A jammed finger usually occurs playing sports with balls. The ball hits the finger and “jams” it. In reality, the finger is injured because it is being bent backward. The middle joint (the pip or proximal interphalangeal joint) is bent backward (hyperextended).
This injury has several stages of severity:
- The bottom of the pip joint is held by the volar plate – this is a rectangular structure that functions like a ligament. When the finger is mildly hyperextended, this structure is stretched resulting in a finger sprain (photo from www.eorthopod.com).
- If the finger continues to hyperextend, then two things occur. The volar plate having reached its limit of stretch, is now pulled off its attachment, pulling off a fragment of bone with it. The ligaments on the sides of the finger now also get stretched. This results in a finger sprain that is more serious with swelling and bruising.
- If the finger continues to hyperextend, it will then dislocate. This will require a visit to the emergency room to have the physician reduce or set the finger.
- Note that not every jammed finger is a ligament injury or sprain. Sometimes serious fractures can occur that require very different treatment than that outlined below.
As the finger is more severely injured, the treatment changes and the time for recovery is longer. Options can
- aluminum foam splint
- buddy taping
The key to a successful result is avoid stiffness by not splinting too long. A typical length of time is 7-10 days and then motion is started. This should be under the direction of your doctor. You should know that the finger joint often can look swollen for months! As long as the motion is normal, and the finger is stable, and the pain is resolved, the swelling is not necessarily a problem.