How do I Treat a Swollen Finger?

B. Miller

A swollen finger can be caused by a number of things, including injuries, infections, or even repetitive motion. If a finger is broken or infected, it is important to seek medical attention instead of trying to deal with problem yourself. If it is jammed or twisted, but not broken, and does not have an open wound, then the Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (RICE) method is generally the best treatment. This promotes healing and decreases pain by reducing the inflammation, improving circulation, and preventing you from accidentally damaging the swollen finger further by restricting its movement.

A man with a swollen middle finger.
A man with a swollen middle finger.


Rest the hand and use ice to cool the affected area. This eases the pain from the injury and reduces swelling. Do not apply the ice directly to the skin, which can reduce blood flow too much and damage the skin, potentially causing frostbite. Instead, wrap it in a towel and put it on the injury. Do this for sessions of 10 to 20 minutes, three or more times per day. It's important not to leave the ice on for more than 20 minutes at a time, since having too little blood flow in the area could cause tissue damage and slow recovery.

Epsom salts can help with a swollen finger.
Epsom salts can help with a swollen finger.

Next, wrap the swollen finger with an elastic bandage. Apply it tightly enough to reduce movement, but not so tightly that it cuts off circulation. If it is uncomfortably tight or causes increased pain, feelings of numbness, coolness, or tingling, loosen it. Using a non-elastic or excessively tight bandage can aggravate swelling or keep the finger from getting enough blood.

Antibiotic ointment can be applied to a finger that's swollen because of an open wound.
Antibiotic ointment can be applied to a finger that's swollen because of an open wound.

Finally, elevate your hand. This is usually only necessary for a day or two. You can also soak the finger or hand in a mixture of warm water and Epsom salts for approximately 20 to 30 minutes twice a day. If it does not improve, and is painful, warm, or tender to the touch, you should seek medical attention rule out infection, a break, or tendon damage.

An ice pack can help with a swollen finger.
An ice pack can help with a swollen finger.

Open Wounds

A little swelling is a normal part of healing for open wounds, but persistent swelling is a warning sign of infection and should be examined by a healthcare professional. You can reduce the risk of an infection by cleaning the wound thoroughly with soap and water or a disinfectant, applying antibiotic ointment, and keeping it covered with a sterile bandage.

Be sure to check the swollen finger regularly to be sure it is healing. If the swelling doesn't go down, or redness, warmth, discharge, or streaks on the finger or hand appear, seek medical help immediately. Open wounds caused by rusty objects, human or animal bites, or deep punctures are especially at risk for infection, and should receive immediate medical attention — do not wait until symptoms have already appeared to see a healthcare professional.

Other Causes

Swelling caused by arthritis or repetitive motion injuries often takes a long time to heal. Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can provide some relief. Otherwise, resting the hand may be the best course of action. Try not to spend all day typing at the computer or continually performing other repetitive tasks with your hands or fingers without taking breaks. If you have continuously swollen fingers, then you should seek medical attention, as this could be a sign of conditions like edema, cellulitis, lupus, or gout.

An injured finger may be set in a splint to prevent movement while it heals.
An injured finger may be set in a splint to prevent movement while it heals.

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Discussion Comments


Might as well wait till your permanent damage takes place. I have been to the ER three times and health clinic two times before they even took an interest in my swollen finger. I finally got a culture done and am awaiting results.


I have had a swollen finger for 3 weeks and it hasn't gotten any better. Also I don't even remember how I got it; it's just swollen.


What could cause instant localized swelling as if it was by a bug sting, but without leaving any kind of mark or sharp pain?

I was just putting stuff away, and maybe brushed up against something (but maybe not). Oddly, it did not begin with a sharp pain that gradually decreased. Instead there was a sudden mild sensation that slowly increased to a mild, localized, dull pain as a small bump on my fingertip quickly formed.

It swelled up so fast that I could watch as the bump in my fingertip clearly grew until there was a localized swollen area. Several minutes later it was pain-free unless I pressed hard on it, but the swelling remained. There was never any discoloration. Any idea what this could have been?


My daughter hated it but her swollen finger felt way better. I used a pin to drain the pus and relieve the pressure.


I was playing throwball and the ball hit the tip of my finger. Now the joint area is swollen. Any idea why?


I had a tiny spot on my finger. I started to scratch it and it went massive and swollen. It infected the whole top part of my left hand. What should I do?


I have no idea about it. You'd better see your doctor.


I have to agree with anon137688 although I don't play a piano. I injured my pointing finger while playing basketball and it started to swell but it is more of bulky rather than mushy. I hope this works.


I have swollen fingers and they contain pus. As soon as they have a little pressure put on them, the pus oozes out along with blood. Doctors don't understand the cause of this and so no treatment. Does anyone know what I should do? I have tried everything.


I just had a 20 pound weight descend on my finger after doing an exercise. My finger is swollen and basically purple. It doesn't really hurt that much, instead is just tingly. I'll try this. I hope I have no tendon damage.


This just happened to me, but it has never happened before. it was really cold (snow) outside and my fingers got really cold (no gloves). Of course when I got inside, I got that intense tingly feeling and my fingers started to warm up pretty fast (typical). The atypical part is that one of my fingers started to swell. I was pulling a suitcase with that hand so maybe that had something to do with it, but still I've lived through cold and colder weather before and nothing like this has ever happened to me, that I can remember.


I'm a seventh grader who plays piano and basketball, but can't do either of them because of my swollen index finger. I'm going to try this out and come back in two days. Wish me luck!


I have noticed that my fingers get swollen after i wear other people's gloves. I always forget this and borrow my friend's gloves. Is this strange?


Unfortunately, most of the time the only thing you can do about a swollen finger is just wait for it to heal -- it's a bummer, but that's the way it is.


If you only have swollen fingers in the morning, it could simply be that you have poor circulation while sleeping, or sleep in a position that limits blood flow to your hands.

However, if this is the case, the swelling should go down quickly.

If it doesn't, it could be a sign of something more serious, like edema or a side effect to a medication, and you should see a doctor.


A swollen finger can also be a sign of an infection under the nail, particularly if the swelling is around the cuticles, or near the end of the nail.

Luckily, most nail infections respond quickly to treatment, so if you've got that kind of swelling, see your doctor ASAP.

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