How to Care for a Finger Sprain

A finger sprain can be far more painful and debilitating than you might at first think it would be.  You might think, “It’s just a finger.  What’s the big deal?”  If, however, you have injured a finger on your writing hand, you might find it hampers you far more than you suspected it would.  Typing, writing, and even greeting people can become painful processes.

So what is the proper procedure for taking care of a finger sprain?

RICE for the Finger

If you are familiar with first aid techniques, you may have heard the acronym RICE when it comes to sprains.  RICE stands for REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, and ELEVATION.  With a slight modification, this is the process you should follow to treat your finger sprain.


First, you will need to rest your finger.  Right after you have injured your finger and gone through the other processes involved in strains, you will want to sit your strained finger on the bench.  That is, you should avoid doing anything with that finger for a few days in order to let it heal up.  A true sprain involves the tearing of muscle.  If this is what you have done to your finger, then the worst thing that you can do is to put further strain on it---even if the strain is only minor.

Resting your finger means not only that you should avoid the sorts of sports activities that probably got your finger hurt (no tennis, touch football, or golf), but that you should avoid even minor uses of your finger.  That means no typing, writing, playing video games, or changing channels on the TV.  Learn how to do these things with your other hand rather than with your injured hand.  (I realize, of course, that this could be especially difficult if the finger you hurt was the index finger of your dominant hand, but if you want to avoid further injury, this is what you should do.)


Right after your injury, the first thing you should do is to ice your finger.  Icing will help prevent inflammation and helps reduce the pain as well.  In the first two to three days after your injury you should employ this ice therapy at least twice a day to help you finger heal.  (Be careful however to keep your finger dry.)


After you have iced your finger, you will want to apply compression to your finger in order to stabilize it.  This is a very easy process.  You just take a stick that you will use as a stint and wrap your finger to it with medical gauze.  If you are dealing with your pinky, it might be advisable to wrap you next finger over to it as well for extra support.  This step may seem excessive, but by wrapping it in this way, you will not only give your finger the extra help it needs but also will help indicate to others that you have an injury and help remind yourself to not use that finger.


When it comes to your finger, elevation is not quite the same step as it is when it comes to, say, your foot.  However, you should avoid sitting with your hand in your pocket.  It is best to keep your hand out and resting on a table surface rather than sitting on your hand, or putting it in a position where you might risk further injuring it.

When to Seek Further Medical Attention

Since it is not always easy to tell when a finger is just sprained versus actually broken, it is always a good idea to seek out medical attention whenever you have a painful injury.  However, if you simply don’t have the time or resources, you might look for the following signs as indications of a break.  If your finger throbs in pain even when you are not moving it, this is a good sign that you should seek medical attention.  Continuing inflammation or lack of feeling are also serious signs.  If, despite applying ice to your finger, it still becomes inflamed the following day, or if you start to lose feeling in your finger, seek medical help as soon as possible.

In most cases however, RICE will have your finger back to normal within a week or two.

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