If you’ve ever played ball, you may have experienced a jammed finger. Imagine going to catch a football or basketball, but instead of it gliding into your hands, it smashes into your fingertip.
Jammed fingers don’t only happen with sports, though. You can also jam your finger doing simple things like closing a drawer at home. Either way, the pain is real and fixing it should be your first priority.
But do you know how to fix a jammed finger? A jammed finger is not as serious as a broken finger, and there are many ways to treat it at home.
What Is a Jammed Finger?
A jammed finger typically occurs when a blunt impact causes the fingertip to push back towards the hand. The momentum of the impact may cause stretching or tearing in the ligaments. Occasionally, if the impact is really hard, it can cause a bone fracture or tendon damage. Usually, though, you’re looking at a sprain.
Jammed fingers are frequently associated with sports, but they can happen at any time. Imagine tucking your sheets under your mattress. If one of your fingers misses the clearance and hits the base, you may end up with a jammed finger. Other causes can include:
- putting your hand down to break a fall
- closing a door or drawer on a finger
- finger injury on the steering wheel in a car accident
What actually happens is that the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint absorbs the force of the blow. This joint is located in the middle of the finger, and injury happens when the ligament of the joint is stretched.
You may already know what a jammed finger feels like. But if you don’t, you could experience the following symptoms:
- pain (not severe)
- difficulty using the finger or holding anything with it
- swelling or redness in the area of injury
Fractured fingers have similar symptoms, but there are some key differences. Your finger is fractured and not jammed if you have these symptoms:
- severe pain
- inability to straighten or bend injured finger
- swelling that lasts for a few hours to a few days
Broken fingers, on the other hand, are hard to confuse with jammed fingers. If your finger is broken, the pain will be very severe. Sometimes you may see a bone protruding toward the skin or visibly sticking out of it. Cracking or popping noises may also be present with finger movement if the finger is broken.
Jammed fingers are relatively common. Mild cases may be treated at home. However, they can lead to some complications like:
- finger stiffness
- finger weakness
- traumatic arthritis, or long-term swelling or pain in the joint
- joint deformity
- permanent inability to straighten the finger
How to Fix a Jammed Finger: Home Care Tips
You can treat a jammed finger at home, but you may have to seek medical attention for severe injuries. If you’re unsure how serious your injury is, it is better to go to an emergency room than to try to treat it yourself. However, if you know that your injury is mild, try the following home care tips:
1. Ice It
First, ice the swollen area. Do it for 15-minutes every hour until the swelling goes down. If you don’t have ice, use a bowl of cold water instead.
2. Elevate It
Next, elevate your finger. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to raise your arm above your head. Simply prop pillows or cushions under your finger to keep it above chest level.
3. OTC Pain Relief
Lastly, if you need to take something for the pain, over-the-counter relief works well. Try ibuprofen to ease any lingering pain or discomfort.
Splint or Immobilize Your Finger
Does your finger look like it’s out of joint? Don’t pull or yank on it.
Instead, try splinting it to keep the finger in place. Splints are pieces of foam or metal that wrap around the finger. They keep the finger in place and prevent you from injuring it more.
To keep your finger from moving or bending, you can also try buddy strapping it. This means that you simply tape your injured finger to the neighboring one. Immobilizing the injured finger can help alleviate pain from accidental movement and may also prevent you from hurting it further.
How long you have to keep your finger strapped or immobilized depends on your injury. Generally, you’re supposed to keep it splinted or strapped until it stops hurting, but this could take a week or two.
After Recovery Care
After your finger has healed, doing a little physical therapy or exercise can help you regain full motion. Try the following at-home exercises to strengthen the finger:
- practice making a fist repeatedly
- squeeze a hand-sized ball like a tennis ball or stress ball
- hold objects in your hand
If you avoid using your newly healed finger, you can lose strength in that finger. Furthermore, not using the finger could cause imbalances in your other fingers, which may increase your risk of injuring those other fingers as well.
Serious Injury Options
If your injury is serious, don’t try these home care treatments and go see your doctor instead. If you have a torn tendon or ligament or a bone fracture, you may need surgery.
You may already know how to fix a jammed finger without realizing it. Like many mild injuries, the popular RICE method does wonders for aftercare. This includes resting, icing, compressing or splinting, and elevating your injured finger.
However, if you have signs that your finger is fractured or broken, seek medical attention instead. Look for symptoms like severe pain, crookedness, or dislocation. Your doctor can visually confirm if the injury is a jammed finger or something more serious.
Finally, with proper rest and care, mild cases of jammed fingers can be treated at home. Just give your finger a little time to recover and go easy on it. Before you know it, you’ll be back to your normal activities again.