• Finger Sprain


    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
    Nucleus factsheet image
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    A finger sprain usually results from a blow to the finger. 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

    A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting an injury. Risk factors for a finger sprain include:
    • Playing sports, especially those involving the hands, such as basketball or volleyball
    • Poor coordination
    • Poor balance


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


    The doctor will ask 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.
    Tests may include:
    • X-rays—a test that uses radiation to take pictures of structures inside the body to make sure that no bones are broken
    • MRI scan—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body, used in some situations to see if a ligament has torn completely (rarely needed)
    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


    In consultation with your doctor, treatment may include:


    Avoid using the injured finger.


    Apply ice or a cold pack to your finger for 15-20 minutes, four times a day, for several days or until the pain and swelling goes away. Ice helps to reduce pain and swelling in the sprained finger. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin.


    Wrap an elastic compression bandage around your finger. This will limit swelling and support your finger. Be careful not to wrap too tightly because it can cut off the circulation to your finger.


    Try to hold the injured hand above the level of your heart as much as possible for the first several days or until the swelling goes down. This will help drain fluid and reduce swelling.


    The doctor may recommend:
    • Over-the-counter pain medicine (such as, ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, aspirin)
    • Topical pain medicines (such as, cream, patches) that are applied to the skin
    • Prescription pain medicine

    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. Your doctor can show you how to splint or tape your finger.


    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.
    If you are diagnosed with a finger sprain, follow your doctor's instructions.
    If you are diagnosed with a finger sprain, follow your doctor's instructions.


    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 Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.aaos.org

    American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org


    Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org

    Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org


    Association of Professional Team Physicians website. Available at: http://www.orthopaedicweblinks.com/Detailed/1399.html. Accessed July 7, 2009.

    Renstrom P. Sports Injuries: Basic Principles of Prevention and Care. Boston, MA: Blackwell Scientific Publications; 1993.

    Sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health%5FInfo/Sprains%5FStrains/default.asp. Published April 2009. Accessed July 7, 2009.

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

    Revision Information

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.