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Finger Sprain

A sprain is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments that hold a joint together. There are no broken bones. Sprains take from three to six weeks to heal.


A sprained finger may be treated with a splint or "buddy tape" (taping the injured finger to the one next to it for support). Minor sprains may require no additional support.

Home care

The following guidelines will help you care for your injury at home:

  • Keep your hand elevated to reduce pain and swelling. This is very important during the first 48 hours.

  • Apply an ice pack (ice cubes in a plastic bag, wrapped in a towel) over the injured area for 20 minutes every 1–2 hours the first day. You should continue with ice packs 3–4 times a day for the next two days. Continue the use of ice packs for relief of pain and swelling as needed.

  • If buddy tape was applied and it becomes wet or dirty, change it. You may replace it with paper, plastic or cloth tape. Cloth tape and paper tapes must be kept dry. Keep the buddy tape in place for at least four weeks.

  • If a splint was applied, wear it for the time advised.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medicines.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your doctor, or as directed, if the pain does not begin to improve. Finger joints will become stiff if immobile for too long. If a splint was applied, ask your doctor when it is safe to begin range-of-motion exercises.

Any X-rays you had today don’t show any broken bones, breaks, or fractures. Sometimes fractures don’t show up on the first X-ray. Bruises and sprains can sometimes hurt as much as a fracture. These injuries can take time to heal completely. If your symptoms don’t improve or they get worse, talk with your doctor. You may need a repeat X-ray.

When to seek medical advice

Call your health care provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Pain or swelling increases

  • Fingers or hand becomes cold, blue, numb, or tingly


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