When a blunt force strikes the end of a finger, it can cause what’s commonly referred to as a jammed finger: a ligament located at finger’s middle knuckle hyperextends and becomes stretched or torn. Whether or not medical treatment is required depends on the severity of symptoms.

When to Seek Medical Care for a Jammed Finger

If the finger appears misaligned, do not attempt to realign it. Rather, the finger should be splinted and the person should seek medical attention.

Likewise, if the affected finger’s range of motion is significantly limited, it is important to seek an evaluation from a hand surgeon. Limited range of motion in the joint may be a sign of a partial dislocation accompanied by a fracture.

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Home Treatment for a Jammed Finger

If a jammed finger is not severe and there is no reason to suspect a fracture, it can be self-treated at home. Below are treatment measures that can help alleviate pain and swelling while the sprain heals.

  • Temporarily immobilize the finger. Protect the finger from further injury using either by “buddy taping” it or using a finger splint.
    • Budding taping involves taping the injured finger and a neighboring finger together. Buddy taping helps protect the jammed finger while also improving its range of motion by allowing it to be a “buddy” to an uninjured finger.
    • Temporarily splinting the finger for 1 to 2 days is okay. A temporary splint may be appropriate if moving the finger is very painful and/or a fracture has not been ruled out. However, if there is no fracture, splinting for longer than 1 to 2 days can negatively affect the joint's long-term healing and range of motion.
  • Take a break from sports or activities that may reinjure or further injure the finger.
  • Use ice therapy to decrease inflammation and dull pain by applying a cold pack to the affected joint for 5 to 10 minutes every few hours.
  • Take anti-inflammatory pain medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), as needed.

Once pain and swelling recede, the finger can be reconditioned by exercising the joint—for example, by making a fist or squeezing a stress ball.

Recovery time for a jammed finger is dependent on the degree of injury. It can take a few weeks to many months for the swelling and pain to resolve. Some stiffness may persist. For those returning to sports, buddy taping should be used for a few weeks or until the finger is completely recovered.

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