A good number of athletes know the feeling: You make your move for the ball, but you miscalculated a bit. The ball hits your fingertip in just the wrong way, causing pain and swelling — what many people call a “jammed finger.”
“That feeling is likely a sprain to the joint,” explained Guoqing Song, Advanced Practice Clinician at ThedaCare Medical Center-Orthopedic, Spine and Pain. “It’s a common type of sports injury, such as when a fingertip sustains a direct hit by a basketball or volleyball. Some people may see noticeable bruising and swelling, and there may be a limited range of motion.”
A sprain can be mild, moderate or severe, and people may experience various levels of pain because of the injury. Some jammed fingers can be treated at home, at least to begin with.
“If the finger joints function well, and there is no deformity to the finger, people can try to manage it at home for two or three days,” Song said.
The general rule for caring for jammed fingers can be followed with the acronym “PRICE,” or Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
So, starting with Protection.
“Those with a sprained finger should keep it protected from further injury, including taking a break from whatever activity caused the injury,” Song said. “They should Rest the hand to give the finger a chance to heal, and Ice can be applied a couple of times a day to reduce swelling.”
Using Compression, such as an elastic bandage, also can help reduce swelling and provide support, but people should be mindful of keeping the compression light.
“Too much compression can be uncomfortable,” he explained. “It could also stop healthy blood supply to the finger.”
Patients are encouraged to Elevate the limb above the heart, as that also can help reduce swelling by preventing fluid from pooling in the affected digit.
“Additionally, if a patient needs some pain control, over-the-counter oral medications such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen usually work well,” Song explained.
For those patients who do not see improvement within two or three days, and for those who experience other symptoms, a visit to the Walk-In Clinic at ThedaCare Medical Center-Orthopedic, Spine and Pain is advisable.
“Symptoms that can indicate damage beyond a sprain include noticing some deformity in the finger along with an inability to bend or straighten the finger, which can indicate the finger has been fractured, dislocated, or has sustained a torn tendon,” Song said. “To determine if a finger has been fractured, X-ray is usually ordered during the medical evaluation.”
Additionally, some patients may experience a tingling, numbness or pale color to the finger, in which case, it’s possible the finger also has sustained some nerve damage as well. Untreated finger injuries can lead to a higher risk of arthritis in the injured joint. Some more serious finger injuries may require surgery to correct.
“If there’s any concern of serious injury, we want patients to be evaluated by a medical professional,” Song said. “Fractures and dislocations can cause permanent stiffness or deformity and a loss of function.”
Children with jammed fingers particularly should be taken to visit a medical provider as their bones are not matured, and a proper diagnosis can help prevent permanent damage such as long-term stiffness and loss of motion.
“We want patients to feel empowered to see a provider at the Walk-in Clinic if they have any concerns about the injury,” Song said.
Orthopedic experts can provide diagnostic tools such as imaging like X-ray or MRI and can offer different types of finger splints to stabilize the injuries.
“There are many things we will discuss and can offer to help people during their visit,” Song said. “We can talk about activity modification and the possibility of occupational therapy — whatever is needed to get patients back to the activities they enjoy.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.