What are Wrist and Finger Sprains?

The joints between the bones of the hand and wrist are held in the proper alignment by thick bands of tissue called ligaments. A sprain is simply an injury of one or more ligaments. Mild sprains correspond with partial ligament injuries, while severe sprains correspond with complete tears of one or more ligaments. Finger and wrist sprains are extremely common, and usually mild.


Wrist and finger sprains are generally caused by trauma. Whether it is due to a fall or a sports injury, excessive force bending a joint beyond its normal range of motion can tear or rupture the ligaments holding that joint together. In severe injuries, the joint may actually dislocate (pop out of place). Joint dislocations almost always indicate a significant ligament injury.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Pain and tenderness at the injured joint(s)
  • Prolonged joint stiffness
  • Finger sprains can be especially stiff for prolonged periods
  • Prolonged joint swelling
  • Rings may not fit over sprained knuckles for months
  • Instability or “giving way” of the joint with use

Is There a Test for Wrist and Finger Sprains?

Your symptoms and medical history as well as an examination of your hand and wrist can help to diagnose finger and wrist sprains. Without x-rays, it can often be difficult to differentiate a severe sprain from a more serious fracture or dislocation, so don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. X-rays are often taken to rule out fractures. MRI may be needed to adequately the wrist ligaments for severe wrist sprains.


Treatment for sprains is usually nonoperative unless there is a severe ligament injury or associated fracture or dislocation. Nonoperative treatments include temporary splinting, activity modification, NSAIDs, and ice packs. Sprained fingers are often buddy taped to allow for early movement of the joints to prevent stiffness. Sometimes hand therapy is beneficial to help recover motion and strength.  

Ready to confirm a diagnosis and fix the problem or just want to learn more?

Our board-certified orthopedic hand and wrist surgeons Eric Angermeier, MD and Kyle Kokko, MD, PhD, are here to help! They can often diagnose the problem in one visit, and get you started with a treatment plan. We offer a wide variety of both nonoperative and operative treatment options.

Call today for a clinic or telehealth appointment! 854-429-4263