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Finger Sprain: Care Instructions

Location of the collateral ligaments, extensor tendons, and flexor tendons in a finger


A sprain is an injury to the tough fibres (ligaments) that connect bone to bone. This injury can happen in joints such as in your finger.

Some sprains stretch the ligaments but don't tear them. More severe sprains can partly or completely tear the ligaments. Sprains can cause pain and swelling. It may take weeks to months before your finger can move easily and without pain.

Resting the finger for a short time after the injury can help you heal. To keep the injured finger in position while it heals, your doctor may have put a splint on it. Or the doctor may have taped the finger to the one next to it. After the pain and swelling have gone down, your doctor may recommend exercises to strengthen your finger or more treatment if needed.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor put a splint on your finger, wear the splint as directed. Don't remove it until your doctor says it's okay.
  • If your fingers are taped together, make sure that the tape is snug. But it shouldn't be so tight that the fingers get numb or tingle. You can loosen the tape if it's too tight. If you need to retape your fingers, always put padding between the fingers before you put on the new tape.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your finger for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the first 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Prop up your hand on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your doctor recommends exercises, do them as directed.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse pain.
  • Your finger is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • Your finger is tingly, weak, or numb.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.