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How do I Treat a Swollen Finger?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Jan 24, 2024
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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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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Discussion Comments
By anon999328 — On Dec 09, 2017

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.

By anon996486 — On Sep 06, 2016

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.

By anon996243 — On Jul 30, 2016

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?

By anon988095 — On Feb 08, 2015

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

By anon963129 — On Jul 28, 2014

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

By anon963119 — On Jul 28, 2014

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?

By pillsincart — On Jan 20, 2014

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

By anon358234 — On Dec 10, 2013

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.

By anon330628 — On Apr 17, 2013

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.

By anon330499 — On Apr 16, 2013

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.

By anon154702 — On Feb 21, 2011

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.

By anon137688 — On Dec 28, 2010

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!

By anon131754 — On Dec 03, 2010

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?

By Charlie89 — On Jul 26, 2010

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.

By gregg1956 — On Jul 26, 2010

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.

By TunaLine — On Jul 26, 2010

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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