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Finger Sprain

  • Definition

    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.
    Finger Sprain
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  • Causes

    A finger sprain usually results from a blow to the finger causing the finger to bend too much or in the wrong direction. 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.
  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your risk of finger sprain include:
    • Playing sports, especially those involving the hands, such as basketball or volleyball
    • Poor coordination or balance
    • Weak ligaments
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:
    • Pain and tenderness in the finger
    • Pain when moving the finger joint
    • Swelling of the finger joint
  • Diagnosis

    You will be asked 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.
    Images may be taken of your finger. This can be done with:
    Finger sprains are graded according to their severity:
    Grade 1
    • Stretching and microtearing of ligament tissue
    • Stable joint
    Grade 2
    • Partial tearing of ligament tissue
    • Mild instability of the joint
    Grade 3
    • Severe or complete tearing of ligament tissue
    • Significant instability of the joint
  • Treatment

    In consultation with your doctor, treatment may include:
    RICE Therapy
    You will also be told to use RICE therapy. This involves:
    • Rest—Take a break from the activity that caused the pain. This is often enough to clear up the shin splint within several weeks.
    • Ice—Apply ice in 15-minute periods during the first 24 hours and for several days after if needed. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. This helps reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain.
    • Compression—Wearing an elastic compression bandage may help prevent swelling and provide support for the shin and nearby soft tissues.
    • Elevation—Keep the injured leg raised for the first 24 hours, including during sleep. If there is local swelling, this may help.
    In addition to RICE therapy, you may take anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain if recommended by your doctor.
    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.
    Surgery may be needed to repair a finger sprain if:
    • A small piece of bone has been broken off by the injury to the ligament.
    • A ligament is torn completely.
  • Prevention

    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 Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine

    OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons


    Canadian Orthopaedic Association

    Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation


    Sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: Published January 2015. Accessed June 18, 2015.

    1/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.

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