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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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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A jammed finger looks like:
In addition, you may feel the following if you have 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:
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:
Anyone can get a jammed finger. You could be more at risk of jamming your finger if you:
If your jammed finger doesn’t heal as expected, you may be at risk of the following complications:
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).
Yes, you can treat a mild jammed finger or sprain at home by using the RICE method. RICE is an acronym that stands for:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/06/2023.
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