. You moved the wrong way or grabbed something weird and pushed back one of your fingers hard in a direction it’s not really supposed to go. It’s usually painful, but after some time and probably an ice pack on the finger, you decide that the finger definitely isn’t broken. It’s probably just a sprain. But is it? In this article, we will take a look at all things sprained fingers—what’s the true definition of finger sprain, what does a sprained finger feel like, and how to treat sprained fingers.

What is a Sprained Finger?

You were out playing baseball, and when you slid into home base, your finger went wonky for a second. It definitely isn’t broken, but it still hurts. You’ve sprained your finger. But what does that actually mean?

Strictly speaking, a sprained finger occurs when your finger is bent in such a way that it causes damage to the ligaments (such as the collateral ligaments at the sides of the finger) that help connect the various finger bones together. There are different grades of finger sprains. Grades 1 and 2 have light ligament damage, but the ligament is still in one piece. With a grade 3 sprain, the ligament is completely torn and damaged.

What Does a Sprained Finger Feel Like?

A question that often comes up is what does a sprained finger feel like? Is there something in a sprained finger that feels different than a mildly injured finger or a broken finger? A sprained finger tends to have its pain over the joints and ligaments and things associated with them. For example, the swelling from a sprained finger will be localized to the joint area where the ligament damage took place. Pain may also occur if you try bending your finger as the main purpose of the joints and ligaments is to help your finger bend and move.

Common Causes of a Sprained Finger

A sprained finger or fingers is not an uncommon sight to doctors. When you think about what causes a sprain—essentially your finger being moved the wrong way—it’s pretty easy to see how a sprain may occur. That being said, there are some causes of sprained fingers that pop up more than others. Sports are a leading cause of sprained fingers, especially any sport that involves the catching or throwing of a ball.

Sports and athletic activities can lead to sprains in the simplest of ways. If you are a runner and you fall, you will usually throw your hands up to catch yourself. Depending on how your hand hits the ground, your body can have enough force and momentum to cause the fingers to bend back in an unnatural way, causing a sprain.

Sports with balls also have the propensity to cause sprains just due to the nature of the activity. In sports like football or baseball, the ball is thrown by a hand and caught by a hand. In soccer, the ball may be kicked, but a goalie can block with their hands. Just to put it in perspective, your average NFL football player will throw a football at somewhere around 50mph. If you attempt to catch that football and it hits only the tip of your finger, it’s very easy to see how that finger can be forced backward by the speed of the football.

Beyond sports, the other main cause of finger sprains is best classified as life. Throughout our daily lives, we do a ton of things with our fingers. We open doors, we catch falling objects, and we move things around. If you simply misjudge the weight of something or the timing of something, you can easily bend your finger back into a sprain.

Luckily, once diagnosed, sprains are easily treated in a couple of different ways.

Sprained Finger Treatment Tips

Once you have a sprained finger diagnosed, the next step is to treat it. There are many kinds of sprained fingers treatment available. The following treatments are what are usually recommended, but if you aren’t sure, consult with your doctor who will advise you of the right finger sprain treatment for your particular injury.

1. Splints

One of the most common ways to treat a sprained finger is to put it into a splint. You’ve probably seen these before, and you can easily obtain them at your local pharmacy or medical supply store. Splints give added support to the injured finger and a little bit of protection until the finger is healed.

2. Buddy tape

Working in a manner very similar to the splint, buddy taping your sprained finger involves taping the sprained finger to one of its neighbors for extra support. Note the tape should be loose enough not to cut off circulation and allow the finger to bend.

cryotherapy3. Ice

A time-honored and medically sound tradition, icing the injured finger can help take down the swelling and lead to a little more mobility in the finger. Do not place ice or an ice pack directly on the skin; wrap it in a towel first.

4. Elevation

Another way to treat the swelling that can be caused by a sprain is to keep the finger elevated. Elevation helps by increasing the return of blood to the circulation system, which helps lower swelling and pain to the finger.

These are all ways to treat a minor sprain. If you have a major sprain or a full ligament tear, a more complicated treatment may be required such as surgery. If the swelling or pain doesn’t lessen after a few days, it’s best to see a doctor and get professional medical advice.

Sprained Fingers: Part of Life

Odds are, if you are an active person, you have already suffered or will suffer a sprained finger. Unfortunately, it’s an injury that can be easily caused. Fortunately, however, it’s an injury that can be easily dealt with. The key is to recognize the injury, the severity of the injury and take the right course of treatment.


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Sources:

Zeigler, T., “Sprained finger,” Sports MD; http://www.sportsmd.com/wrist-hand-injuries/sprained-finger/, last accessed March 8, 2017.

Miller, J., “Finger Sprain,” Physio Works; http://physioworks.com.au/injuries-conditions-1/finger-sprain, last accessed March 8, 2017.

Cluett, J., “9 Common Causes of Finger Injury,” Very Well, January 18, 2017; https://www.verywell.com/finger-injuries-2549407, last accessed March 8, 2017.

Hopkins, S., “Treatment of Sprained Finger,” Home Remedies For You; http://www.home-remedies-for-you.com/articles/2451/injuries/treatment-of-sprained-finger.html, last accessed March 8, 2017.

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