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What is a Finger Sprain?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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When doctors discuss finger sprain, they are referring to any injury of the finger that results in stretched or partially torn ligaments. These injuries are certainly painful to any individuals that experience them, and they need to be given proper care so healing can begin. Without getting a look inside the finger, it isn’t always possible to tell what degree of ligament damage has occurred. Thus, a person with a suspected finger sprain should always get confirmed diagnosis from a doctor, and appropriate treatment guidelines.

Like burns, sprains are often classed in degrees. The mildest are first degree sprains, but there are also more moderate second degree sprains, and very serious third degree sprains. Type of sprain tends to indicate an expected range in healing time. A mild sprain might from a few weeks to about a month to heal, while severe sprains might require three months or more in healing time.

Typically, when people get a finger sprain, it will at first be extremely uncomfortable and may swell. Bruising can occur and the finger may feel painful to the touch. Some people have reduced range of motion or feel as though moving the finger is very uncomfortable. While waiting to get the injured person to a doctor, keeping the arm elevated, and icing the finger is useful.

If a doctor is not immediately available it may be prudent to create a splint to immobilize the finger sprain. This may be done with a buddy or next-door finger, by taping the two fingers together. Don’t use this method if it appears other injury is present, such as dislocation of one of the finger joints.

Once a person has arrived at a doctor’s office or other medical facility, the medical team will determine how to better diagnose the finger sprain. X-rays might be required or what appears to be a mild sprain might simply be inspected and splinted. Many physicians ask people with milder sprains to check back in before they stop wearing the splint, particularly if they participate in activities that have a high rate of finger sprain cases, such as many sports.

In rare circumstances, when a third degree finger sprain is present, doctors may need to do more. Immobilization is one option, but another is surgery to repair excess ligament tearing that might not properly heal otherwise. After people undergo such surgery they could require some physical therapy before they get the all clear to return to certain activities.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On Oct 24, 2013

I sprained my finger today. I thought it was broken because it hurt a lot. My parents took me to the hospital for an x-ray and thankfully it's not broke. They gave me a cold compress at the hospital and a pain reliever, so the pain is mostly gone. But I can't use my finger for a while.

By ddljohn — On Oct 23, 2013

@fify-- It does sound like a sprain, but it could be a different type of injury too. If the pain and swelling doesn't go away soon, you need to see a doctor. Your finger could be dislocated or fractured.

Keep putting ice on it and keep your hand elevated. It should be at the same level or above your heart. This prevents excessive blood flow to the finger which can cause more swelling because of the injury.

Do you happen to have a soft finger splint at home? If so, put it on to keep the finger immobilized. If you accidentally bend it, you might hurt it more. And like I said, if it looks like things are getting worse, please see a doctor.

By fify — On Oct 23, 2013

I think I sprained my index finger while playing basketball. I can't move it because it's painful. It's not very swollen but it does look a little bigger than my other index finger. It also feels hot and tender.

Does this sound like a sprain? I'm putting ice on it, do I need to do anything else?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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