Finger Sprain Injuries
A Physiotherapist’s Guide To Help Fix Your Finger Sprain Injuries
Did you sprain or dislocate your fingers playing a sport or from a fall? Depending on the finger, it can affect your everyday life significantly.
Joint sprains and dislocations of the finger can happen when there is a sudden high force impact that stretches the joint past its range of motion. When this happens, the ligaments and joint capsule can tear.
I have recently dislocated my pinky finger so I can relate how you may feel. I hurt it playing basketball and dislocated a joint on my pinky when the ball hit it at an awkward angle. Next thing I knew, I looked down and my finger was off to the side. Swelling was immediately apparent below the joint line.
rehabilitate a dislocated or Finger Sprain Injuries
With a dislocation, it is common that you cannot move the dislocated joint. So I was not able to bend it at all even with all my might. Long story short, I had to go to the ER, get it X-rayed to see if it is fractured, which thankfully it was not. I had a nerve block on my ulnar nerve to numb any pain and prepared to have it relocated by the ER doctor as I couldn’t do this myself. I was discharged without any instructions on how to manage this injury.
Good thing that I am a Physio.
So if this sounds like something similar that you went through, I would love to share with you how you can manage and rehabilitate a dislocated or Finger Sprain Injuries. You can replicate this with any joint in the finger by following these principles.
First of all….Finger Sprain Injuries can take a long time to heal!
Before we begin, I want to stress that Finger Sprain Injuries can take longer time to heal, from 4 -6 weeks to even longer. It could persist for months if not managed well. This, of course, depends on the severity of the injury and what your normal daily activities are.
Because we have a tendency to use our hands and fingers all the time, it can be easy to reaggravate. So you have to be patient and disciplined in your rehabilitation program and modify some of your lifestyle habits to minimize unnecessary stress to it.
Our hands and fingers are also relatively far away from your body so there is relatively less circulation. In our fingers, there are no muscles to pump out swelling as the moving part for the fingers only involves tendons.
P.O.L.I.C.E Principle to Rehabilitate
Our rehab program for Finger Sprain Injuries and dislocations will follow the acronym POLICE. It stands for
P – Protection
OL – Optimal Loading
I – Ice
C – Compression
E – Elevation
I will go through this one by one, and if you follow this acronym, you will recover nicely.
We can protect the joint by using some tape. The tape allows for limited protected movement in the early stages to prevent reaggravating the injury.
We may simply apply athletic tape over the injured finger joint. Few things to keep in mind:
– Tape the injured joint with it slightly bent
– Overlap the joint a few times to reinforce it
– Your joint should feel supported and excess movement is not allowed.
Optimal Loading is a term where you use the injured area in a way that keeps it from getting too stiff and weak. But at the same time, you are not overusing it and reaggravating it.
So you want to load the Finger Sprain Injuries in an optimal way. The key is to work on the exercises without significantly increasing your pain level during or afterwards. With rehab, there is no such thing as no pain no gain – you will need to respect your pain and what it tells you.
Here are a few exercises that I will show you so that you can begin after spraining your fingers. I will be demonstrating the technique using the pinky finger.
Joint blocking exercise
This helps to enhance movement to specific joints in the finger
Block DIP joint – Bend and Extend
Try to do these exercises 15 reps, 5 times per day on each joint of the affected fingers
Sustained finger flexion bend gentle and extension
Try to bend and straighten the finger with a little help with your other hand
Hold each bend and straighten for 15 seconds, 5 times per day
Elevated opening and closing of the hands
This one can be done with a bit of elevation above the level of the heart. Simply open up your hands as wide as you can, and then alternate closing your hands and make a fist.
Ice therapy allows for initial reduction of swelling and inflammation caused by the trauma. In the acute stage for the first few days, you may apply ice 2-3 times per day. Then I would suggest moving to a contrast bath.
As mentioned earlier, the lack of muscles in the hands reduces the ability to pump out swelling. A contrast bath is a great way to simulate the pumping mechanism. Hot water increases the blood flow due to vasodilation and cold water reduces the blood flow through vasoconstriction. To do this you will need a tub of comfortably hot water and a tub of ice water.
Submerge the area of injury alternating 1 minute warm, 1 minute cold, 10 minutes
Compressing the injured finger joint helps to prevent swelling to the area. Swelling slows down the healing process so it is important to get a good handle on it!
I recommend Coban tape (or any other compression tape)
Coban is great as it is flexible (and compressive) and sticks to itself and nothing else!
A few tips on compression of the injured finger
– Start the compression taping away furthest from the body and then move it towards the body (core). This allows the tape to help ‘push’ the swelling back to the circulatory system (core).
– You should not feel any numbness and pain in the injured finger. If you do so, you may be cutting off your circulation. Loosen the compression and re apply.
– Compress the injured finger with the tape at angles to reduce the chance of cutting off the circulation.
Elevating the injured body part above the level of the heart can help reduce the swelling, via gravity. This helps to flush the swelling back to the core of the body.
The longer the swelling remains in the injured area, the more limited your range of motion is, and potentially more pain and delayed healing. If you have injured your fingers, hands, I would advise that you regularly elevate them, especially while you are doing your exercises.
Feeling stuck? EastWest Physiotherapy in Burnaby has treatment methods to help speed up your recovery process. We will be happy to assist you in your road to recovery.