A sprain is an injury that occurs when ligaments are torn or stretched. Ligaments are the bands of tissue that connect joints together.
Sprains are extremely common injuries. While they are especially common in athletes that participate in sports involving catching or throwing balls, anyone can sprain a finger relatively easily.
Sprained Finger Causes
Common causes of finger sprains include:
- An injury that causes your finger either to bend too far or bend in the wrong direction. If your finger bends backwards, it’s called “hyperextension.” For example, you might accidentally bend your finger in these ways during physical activities — especially in sports that involve using your hands, like basketball. You might accidentally jam your finger into a piece of equipment like the ball, or into another player, causing a sprain.
- Falling on your hand. You’re more likely to get a sprain if you have problems with balance or coordination, which makes you more likely to fall, or if you have weak ligaments.
Sprained Finger Symptoms
If your finger is sprained, you might have:
- Pain in one of your finger joints when you try to move or use it
- Stiffness in your finger or having a hard time straightening or bending it
- Tenderness in your joint when you touch the area
- Swelling in one of your finger joints
Sometimes athletes who get sprained fingers ignore the injury. But the pain can be severe, and left untreated, it could get worse.
How are sprained fingers treated?
To treat a sprained finger at home, RICE is the first step you’ll take. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You’ll need to rest the joint and apply ice packs on (and then off) for 20 minutes at a time. Never apply ice directly to the skin; wrap the ice pack in a towel. You can also submerge the joint in cool water. The cold can help reduce swelling and pain.
Compress the affected joint by wrapping it, and keep it elevated. Compression and elevation both help to reduce swelling. Elevation is especially important at night.
In addition to RICE, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) every eight hours.
If the sprain is severe enough, your doctor might immobilize the finger with a splint, which can help ensure that it heals correctly. In rarer cases that include severely torn ligaments, your doctor may need to operate on the ligament to repair it.