No matter how careful you try to be, it can be very easy to jam a finger. While sports and exercise are of course the most common causes for jammed fingers, even simple everyday activities can accidentally result in a jammed finger. Jammed fingers can be very painful and can even feel like a break, sprain or more serious injury, but many times, a jammed finger is relatively minor and will heal on its own.
However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t steps that you can take in order to help fix the jammed finger faster.
Before you start attempting to fix and treat your jammed finger, you need to make sure you submerge your finger directly in ice. It is best to put your entire hand directly in an ice bucket so that your entire finger is submerged for at least 20 minutes. Taking this initial step right away can prevent swelling and discomfort later on. From there, you can start working on the best ways to fix your jammed finger so it can heal properly.
Assess the Injury
Most people can tell when their finger is jammed. However, it is important that you take the time to assess the injury and make certain you aren’t dealing with a more serious injury such as a dislocated or fractured finger. A jammed finger can be painful and even look slightly crooked upon injury. However, the following symptoms are an indication that you are dealing with a more serious injury.
Move your finger around and try to assess the damage and the restriction in your range of motion.
The following symptoms are a sign that you may be dealing with a dislocation or fracture and need to visit a doctor for professional medical attention: serious crookedness, numbness, bent or unnatural angle in the finger, extreme pain, immediate moderate swelling and bruising.
If you are indeed dealing with a jammed finger you will likely see the following symptoms:
- Reduce movement
- Stiffness or pain in the finger
- Mild swelling
- Enlarged joint
- Reduced movement and range of motion
In this case, you can likely treat your jammed finger at home on your own. When you jam your finger, you typically are actually hurting the ligaments surrounding the finger and compacting the joint. This is classified as a Grade 1 sprain, meaning you irritated and hurt the ligaments, but you haven’t torn anything.
Once you have assessed your injury, you can move on to treatment.
Rest, Rest, Rest
The best way to treat a jammed finger is to rest and allow the finger to heal. If you injured the finger playing a sport or play sports such as volleyball, softball, football or basketball regularly, you will need to take a break for a few days, or even a few weeks if the jam is severe.
At work, you may need to take a break from heavy lifting, using your hands or typing in order to allow your finger to heal. The more you try to push through the pain of a jammed finger the longer it will take to heal, and you risk developing a more serious injury.
Icing a jammed finger right away is extremely important, but you also need to continue to ice the finger as it heals. Icing reduces swelling, slows down local circulation and can numb the pain from your jammed finger. Apply ice therapy on and off hourly for 15-20 minutes several times a day. You only need to ice for the first few days.
When icing you can use an ice pack, submerge the finger in an ice bucket or use frozen vegetables. You should also elevate the finger while icing to help with inflammation. If inflammation continues to become an issue after the first few days of ice therapy, you may want to try an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication for pain relief.
Taping the Finger
Taping the jammed finger can help during the recovery process and not only provide your finger with more stability as it heals but help prevent it from further injury, especially if you are still using your hands and fingers quite a bit.
The type of taping used in jammed fingers is known as “buddy taping.” Here’s how it works:
- Take two pieces of medical-grade tape and cut them into small strips only about 2-3 inches long.
- Use the tape to attach your jammed finger to an uninjured finger next to it.
- Tape the two fingers together with the tape, focusing on the area both below and above the joint.
- Do not tape too tightly as it can cause excess swelling and circulation.
When to See a Doctor
If the pain and swelling in the finger hasn’t gone down after a few weeks, it may be time to see a doctor as you may have a slight dislocation in the finger or the jam may be so severe the finger isn’t able to heal on its own. Visit a physician, osteopath or a chiropractor for more information on your jammed finger.
A doctor may want to take an x-ray to see if you had obtained a small hairline fracture in your finger during the injury or an MRI to see if you did excess damage to the ligaments and tendons surrounding the jammed finger.
If your finger is stuck in the jammed position and you are struggling with a range of motion, or if it is slightly dislocated a chiropractor or an osteopath will be able to reposition the joint. They are doctors who specialize in joint manipulation and can manipulate your finger to “pop” back in place. It can provide immediate relief and joint mobility, but depending on the severity of the initial injury you may still experience some pain after the adjustment.