What is a Sprained Finger?

What is a Sprained Finger?

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A sprained finger is a relatively common condition characterized by damage or tearing of the connective tissue such as the ligaments, cartilage or joint capsule of one or more finger joints. Finger sprain symptoms include pain in the finger at the time of injury. Once swelling is developed over the joint, there will be restricted movement of the finger or fingers.

Each of the 4 fingers, excluding the thumb, comprises of 3 small bones known as phalanges. They join each other at the Interphalangeal Joints (IP Joints) and to the bones of the palm, called as metacarpals at the metacarpophalangeal joints forming 3 joints for each finger. To identify which ligaments might be injured, bending the finger in different directions to stretch the ligaments will reproduce pain. The joint will be unstable if there is a severe or a complete rupture of the ligament.

  • Causes of a Sprained Finger:

Sprained fingers are very common in ball sports like baseball or netball and usually occur due to a specific incident such as a hyperextension force bending a finger backward or sideways. You may experience a sprained finger in contact sports due to collision with another player or while tackling, or in martial arts or boxing. Occassionaly, a sprained finger occurs due to repetitive strain associated with overuse.

  • Symptoms of a Sprained Finger:

Patients may experience pain and stiffness after provocative activity, particularly the next morning. They may also experience a sudden onset of finger pain during the causative activity. Symptoms are generally felt on the front, back or sides of the affected finger joint. Swelling and bruising will often develop around the affected joint. It is also common for patients to experience pain on firmly touching the affected area, and in some cases, a feeling of weakness in the hand and fingers dislocated.

  • Diagnosis of a Sprained Finger:

To diagnose a sprained finger and to determine the likely structures affected, a thorough subjective and objective examination from a physiotherapist is usually sufficient. To confirm diagnosis, tests such X-ray, MRI or CT scan may be required. These tests are essential particularly to rule out other injuries, especially fractures.

  • Treatment of a Sprained Finger:

With appropriate physiotherapy, most patients with a sprained finger make a good recovery. One of the most essential factors of treatment is that the patient rests sufficiently from any activity that increases their pain until they are cured. Physiotherapy for a sprained finger can hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and reduce the likelihood of recurrence. Treatment may comprise of:

  • Joint mobilisation
  • Finger bracing
  • Exercises to improve flexibility and strength
  • Soft tissue management

It is important for patients with this condition to perform movement and strength exercises early in the rehabilitation process to prevent stiffness and weakness from developing and also to ensure the finger is functioning correctly. The exercises prescribed by your physiotherapist should be performed under his observation to ensure that the ligaments and the joints remain in their proper place.