Broken or sprained finger: How to tell

Do you think you may have broken or sprained your finger? Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell the difference, especially if you’re not familiar with the symptoms. In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between a broken and sprained finger and how long each type of injury typically takes to heal.

We will also cover what type of pain and swelling you might experience with either injury. If you have any of these symptoms, it is best to seek medical attention right away!

What is a broken finger?

A break in a bone is called a fracture. For example, a broken finger could have one or more fractures. These tiny bones are called phalanges, and they make up the joints at the end of your fingers and toes.

The most common symptom of a broken finger is pain. You also may see swelling and bruising around the injured finger. In addition, you may feel like you can’t move your finger normally.

If you have a broken finger, it is suggested that you get an x-ray to check the extent of the injury and to see if you need a splint or other type of treatment.

How do you tell if a finger is broken?

Several symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness, and bruising. The finger could also appear misshapen or deformed. Below are the symptoms of a broken finger; you might experience some of these symptoms:

  • The skin around the injured area may be bruised or turn black and blue.
  • Deformed
  • curvature
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling:
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Issues bending the finger
  • Numbness

What might cause a finger to break?

Hand bone

For those who fall, work hard with there hands, or play sports could all be a common causes of a broken finger. Most fractures happen when a direct blow to the finger, such as slamming it into a door. A bone can also break if bent too far in the wrong direction.


Treatment will be determined by having it medically reviewed by a doctor. They may put the finger in a splint or cast. 

Surgery may be needed in the most severe cases if the bone is out of place or the break is severe.

Buddy taping may also be used as a temporary measure to support the finger. This is when you tape the injured finger to a healthy one.


Recovery time for a broken finger is typically around six weeks. However, this can vary depending on the severity of the break and if surgery was needed. Therefore, it is crucial to follow the doctor’s orders during recovery to prevent further injury.

What is a finger sprain?

Finger sprains occur when the ligaments that hold your joints together are stretched or torn. Symptoms of finger sprains include pain, swelling, and bruising around the affected joint. A sprained finger may also feel stiff and be difficult to move.

What symptoms will finger sprains have?

The symptoms of finger sprains are pain, swelling, and bruising around the affected joint. A sprained finger may also feel stiff and be difficult to move. Even in severe cases, you could have the following common symptoms:

  • Pain
  • swelling
  • bruising
  • stiffness
  • difficulty moving

How to know if your finger is sprained?

Hand Cast

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it is crucial to see a doctor or other medical professional to get an accurate, medically reviewed diagnosis. They will likely ask about your symptoms and how the injury occurred.

They may also perform a physical examination of the injured finger, during which they will check for tenderness, swelling, and range of motion in the affected finger.

Imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRIs, may also be ordered to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as a fracture.


If you believe you have a sprained finger, there are some treatments you can try after you have a proper medically reviewed diagnosis; these may include:

  • Taping up or using a splint to help prevent further issues or injury
  • RICE: This is short for rest, ice, compression, elevation
  • Using an ice pack to help reduce swelling and pain
  • Resting and avoiding any activity
  • Medication such as Aleve, ibuprofen

Recovery time

For finger sprains, recovery time is generally two to three weeks. The joint will be both painful and swollen for the first few days.

You may need to wear a splint or wrap to support the joint and relieve pain. As the swelling goes down, you’ll be able to move your finger more easily.

What is the difference between a brake and a sprain

A broken finger is a break in one or more of the bones in your finger. Finger sprains are injuries to the ligaments that hold your joints together.

Both injuries can cause pain, swelling, and bruising around the affected joint. A broken finger may also cause the bone to protrude through the skin.

How to relieve pain

You can do a few things to help ease the pain of a broken finger or finger sprains. First, try holding the injured finger above your heart. This will help reduce swelling.

Applying ice to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Before applying the ice make sure to wrap the ice in a thin cloth, so you don’t cause further injury.

Finally, over-the-counter pain medication like Ibuprofen can help with the discomfort. If you’re still in a lot of pain after trying these home remedies, it’s time to see a doctor.

They will need to check your finger further to see if it’s broken or just a sprain. In some cases, you may need a splint or cast to help the finger heal properly.

Frequently asked questions

Can you wiggle your finger if it’s broken? No, if you have a broken finger, you will not be able to wiggle it. A finger sprain; however, you may still be able to move it.

When should you see a doctor for a finger injury? You should see a doctor for a finger injury if you’re still in pain after trying home remedies, if the swelling doesn’t go down, or if you can’t move your finger. A proper medically reviewed diagnosis should be made.

How common are broken fingers? Broken fingers are common injuries, primarily since we use our hands much. Broken fingers can happen for many reasons, but trauma is one of the main reasons finger bones get broken.

What is a finger dislocation? A finger dislocation is an injury in which the ends of your bones are no longer aligned.

This can cause pain, swelling, and difficulty moving your finger. Dislocations can occur after a fall, sports injury, or car accident.

If you have a dislocated finger, you will need to see a doctor so they can put the bone back into place in most cases.

What is a jammed finger? A jammed finger is an injury to the soft tissues of your finger. 

This can cause pain, swelling, and bruising. It can also make it difficult to move your finger. 

A jammed finger is usually caused by trauma, such as a fall or car accident.

Getting a proper diagnosis

There are a few different ways to tell if you have broken or sprained your finger. One is the appearance of the injury. A break usually involves an obvious deformity, whereas a sprain may not.

Pain is also a good indicator. For example, a break will usually be quite painful, while a sprain may not be as bad.

Swelling is another way to tell the difference. A break will usually involve more swelling than a sprain.

If you think you may have broken or sprained your finger, it’s essential to see a doctor get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Left untreated, these injuries can lead to further problems down the road. So if you’re not sure, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and get it checked out.

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About ASmith

Adam Smith is the main researcher and contributor at Mobility Medical Supply. Adam has many years of research in public data, and software security. With Mobility issues within Adam's family, he decided to dedicate in-depth guides on mobility products to anyone looking to improve movement and gain independence.