As someone who has experienced a sprain or strain in their fingers, you might be familiar with the urge to overlook the injury, especially if it doesn’t seem as serious as a fracture. I’m Hoang, a certified hand therapist and occupational therapist, and I want to shed light on what happens when you choose to ignore and leave a sprained finger untreated.
Just recently, a patient came into my office with a sprained finger. She had sprained not just one, but two fingers while trying to prevent something heavy from falling on her. It’s a common scenario – a sudden twist, a pull on the fingers beyond their normal range, resulting in a sprained finger. In her case, it was the middle knuckles, the PIP Knuckles.
Why Ignoring a Sprained Finger is a Risk?
The misconception that sprained fingers only require rest can lead to significant issues. Unlike some injuries that heal well with basic care, sprained fingers can become stiff and incredibly painful when left untreated. Most people tend to believe that immobilizing the finger, perhaps with self-taping, is sufficient. However, the severity of the sprain plays a crucial role in determining the appropriate course of action.
If you’ve ever sprained an ankle, think of a sprained finger in a similar light. The ligaments on the sides of your fingers, known as collateral ligaments, provide stability and prevent excessive sideways movement. When these ligaments are stressed, such as during a sprain, it’s not just about icing and resting; it’s about understanding the delicate balance needed for effective recovery. Immobilization is indeed essential for a short period, approximately two weeks. However, it’s crucial to understand which knuckle is sprained. For the middle knuckle, immobilize it, rest it for about two weeks, and gently start moving it. The reason behind this lies in the collateral ligaments that need a balance between rest and controlled movement to avoid stiffness.
While some may resort to over-the-counter splints or even those provided at urgent care, realizing their limitations is imperative. The key is finding a trusted occupational therapist or certified hand therapist. These professionals can guide you based on the severity of your injury, recommending the right splint and providing a tailored plan for recovery.
It’s not uncommon for individuals to delay seeking professional help, thinking the pain will subside on its own. However, the repercussions of leaving a sprained finger untreated can be extensive. Stiffness, persistent pain, and the development of various types of tendonitis can set in, affecting not just the injured finger but also adjacent areas.
Understanding the anatomy of your fingers is essential. Collateral ligaments, resembling parentheses on the sides of your fingers, hold the joints together. Sprained fingers need a delicate balance of immobilization and controlled movement, preventing excessive stiffness that could hinder normal hand function.
Steps to Take When Treating a Sprained Finger
- Early Immobilization: Immobilize the affected joint for about two weeks, using the appropriate splint.
- Gradual Movement: After the initial period, start gentle movements to prevent excessive stiffness. Focus on massaging the sides of the finger and stretching it gradually.
- Professional Guidance: Seek the expertise of an occupational therapist or certified hand therapist for a personalized recovery plan. Every sprained finger is unique, and professional guidance ensures the right approach for your case.
The Danger of Prolonged Immobilization
Leaving a sprained finger immobilized for too long can lead to increased stiffness, making it challenging to regain normal function. It’s essential to strike a balance between rest and controlled movement for optimal recovery.
As an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist, I’ve seen numerous cases where individuals have left their sprained fingers untreated for weeks, months, or even years. Each case is unique, and the consequences of neglecting proper care can be severe. If you’ve been experiencing pain for three to four weeks without improvement, it’s time to consult a trusted professional for guidance.
Remember, early intervention is key, and the right steps taken in the initial stages can prevent prolonged pain, stiffness, and potential complications. Don’t let a sprained finger turn into a long-term issue – take action, seek professional advice, and allow your hands to heal effectively.
I hope this blog provides clarity on the importance of treating sprained fingers promptly. If you have any questions or need further guidance, feel free to leave a comment below. Take care of your hands, and I’ll see you next time!
About Hoang Tran – an expert in physical & occupational therapy
Hoang Tran is a Miami-certified hand therapist, the owner of Hands-on Therapy Services and the author of the book “The Hands-On Approach”. She loves helping people with hand, neck and shoulder problems because she knows how bad and debilitating they can get if not addressed and treated properly (once and for all!).
Her occupational therapy practice aims to bring patients back to full functionality, without pills, injections or surgery. Occupational and Physical Therapy are both offered at Hands-On Therapy by our experienced therapists who provide a comprehensive approach to your care.
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