Why Jamming Your Finger Hurts So Bad

Jamming your finger is a common sports injury, but can also occur in day-to-day life. For athletes, it can happen when you go to catch a basketball or football but it smashes into your fingertip (via Mayo Clinic). Other common causes include catching your finger in a door or drawer as it closes or using your hand to break a fall to the ground. All of these instances involve blunt impact that compresses the tip of the finger back toward the hand, causing a condition known as a jammed finger (via Healthline).

When a finger is jammed, the ligaments, or the soft, flexible tissues that connect your bones, are stretched or sprained, according to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH). This is what causes the pain associated with a jammed finger. The stronger the force of the blow, the more painful the injury. If forceful enough, the ligament can tear. Torn tendons, fractures, and dislocations may also occur.

How to treat a jammed finger

Oftentimes, you can treat a jammed finger at home. Start by applying ice for 15 minutes every hour to get the swelling down. Keep the finger elevated and take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease the pain. If the pain becomes excessive or you can't straighten and bend your finger, call your doctor or go to your local emergency room, as you may have a torn tendon or a fractured bone.

After examining your finger for position, movement, pain, and swelling and taking an X-ray if needed, your doctor will determine the proper treatment. This may involve using a splint or buddy strapping the jammed finger to a healthy nearby finger. In some instances, surgery may be necessary. A hand therapist can also help with exercises to get the affected finger back to its full range of motion. After the injury has healed, practicing making a fist, squeezing a ball, and crumpling a small dish towel can help strengthen it (via the American Academy of Pediatrics).