Athletes know the feeling: You make a move for the ball, but it hits your finger in just the wrong way. The finger is sore, maybe doesn’t move well, and starts to swell — the dreaded “jammed finger.”
Likely, the injury is a sprain to the joint, and it can range from mild to severe, says Guoqing Song, a Physician Assistant with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care.
“A jammed finger is a common type of sports injury, such as when a fingertip sustains a direct hit by a basketball or volleyball,” Song says. “People may see noticeable bruising and swelling, and there may be a limited range of motion.”
Some jammed fingers can be treated at home, at least to begin with. “If the finger joint functions, and there is no deformity to the finger, people can try to manage it at home for two or three days,” Song says.
Jammed Finger Care
The acronym “PRICE” — or Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation — provides general guidelines for caring for a jammed finger.
- Protection means keeping the sprained finger from sustaining further injury, including taking a break from the activity that caused the injury.
- Rest calls for not using the injured hand and giving the finger a chance to heal.
- Ice can be applied a couple of times a day to reduce swelling.
- Compression, such an elastic bandage, also can help reduce swelling and provide support. However, patients shouldn’t wrap the injury too tightly, as that could stop the blood flow to the injury.
- Elevate the limb above the heart to reduce swelling and keep fluid from pooling in the affected digit.
In addition, over-the-counter oral medications such as Tylenol or ibuprofen can help with pain control, Song says.
If you don’t see improvement within two or three days, it’s a good idea to seek care. Beyond that, if you notice other symptoms — such as deformity of the finger, a partial or total loss of range of motion, or tingling, numbness or a pale color to the finger — you should seek medical evaluation.
Some serious finger injuries may require surgery to correct. Long-term issues such as arthritis can develop if a serious finger injury isn’t treated.
For kids with jammed fingers, parents should err on the side of seeing a medical provider, as children’s bones aren’t fully formed and can sustain long-term damage, including stiffness and loss of motion in the finger, Song says. A proper diagnosis and treatment can help kids stay healthy.
“There are many things we will discuss and can offer to help people during their visit,” Song says. “We can talk about activity modification and the possibility of occupational therapy — whatever is needed to get patients back to the activities they enjoy.”
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