Finger sprains commonly occur in sports and every day activities that involve heavy lifting or repetitive hand motions. Falls or contact sports such as football may even force a finger out of its normal joint position resulting in a dislocation. The force to the finger may cause joints in the finger to hyperextend or move sideways. Sprains of the finger are classified according to the extent of injury or damage.
1) Grade I – Mild: A first degree sprained finger is present when the ligaments are only stretched but not ruptured. There may be localized swelling, slight pain, and slight reduction in range of motion, but strength remains unaffected. An individual may continue to engage in an activity. Taping of the injured finger may be more effective. Recovery is immediate.
2) Grade II – Moderate: A second degree sprained finger occurs when there is partial ligament tears, a greater reduction in range of motion and some loss of strength with more swelling and pain. The joint capsule may also be damaged. Recovery will take longer.
3) Grade III – Severe: A third degree sprained finger involves complete rupture of the ligament, complete loss of range of motion and typically dislocation of the finger. Significant pain and swelling is present. X-ray is required for diagnosis and surgery may be indicated.
In the first 48 to 72 hours after the sprain, the individual should protect the finger by taping it to the adjacent finger or by using a finger brace. Apply ice for about 15 min every two hours with a small ice pack wrapped in a dry towel or use a large cup filled with cold water and some ice for immersion.
Once swelling has gone down, the individual may begin light range of motion exercises by placing a soft object such as a tennis ball or rolled sock in the palm of the hand and gently squeezing the object. Repeat 10 times and stop if any pain arises. Surgery may be indicated for third degree sprains. Consult a physician for the appropriate diagnosis.
1) Ball Grip: Hold a ball in the palm of the hand with all fingers enclosing the ball and gently squeeze. Hold, then relax.
2) Pinch: Place a ball between the thumb and index finger. Gently squeeze, then relax.
3) Opposition: Hold a ball with the thumb and pinky finger. Gently squeeze the ball using the two fingers, then relax.
4) Side-Squeeze: Place a ball between any two fingers and gently squeeze, then relax.
This taping technique will limit movement in the joint between the thumb and the hand to help the soft tissues heal after a thumb sprain. You use loops of tape around the thumb that attach to the wrist and ‘rein in’ the thumb to prevent it from moving.
- 2.5cm Zinc Oxide Tape
- Scissors (optional)
Step 1: Start by creating an ‘anchor’ on the wrist. Circle the wrist once with the zinc oxide tape as pictured:
Step 2: Now you add the tape strips that will support the thumb itself. With the zinc oxide tape, start on the outside edge of the wrist – i.e. on the same side of the wrist as the little finger is. With a single continuous strip of tape, bring the tape diagonally up the back of the hand, onto the first joint of the thumb. The tape should cross the main knuckle of the thumb (the knuckle where it joins the hand.) Continue all the way around the thumb, so the tape crosses itself, then come down the base of the palm and around the outside of the wrist to finish the strip of tape where it started. The steps are pictured here:
Step 3: Add a second support strip of zinc oxide tape directly over the first strip from step 2:
Step 4: Finally add a second anchor directly over the first anchor from step 1, to lock off the loose ends of tape. That’s it.
Tip: This technique will be helpful for lighter thumb sprains and in situations where you can’t wear a brace but still need to give some support to the thumb. However, a more complete immobilization of the thumb using a splint or brace may be more effective than tape. Therefore, you may wish to consider purchasing a thumb spica brace.