What Is A Jammed Finger?

At its most basic definition, a jammed finger can relate to a sprain or a strain of the ligaments or muscles within the finger, and at most it could be a very serious injury.

A jammed finger is usually related to some sort of impact injury onto the finger or the joint itself. Each finger, with the exception of the thumb, has three joints allowing each finger to bend and at each joint you will have many different tendons and ligaments that allow your finger to articulate. When you move and bend these fingers, the small muscles work with the different ligaments and tendons and give you tremendous grip strength.

So when you jam your finger, a lot of things can go wrong. The first is that you could have a sprain or a strain. Here is the difference, a sprained finger means that you have some ligament damage that may prevent your finger from moving correctly. Ligaments connect bone to bone, and keep a joint stabilized. At the very least, it allows your joint to stay in a secure position, and when you have ligament issues from a jammed finger that is a sprain, then what happens is you can have cartilage damage from the particular finger, or that particular joint.

When it comes to tendon issues, the tendons serve a different function. Tendons connect your bone to muscle, and the tendon traverses the joint. So, when you need to squeeze something, there are a lot of different things at work, and when your hand is clenching something, it is because the tendons have activated because the muscles have contracted and moved the bone the tendon is attached to. When you jam the finger and it is a strain, that means that you have some issues with the tendon and the muscle is not contracting correctly because of the injury.

When it comes to jamming your finger, the pain can be incredibly irritating and in many ways it can stop you from doing many different things that you would like to do.

Should I Worry About A Jammed Finger?

What is a jammed fingerWhenever you are dealing with a jammed finger, there are a lot of different ways that you can deal with it, perhaps the biggest things that you need to know are the treatment modalities. They can be anything from a splint or something simple like aspirin. Regardless of what you would like to do to treat a jammed finger, the key is stabilizing the finger and giving it time to heal.

When you end up having a jammed finger, the reality is it could be a number of different injuries. Anything from a sprain or a strain to a contusion all the way up to a broken finger. Jammed fingers are problematic because there are many different small ligaments and tendons along with different muscles that are integral to moving the finger and using the hand correctly.

There are many different issues that you can have with a jammed finger, but chief among those considerations are the different levels of injury that can be had with a jammed finger. So perhaps you need to think about the different levels of injury that could be had. Some things that you should consider is the extent of the injury. How painful is it? Are you getting relief with anti-inflammatories and ice? Are you able to move the finger and do you have strength in it?

Depending on the answers to these questions is what you need to know about how concerned you should be. If the pain gets worse after the basic RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) treatment for a couple days, then what you need to do is possibly see a doctor. Conversely, if you are unable to move the finger without incredible pain, then what happens is you need to get to a hospital right away. There are some things to think about, however when you are worried about your finger. The first thing to think about how well you are able to move the finger. If you are able to move with pain, that is somewhat alright and if it feels better as time goes by, that’s a good thing as well.

However, if your finger has pain along with severe bruising, then what happens right away is you need to check the joint for stability. If your finger does not move right, then that is when you should be concerned and seek medical attention.

What Is The Medical Term For Jammed Finger?

There are several different medical terms for jammed fingers. Fortunately, the way you learn about these particular injuries is getting medical attention. The biggest terms to know are sprains and strains. As we discussed earlier, there are different symptoms and physical issues that go with the different maladies and how those maladies relate to the physiological structure of the hand. Instead of going into the different types of ligaments and tendons, it makes more sense to talk about the different levels of sprains and strains.

Strains, as we discussed, are tendons and muscles. The different grades of the strains refer to the state of the tendon. A low grade strain has a tendon that may be a bet overstretched. When you go to a mid-grade strain, that might have a tendon partially torn, and of course a high grade strain refers to a tendon that is completely torn – meaning the tendon itself is in two different pieces. Here’s what that means for you – a low grade strain requires the RICE treatment, a mid-grade strain may require physical therapy, while a high grade strain requires surgery and a long rehabilitation.

As far as a sprain goes, the grades are very similar and the different levels of treatment also are the same for ligaments. The big difference with ligaments is getting the joints have greater stabilization. Once the joint is stabilized, it is much easier to rehabilitate.

Most jammed fingers are just that – sprains and strains. Sometimes you will have contusions which is just a fancy word for bruise. If that is the case then you will be in a bit of pain but it will heal quickly enough.

Having a jammed finger isn’t the most pleasant of experiences, but the bottom line is when you know what you are dealing with you will have no problem getting the right treatment even if your injury is on the more severe side.

Jammed Finger Symptoms

Jammed finger symptoms include many different things that you can easily notice, but the key to understanding if you have a jammed finger is knowing the different symptoms and whether those symptoms portend some of the many different issues that can lead to the feeling of a jammed finger.

When you have the initial injury, regardless of how severe the injury is, the first thing you should do right away is get ice on the injury and take some anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin. Reducing the inflammation is key so that you can see exactly what is going on.

The first symptom you will notice is pain. Make sure you notice if the pain is radiating or if it is localized. Also, is the pain on the side of the finger or is it in the middle of the finger – and is the pain on the joint or is it in the middle of a bone? These are all sorts of questions that you need to answer before you consider the next step.

When you are dealing with a sprain, the biggest thing you should notice right away is how stable or unstable the joint is. What you will notice is the joint is unable to do things that are normal, such as holding an item. Your finger will not be able to support the weight, and will cause a fair bit of pain. That is the key with the sprain, your jammed finger’s inability to support its function.

As far as a strain goes, what you will notice is the finger is not able to move the way it should normally move – if anything the finger will not bend. Now, you may be thinking that either way the finger is not moving, and that is usually due to the swelling. That is why it is critical for you to get ice and anti-inflammatories right away – in fact, if you take anti-inflammatories every 4 hours (Aspirin is a great choice) this will greatly reduce the swelling. Once the swelling is reduced you can easily take a look at what is going on with the finger. Take a look at if your finger is bruised and where the bruises are. This will also give you a window as to the severity of the injury as well.

What Does A Jammed Finger Feel Like?

Picture of a jammed thumb - Jammed Finger Symptoms

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So, you may wonder what exactly a jammed finger might feel like – especially in light of these particular injuries. Sprains, strains, contusions, and even broken fingers can have lots of similar symptoms and can have many different types of pain. The thing you must understand is that the pain is critical to understanding how severe the injury is. Generally, jammed fingers occur often as sports injuries but there are some other ways that your finger can get jammed – including something as simple as getting your finger caught in a car door.

As for the pain – wow – it can be quite awful. Some of what you will feel is as simple as having a finger that throbs and the pain will be quite acute and the area hurt will be tender. The swelling will feel awful, it will be as if your finger is jammed into a vise, and ultimately for many the pain can be unbearable, but the reality is a jammed finger is one of the less painful joint injuries compared to those in the knee, ankle, elbow, shoulder and the back – yes, your back is a joint as all the vertebrae articulate.

When it comes to the tenderness, the reality is the area will always be tender until the injury heals. Of course, the tenderness will subside as the injury gets closer to healing, but in the meantime you are going to want to do pain management. This does not mean that you need opioid painkillers, instead Aspirin will help with the pain and the reason you will be in pain comes simply from the fact that the swelling puts pressure on the nerves which in turn cause the pain.

When dealing with the swelling or the joint instability, it feels as if your finger is extremely fat and hard to move. This is the body’s response to trauma. It works hard to repair itself but at the same time you are in a position where as it begins to adapt you are not feeling well. This is why it is important to do the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method when you initially jam your finger, it will allow you to give your body the support it needs to effectively heal the finger. The pain itself can be sharp or dull, but ultimately it varies depending on the injury and the severity.

Jammed Finger vs. Broken Finger

There are several things that are different when diagnosing a jammed finger versus a broken finger. The first is the methodology used to assess the state of the injured finger. Generally, the first move is to do an x-ray. The x-ray will tell you if you have a regular fracture, clean break, stress fracture, or worst of all a compression fracture. If you have a jammed finger, most likely you have a sprain or a strain, and because these are soft tissue injuries, they do not show up on the x-ray.

Even if you have a broken finger, however, one thing that will happen depending on the severity of your injury will be for your hand to have an MRI or even a CAT scan. With injuries like clean breaks or compression fractures, many times surgery is required. In those cases, the doctors need to know exactly what they need to repair. With a jammed finger, the CAT Scan and the MRI assess the grade of the strain or sprain, and also can help the doctor figure out how to mend your finger.

When you have a broken finger, it is also more visible in a lot of ways, the finger will dangle unnaturally and it will be incredibly painful. With a sprain or a strain you may have some use of the finger, even in the most severe of circumstances, but when it comes to a broken finger, you will not have any use of it unless the fracture is something small like a stress fracture.

Jammed Finger Treatment

Jammed finger treatment is relatively straight forward. The first thing you should do whenever you suspect that you have jammed the finger is to immobilize the finger and apply ice to it. If the finger is dislocated, a medical professional should be the person who puts the finger back in place. It can be very tempting to just pop it back into where it is supposed to be, however if you do that then you could make the injury worse than it already is.

After you immobilize the finger and apply ice to it, your next step is to time out 15 minutes. Ice should be applied every 15 minutes, this reduces swelling and if your jammed finger is very serious, then what will happen is the reduction in swelling will lessen the pain and promote healing in a more productive way. Also, it is important to take an anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin. Take two aspirin every four hours during the first couple days then after that go to every 6 hours. How you take care of your jammed finger initially is the difference between if it heals properly or if you do lasting damage.

Finally, if you end up needing medical procedures to treat the jammed finger – including surgery – what these modalities include could be a couple of days stay in the hospital or you could have the procedure done as an outpatient. After surgery is where the real hard work begins, this is the rehab portion. In rehab, what you will be doing is getting the finger back to its working functionality through a variety of exercises designed to strengthen the joint and prevent further injury.

Earlier, it was said that if you had a jammed finger one of the modalities for treatment of said jammed finger is the use of a splint. Splinting has been a part of medicine since the dawn of time, and the reason why it is such an important part of medical treatment is because it works very effectively – similar to how cauterizing a wound prevents infection. In fact, splinting is one of the first known remedies for the breaking of a bone, but there are some limitations.

The first thing to know, however, is how to splint.

How To Splint A Jammed Finger?

Jammed Finger TreatmentWhen you splint a break or a sprain, the goal is to immobilize the joint or bone so that it can begin the healing process.

Depending on the finger, you can easily splint the finger by taping it to another finger – for example if you jam your pinkie finger the ring finger is just as good of a splint as anything else. The finger itself will be immobilized.

For a larger finger such as the middle finger, you need to be sure that you use something bigger and stronger. An easy to apply splint in this case would be something like a tongue depressor. Just get the finger extended, lay it on the tongue depressor, and tape it down. The tape should go across the bones of the finger, not the joint and be sure to tape the nail of the finger to the splint as well, this will prevent even the slightest of movement.

Now, there are some drawbacks to splinting, the first is if you don’t have a jammed finger but instead have something along the lines of a compression fracture. The news here is, those injuries are so severe that you will be in the hospital right away so you won’t need to worry about making a homemade splint.

Compression fractures are the worst breaks and they can often result in amputation of the digit. When you break a finger in a way that’s a complete break, partial fracture or hairline fracture, the finger itself should be splinted and after you get medical treatment most likely the finger will be placed in a splint to promote healing.

For a jammed finger, the need to splint may not be as apparent as with a broken finger, but one of the keys to healing a jammed finger is to immobilize the finger, and few things do that as effectively as a splint.

Jammed Finger Natural Home Remedies

There are several ways to help your finger that are more natural and do not use invasive techniques like surgery or anti-inflammatories. However, it should be noted that if you decide that any of these modalities are treatment options for you, the severity of your jammed finger should be what guides your views on treatment. For example, if the jammed finger is a third degree sprain, then it is completely foolish to use a natural home remedy to treat the injury, in fact you will make this type of injury worse and it will take far longer for your finger to recover.

For a jammed finger that is not a severe injury, there are several different natural home remedies that you can use. The first is massage. Massaging the finger is a fantastic anti-inflammatory modality. The reason is that when you massage anything, the pressure is forcing increased oxygenated blood to flow into the joint. This promotes healing and gets rid of the inflammation because the blood cells are there to remove all the bad elements that can impair your healing.

Another great natural home remedy is one that medical professionals talk about all the time – ice. The coldness prevents swelling and allows your finger to not deal with the immense amount of pressure that comes with swelling. In fact, when it comes to the different ways of dealing with swelling there are natural creams and other balms that will help, but perhaps one of the things that is underrated as far as natural home remedies goes is green tea. When you drink green tea, what it does is provide your body with immune system support. Your immune system is critical to making sure that your body’s defenses are in good working order while you have an injury like a jammed finger. The other thing that green tea is notable for is that it introduces more oxygen into your blood. When this happens, it promotes healing because oxygen is such a critical element.

Ultimately, natural home remedies provide a great way to avoid costly medical treatment for a jammed finger, but as said, you need to make sure that your jammed finger is not a more severe strain, sprain or break. If that is the case and you are using natural home remedies instead of traditional medicine, then you can possibly be opening yourself up to some major issues including possible infections and long-lasting disability because of that injury.

Jammed Finger Healing Time

When you suffer a jammed finger the initial impulse is to try and do everything and anything with the finger in a valiant – but ultimately foolhardy – attempt to keep calm and carry on. Unfortunately, when you do this you could be adding to the time the finger will require to heal instead of just letting nature take its course.

Here is what you need to know about any jammed finger – whether it is a sprain or strain, you are looking at about two to four weeks for healing in case of a minor jam and about four to eight weeks for a major injury, and in that case what you need to do is follow the doctor’s orders.

For many doctors, these orders are not to use the finger for that time, so that means you have to find a new way to do things for a while. That is certainly not too bad of an inconvenience, however when you are in the middle of healing from a jammed finger, those two to eight weeks can feel like a lifetime. However, it is very important to let the time go by.

Of course, the time frame can be adjusted based on the different factors going into how the finger is healing. For instance, if you have a jammed finger that is a result of a grade III sprain, then chances are your healing time will be closer to 12 weeks, and you may even have to do surgery, which could delay the healing and then have to do physical therapy.

Regardless of where you are on the healing scale, depending on different considerations, your time table for healing from a jammed finger could be more or less. For example, if you have diabetes it will take longer than someone without, and if you are younger the body bounces back quicker.

Does A Jammed Finger Heal On Its Own?

Jammed finger healing time

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Often, when it comes to a jammed finger, the finger heals on its own because the injury itself is not too serious, but there is a lot more to it than that.

When we think about the different levels of injury – grades I, II, and III each ends up going through a natural healing process. The reality is despite whatever injury your jammed finger is diagnosed as, if you decide not to do anything and just let things go, the finger will eventually heal.

Now, it could heal to a completely non-functional way or you could end up with a finger working just as well as before the injury. But, as we’ve established, this is a serious roll of the dice and should not be undertaken without considering the option of a trained medical professional.

The healing process for a jammed finger has to do with the body’s ability to repair damaged tissue. The main way the body heals damaged tissue is to produce scar tissue.

There are many properties that scar tissue has, but the key feature is that scar tissue is tough, thick tissue that is stronger than the tissue that was damaged. It is designed to heal the damaged tissue by creating a bridge of new tissue between the damaged ends. This is something that allows you to gain back, if nothing else, partial movement.

The way that the different areas in a sprain or strain are healed surgically come from repairing the damage to the tendons and ligaments. Usually this is through using tendon or ligament tissue that is thicker from another part of the body. Scar tissue will form, and when it does the job of the scar tissue is to secure and attach the repair in place and allow it to function.

The 4 to 8 weeks that soft tissue injuries usually take to heal comes from these injuries having to get rid of swelling and damage to tissue along with the process taking place. The better physical shape you are in, the easier it is for you to heal.

Think of it this way, if you are in good shape then your heart is working well, which means it is pumping oxygen rich blood to your body. That ensures your injuries will heal better. The better your injury heals, the more movement in the joint that you will get back and ultimately that is the key to recovery.

The body itself will heal the jammed finger, but there may be times when you need different modalities in place to facilitate that healing. For example, if you just let a severe sprain heal on its own then it could be a very long time before you can use the finger.

When To See A Doctor For A Jammed Finger?

Seeing a doctor concerning your jammed finger is something you should think about as soon as your finger gets jammed, and there are many reasons for that. The first among these reasons is wanting to be sure that your finger is not seriously injured and if it is to start the best course of action for treating this finger as soon as possible. There are some signs to look for though when seeing a doctor is no longer a choice but is a matter of something needing to be done.

The first of these issues is that you notice your finger is black and blue and not moving correctly. This could be a very serious tendon or ligament issue. If there is a lot of swelling going along with the lack of movement and bruising, then it is imperative to get to a doctor right away, or if it is non-office hours, getting to an emergency room. There is a good chance your finger could be seriously injured, and if that is the case it needs immediate care – you can’t wait around for your doctor to arrive at the office. If you do, you could waste valuable time and impair the healing of your finger.

Other reasons why you should see a doctor regarding the jammed finger is if the finger does not seem to be very injured, but also does not seem to be healing. This could mean the injury is more severe than you think and the doctor needs to make sure that you do not have any other underlying issues beyond the jammed finger causing it not to heal – or if the injury to the finger is in fact quite severe.

Another time to see a doctor is if you have an accident that seems to be a serious one, like your finger getting slammed in a car door. The reason is this could be a compression fracture – not just a jammed finger. If that’s the case you could be dealing with very serious injuries and in those cases untreated injuries could lead to the loss of the finger.

Seeing a doctor is critical to knowing exactly what you are dealing with concerning jammed fingers, and it is always better to be very cautious than to just hope it will all get better.