Finger Sprain


A finger sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments of the finger. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other.

Finger Sprain

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Causes    TOP

A finger sprain may be caused by a blow to the finger. This makes the finger bend too much or in the wrong way. This can happen during sports when you jam a finger into someone else, the ball, or piece of equipment. Finger sprains may also happen in other ways, such as falling on the hand.

Risk Factors    TOP

Here are some factors that may raise your risk:

  • Playing sports where you use your hands, such as basketball or volleyball
  • Poor coordination or balance
  • Weak ligaments

Symptoms    TOP

Having this problem may cause:

  • Pain in the finger
  • Swelling

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and how you injured your finger. The doctor will look at your finger.

Pictures may be taken of your finger. This can be done with:

Finger sprains are graded from 1 to 3:

Grade 1

  • Stretching and microtearing of ligament
  • Stable joint

Grade 2

  • Partial tearing of ligament
  • Mild instability of the joint

Grade 3    TOP

  • Severe or complete tearing of ligament
  • Significant instability of the joint

Treatment    TOP

Treatment may include:

RICE Therapy

RICE therapy may be advised to reduce discomfort:

  • R est—Take a break from the activity that caused the pain. This is often enough to clear up the problem within several weeks.
  • I ce—Use ice in 15-minute periods during the first 24 hours and for several days after if needed. Do not put ice right on the skin. Ice helps with swelling, inflammation, and pain.
  • C ompression—Wearing an elastic compression bandage may help prevent swelling. It also supports the finger and nearby tissues.
  • E levation—Keep the hand raised for the first 24 hours, even when you sleep. This helps with swelling.


In addition to RICE therapy, anti-inflammatory medicines can help with pain.

Splinting and Taping    TOP

A splint may be needed to keep the finger in place. The finger may need to be taped to the finger next to it when you go back to sports. This is known as buddy taping.

Surgery    TOP

Surgery may be needed to repair a finger sprain if:

  • A small piece of bone has been broken off
  • A ligament is torn completely

Prevention    TOP

You can lower 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 Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons


Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation


Derry S, Moore RA, Gaskell H, McIntyre M, Wiffen PJ. Topical NSAIDs for acute musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2015;(6):CD007402.
Sprains and strains: What's the difference? Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
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Updated July 2015. Accessed June 11, 2018.
Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS
Last Updated: 6/11/2018

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