A sprain is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments that hold a joint together. There are no broken bones. Sprains take 3 to 6 weeks to heal.
A sprained finger may be treated with a splint or buddy tape. This is when you tape the injured finger to the one next to it for support. Minor sprains may require no additional support.
Keep your hand elevated to reduce pain and swelling. This is very important during the first 48 hours.
Apply an ice pack over the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every 3 to 6 hours. You should do this for the first 24 to 48 hours. You can make an ice pack by filling a plastic bag that seals at the top with ice cubes and then wrapping it with a thin towel. Continue the use of ice packs for relief of pain and swelling as needed. As the ice melts, be careful to avoid getting any wrap or splint wet. After 48 hours, apply heat (warm shower or warm bath) for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day, or alternate ice and heat.
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. Apply gauze or cotton padding between the fingers, especially at the webbed space. This will help prevent the skin from getting moist and breaking down. Keep the buddy tape in place for at least 4 weeks, or as instructed by your healthcare provider.
If a splint was applied, wear it for the time advised.
You may use over-the-counter pain medicine 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 healthcare provider before using these medicines.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed. Finger joints will become stiff if immobile for too long. If a splint was applied, ask your healthcare provider when it is safe to begin range-of-motion exercises.
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 healthcare provider. You may need a repeat X-ray. If X-rays were taken, you will be told of any new findings that may affect your care.
When to seek medical advice
Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:
Pain or swelling increases
Fingers or hand becomes cold, blue, numb, or tingly