Finger Sprain


Finger Sprain: How to Care for Your Child


Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other. A finger sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament in the finger. To help it heal, a health care provider usually puts a splint on the injured finger or tapes it to a neighboring finger ("buddy taping"). Depending on the type of injury, a sprain can take a few days or weeks to heal. Most kids who sprain a finger can gradually return to their normal activities.

Care Instructions

  • Give your child pain medicine if your health care provider says it's OK. Use these medicines exactly as directed:
    • acetaminophen (such as Tylenol® or a store brand)
    • OR
    • ibuprofen (such as Advil®, Motrin®, or a store brand). Do not give to babies under 6 months old. 

For the first 48 hours:

  • Your child should not use the injured finger.
  • Apply an ice pack to the finger for 10–20 minutes every few hours. Place a towel between the ice and the skin.
  • Do NOT apply heat in any form to the sprain. Heat will increase swelling and pain.
  • To decrease swelling, raise the finger above heart level by resting it on a pillow when your child is sitting or sleeping.

After 48 hours:

  • Your child can begin using the injured finger when the health care provider says it's OK.
  • If given a brace, bandage, or splint for support, your child should wear it as directed.
  • Encourage your child to do any exercises the health care provider recommended. This can strengthen the finger and reduce joint stiffness.
  • Ask your health care provider when it's OK for your child to return to sports. He or she may recommend protective hand gear or taping for sports.

If your child has buddy taping:

  • Change it each day or anytime it gets wet or dirty. Your child can use hand sanitizer to clean hands. But when the hands have dirt you can see, your child should remove the tape, wash hands in soap and water, and replace the tape.

Call Your Healthcare Provider if...

Your child:

  • has pain or swelling that does not go away or gets worse
  • can’t bend or straighten the finger
  • shows signs of infection, such as a fever or redness of the finger

Go to the ER if...

  • Your child has decreased feeling (numbness) or a change of color in the hand or fingers.

More to Know

How do finger sprains happen? Finger sprains happen when the finger twists or bends back too far. Children may sprain a finger when they trip and hold their hand out to stop a fall. Finger sprains also can happen in sports, especially when hitting or catching a ball.

How do health care providers diagnose a finger sprain? Health care providers carefully examine the finger and ask about what happened. If they are concerned about a broken bone, they may order an X-ray.

How can future finger sprains be prevented? Encourage your child to:

  • wear the right protective gear during sports
  • do regular strengthening and stretching exercises