Jammed Finger (Sprained Finger)

A jammed finger or sprained finger is usually the result of an injury or fall. It causes pain, swelling and tenderness in your finger. You can treat mild sprains at home. If you have severe pain and swelling, visit a healthcare provider. Most jammed fingers heal within one to two weeks.


What is a jammed finger?

A jammed, or sprained, finger occurs when the soft tissues in your finger stretch or tear. Soft tissues, like ligaments, connect your bones together and support your joints, which help you move.

It’s common to have a jammed finger. It can happen after an injury, like during sports, or from accidents, like a fall, or even from your finger getting caught in a leash while walking your dog.

If you have a jammed finger, your finger may be painful, stiff or swollen. You can treat mild sprains at home. If symptoms persist or worsen, you should seek medical treatment.

What are the grades of a jammed finger?

Your provider may assign a grade to your jammed finger. A grade is the level of severity of your sprain. Grades for a jammed finger include:

  • Grade 1: Your ligament has small tears. Your joint is stable (your bones aren’t likely to move out of place).
  • Grade 2: You’ve partially torn your ligament. Your joint shows mild instability (possibility of your bones moving out of place).
  • Grade 3: You’ve completely torn your ligament. Your joint shows major instability (your bones are likely to move out of place).

Sometimes the soft tissue damage is so severe that it results in a dislocation. This occurs when the finger bones move from their original position and your joint’s no longer in alignment.

How common is a jammed finger?

Jammed fingers are very common. They most often occur among athletes who need to handle a ball, like basketball, football and volleyball. When a ball becomes airborne, it can land incorrectly in your hand and unintentionally smash against your fingers. This may result in a sprain of your ligaments, leading to a jammed finger. Jammed fingers can also occur when you trip, fall or accidentally hit your hand against a stationary object.

Is a jammed finger serious?

Most jammed fingers aren’t serious injuries that require immediate medical attention. If you have a mild sprain, you can usually treat the injury at home. If you experience severe pain, swelling and/or stiffness, you should visit a healthcare provider.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of a jammed finger?

A jammed finger looks like:

  • A joint on your finger that’s swollen or bigger than it was a day or two ago. You usually have three joints in each of your fingers and two in your thumb.
  • A finger that’s red to purple or darker than your natural skin tone.
  • A finger that doesn’t bend as easily as your other fingers do.

In addition, you may feel the following if you have a jammed finger:

  • Pain when you try to move your finger joint.
  • Stiffness in your finger.
  • Tenderness of your finger joints.

What is the difference between a broken finger and a jammed finger?

Jammed fingers and broken fingers have many of the same symptoms. The main difference is that broken fingers involve injuries to your bones, while sprained fingers involve injuries to your soft tissues. Broken fingers need immediate medical treatment. Features of a broken finger may include swelling, stiffness and tenderness, along with the following possible symptoms:

  • Bruising.
  • Severe pain.
  • An inability to move your finger.
  • An irregular (deformed) shape to your finger.

What causes a jammed finger?

Stretching and/or tearing the soft tissue in your finger causes a jammed, or sprained, finger. Soft tissues include your muscles and ligaments.

There could be several possible ways that you could injure your finger. Some of the most common include:

  • Pressure on your finger, pushing it towards your hand.
  • Bending your finger too far backward (hyperextension) or the wrong way.
  • Catching or hitting a ball with your fingers during a sport or activity.
  • Falling on your hand.
  • Smacking your fingers on a solid object.
  • Work-related injuries.
  • A car accident.
  • Twisting your fingers in the wrong direction.

What are the risk factors for a jammed finger?

Anyone can get a jammed finger. You could be more at risk of jamming your finger if you:

  • Play sports (basketball, football, volleyball, etc.).
  • Have coordination difficulties.
  • Complete jobs or activities with repetitive hand motions.
  • Make quick or sudden movements to catch something.
  • Get distracted.


What are the complications of a jammed finger?

If your jammed finger doesn’t heal as expected, you may be at risk of the following complications:

  • A malformed joint.
  • Stiff fingers due to improper healing.
  • Weakness when using your fingers.
  • Difficulty straightening or bending your finger completely.
  • Long-lasting pain and swelling.
  • Arthritis.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is a jammed finger diagnosed?

To diagnose a jammed finger, a healthcare provider will examine your finger and ask you questions about your symptoms. Your provider will test your finger mobility by having you straighten and bend your finger to see how well it moves. They’ll also examine your finger joints to look for swelling and tenderness, and to check if it’s stable.

Imaging tests, like an X-ray, can help your provider determine if you have a sprain or a broken bone (fracture). These tests aren’t always necessary, especially if you have a mild sprain. You may need more specific imaging that shows soft tissues, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).


Management and Treatment

Can I treat a jammed finger at home?

Yes, you can treat a mild jammed finger or sprain at home by using the RICE method. RICE is an acronym that stands for:

  • Rest: Let your finger rest, if possible. Stop doing the activity that injured it (such as playing basketball) while your finger heals.
  • Ice: Ice the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, especially within the first 24 hours. Put ice in a towel or plastic bag rather than directly on your skin. Icing the injury can help relieve pain and swelling.
  • Compression: Gently wrap an elastic compression bandage around the injured joint to support it and reduce swelling. Be sure the wrap isn’t too tight and is comfortable.
  • Elevation: Elevate your injured hand above your heart to minimize swelling, especially within the first 24 to 72 hours. Keep it elevated overnight, if possible.

If you feel mild pain in your finger, you can take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help relieve the pain. Follow the instructions on the bottle and your healthcare provider’s guidance on dosage, if needed.

How is a jammed finger treated?

If your symptoms don’t improve within 24 to 48 hours of your injury after using the RICE method at home (rest, ice, compression, elevation), see a healthcare provider. Treatment for a jammed finger varies based on the severity of your sprain and may include:

  • Buddy taping/support: Your provider tapes your sprained finger to the neighboring finger to increase stability. They may recommend the use of a supportive wrap, such as Coban®.
  • Splinting: A plastic splint or finger brace helps keep your finger straight for a short period of time to allow for healing.
  • Surgery: Your provider may suggest surgery to repair severely torn ligaments. This usually requires further evaluation and workup by your provider, including MRI, prior to surgery.

Are there side effects of the treatment?

Your healthcare provider will let you know of the side effects before beginning treatment. In most cases, treatment won’t cause any major side effects. If you end up needing surgery, the side effects could include:

  • Bleeding.
  • Scarring.
  • Pain.
  • Stiffness or weakness.
  • A limited range of motion or loss of motion.
  • Damage to surrounding structures.
  • Incomplete relief of your initial symptoms.
  • Arthritis.
  • Infection.

How long does it take to heal a jammed finger?

Most jammed fingers heal within one to two weeks. More severe sprains require at least three to six weeks to heal fully, but may remain swollen and tender for a significantly longer period of time, in some cases. During this time, make sure you’re resting and avoiding activities that cause you to overuse your fingers, but keep them moving. A healthcare provider may recommend formal hand therapy to help with this process.


Can a jammed finger be prevented?

You can’t always prevent jammed fingers, especially if you’re active or work a lot with your hands. Sometimes the use of buddy straps or supportive wraps may help prevent an injury. If you have balance problems or trouble walking, try using assistive devices, such as a cane or walker, to help reduce your risk of falling and landing on your hands.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have a jammed finger?

Though sprains may be painful, most mild finger sprains heal in about a week or two. At-home treatment is usually a good option if you don’t have severe pain or swelling (RICE method). After your jammed finger heals, it may feel weaker than your other fingers. It can take some time to rebuild strength after a sprain. It’s possible to reinjure your finger in the future, so take precautions when playing sports and participating in activities where you use your hands or could fall on your hands.

When can I play sports again after a jammed finger?

Once your finger heals completely, you can usually return to your sports and activities like normal. This can take up to two weeks for a mild sprain or up to six or eight weeks for a severe sprain. A healthcare provider will let you know when it’s safe for you to return to your sport and/or activity.

Living With

When should I see a healthcare provider?

Visit a healthcare provider if your symptoms of a jammed finger get worse 24 to 48 hours after your injury. If you have severe pain that doesn’t go away after following the RICE method and taking an NSAID, contact your provider because you may have a broken or severely sprained finger.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • Do I have a jammed finger or a broken finger?
  • Do I need any imaging tests?
  • Do I need surgery?
  • What medications work best to help with this pain?
  • How do I prevent this injury in the future?
  • When can I play sports again?
  • When will I need to follow up with you again?
  • Do I need hand therapy?
  • Do I need a splint?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Jammed fingers are common injuries. Signs include pain, stiffness, swelling and tenderness. You can treat mild sprains at home with the RICE method and with over-the-counter pain medication, but more severe sprains usually require medical evaluation and treatment. Most people recover quickly from sprains and can go back to their everyday activities within a couple of weeks, depending on the grade of the sprain.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 05/06/2023.

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