The complete guide to icing your jammed or sprained fingers

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The complete guide to icing your jammed or sprained fingers

If you’ve ever been curious about how far high of a decibel meter your voice can reach, accidentally jamming your fingers would be the perfect opportunity for that. Whether you (or someone else) have accidentally shut a door, fridge or drawer with your fingers wedged, the excruciating and lasting pain is one and the same. 

Another unfortunate and painful incident is when you sprain your fingers. You’re casually enjoying a game of basketball or volleyball and the wrong strike or catch can sprain your finger.

These mishaps can easily happen to any of us. Thankfully, there are ways to manage the pain to ensure that the healing process is quick. Here’s our guide to properly and effectively icing your jammed or sprained fingers.

Jammed and sprained fingers

You don’t even need to be active or an athlete to experience jammed fingers. It happens quite often: a door is closed without realising a finger is in the doorway, or a drawer is casually shut while fingers are resting on the drawer frame. 

In sports, someone passes you a ball, and you pose to catch it, only for the ball to graze past your fingers, causing them to hyperextend backwards. Sometimes, you reach out your arm in an attempt to break a fall, and your finger gets jabbed into the ground. This painful incident results in a jammed finger.

Jamming of a finger occurs when the tip of the finger is compressed towards the hand. Ligaments, the soft tissue that holds the bones together, are stretched or “sprained” when the finger gets compressed

The momentum from the impact’s force can tear or stretch the finger’s ligaments, which then causes a sprain. The severity of the pain depends on how great the force or trauma to the finger is. In unfortunate cases, the ligaments can completely tear.

When the force is too violent, this can result in torn tendons, broken bones and dislocations. In these instances, you should have your fingers and hand seen by a medical practitioner. 

Even if you have not fractured your fingers, the jam and sprain can cause your fingers to swell and be extremely painful. Most of the time, the injury is minor enough for you to be able to treat it at home.

Symptoms of a jammed finger

The main concern when one jams their fingers is distinguishing whether it is merely a jammed finger or a fractured finger. Both conditions are quite painful, and their symptoms can be similar. 

Here’s how you can distinguish whether you have a jammed or fractured finger:

Jammed finger:

  • Painful fingers
  • There’s difficulty in holding objects using the injured finger
  • There is redness and swelling in the injured area

Fractured finger:

  • Severe excruciating pain in the fingers
  • Complete inability to bend or straighten the fingers
  • The swelling in the fingers lasts for several hours up to a few days


Most people are able to diagnose whether what they have is a jammed or a fractured finger. If you are unsure, it’s best to have your fingers seen by a doctor. Your doctor will usually need to know how and when the injury happened, and they will normally perform a physical examination to check your fingers position, alignment, movement, swelling and pain. 

Most of the time, an X-Ray will be taken. On rare occasions, an MRI or a CT scan are required. 

Important reminders: 

  • If your fingers appear misaligned, NEVER attempt to realign them. 
  • If the finger’s range of motion is drastically limited, please seek an evaluation from a hand surgeon. The joint’s limited motion may be a sign of something more severe like a partial dislocation or a fracture.

 How to (PR)ICE your fingers

The best approach to treating your injured fingers at home is the PRICE method. This is a levelled-up version of the RICE (rest, ice, compress and elevate) method. 

Because the bones and ligaments in our fingers are smaller, more movable and extra delicate an extra step is needed: P for protect. 

Even if you will seek medical help, it’s best to do the PRICE method for immediate care.

P – Protect – Protect the injured area to avoid pain and further injury. Buddy tape the injured finger to an adjacent healthy (uninjured) finger. Then use a medical tape or any adhesive wrap to tape above and below the finger joint (do not tape the joint itself). For instance, if your middle finger is injured, tape it together with your uninjured forefinger. This helps the injured finger to have less movement in the joints, which will help with the healing process and pain relief. 

R – Rest – Immediately stop all activities that will require pressure or excessive movement of the injured finger. Try not to carry or bear weight with the affected hand or finger.

I – Ice  As soon as the injury occurs, ice the area immediately. Ice the affected area for 1520 minutes at a time and repeat every two to three hours for the first few days, until the swelling completely disappears. Cold therapy will help reduce swelling, which helps not just with pain relief but recovery as well. You can use an ice pack or makeshift ones like a frozen bag of peas. 

For the best results, though, use a glove shaped cooling hand pack. This kind of hand pack is reusable, can be used as a hot or cold pack and, best of all, it’s flexible when frozen. This means that it will provide comforting cold therapy to your already swollen hands. It can also provide cold therapy up to 19 continuous minutes. There is also an inner finger ice pack to help chill the hands and wrist. 

Because it is glove shaped with an adjustable strap, your uninjured hand can be free to do other things as well. 

C – Compression – When you apply compression to the affected finger, the pressure will further reduce swelling and it will also provide additional support. You can use an elastic compression bandage around the finger  just be careful to not wrap or wind it too tightly. You don’t want to cut off circulation to your finger.

E – Elevate – Try to hold your injured hand above the level of your heart. Use a pillow to prop up your hand. Gravity will encourage fluid drainage and reduce swelling.

 In addition to this, you can also take pain relief medication. Consult with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter pain relief to reduce inflammation and pain such as ibuprofen (Mortin or Advil), aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol)

We hope that this guide to icing your fingers will help you relieve your pain. If you need any questions answered, please feel free to contact us about your pain management!

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