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How to Safely Remove a Ring from a Swollen Finger

How to Safely Remove a Ring from a Swollen Finger

by Shelia M. Tenny, OTR/L, CHT1 Comment

If you’ve ever had a ring stuck on your finger, it can cause a bit of panic and frustration. For that reason, the Hand Therapists at Athletico are offering a couple of strategies to safely remove a ring from your finger before a more serious situation arises. These strategies can help prevent a trip to the jeweler to have your ring repaired if your precious jewelry were needed to be cut off.

Why Do Rings Get Stuck?

There are several reasons why a ring may become stuck on a finger. A ring could be too small, arthritis in joints can cause swelling, as can fluid retention, or warm weather could all be contributing factors. Over time, your fingers can also become larger on a ring if it is rarely removed, causing it to become stuck.

A traumatic injury such as a fracture, or any injury in the arm or hand, can often cause swelling in the hand or fingers. Not removing a ring in this situation could allow the ring to turn into a tourniquet. This can result in serious side effects including loss of sensation and blood flow and potential tendon damage, which could lead to permanent tissue damage and the need for amputation of the digit. If your finger is swollen because of an injury to the finger, it is best to have a medical professional assess your situation before attempting these techniques. Attempting to remove a ring in this situation could potentially cause more damage, should there be a displaced fracture or other injury that should not be disturbed.

Tips to Safely Remove a Ring

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand and other experts in emergency medicine suggest these method to safely remove a ring.1

  • Reduce Swelling
    • First, try to reduce the swelling. Place ice around the ring and finger and elevate the hand overhead for 5-10 minutes. The cold will cause blood vessels to constrict, decreasing the swelling. The elevation will allow gravity to assist, keeping some of the blood flow out of the finger. This strategy alone, may be enough to decrease the swelling to allow safe removal of the ring from a finger.
  • Use a Lubricant
    • Use a lubricant such as soap and water, oil, or Windex. Yes Windex! The surfactants help to reduce the surface tension between the ring and the skin, making the ring easier to maneuver off of the finger. Also, Windex will not gum up your ring like other lubricants such as oil or lotion could.
  • Dental Floss
    • Below are instructions from ASSH on how to use dental floss or a thin elastic cord to compress the swollen finger for safe removal.

1. Slip the thread, floss or thin elastic cording, under the stuck ring with the bulk of it toward the fingertip. You can use a needle and thread to rung the floss or string under the ring. Thin tweezers can also be used to pass thin elastic under the ring.

How to Safely Remove a Ring from a Swollen Finger


2. Beginning at the top of the ring, tightly wrap the finger with the thread/floss numerous times to compress the finger. Continue this until you are all the way up and over the knuckle.

How to Safely Remove a Ring from a Swollen Finger


3. With the end that was under the ring, begin to unwrap the thread or floss with the ring, by pulling towards the fingertip. This will allow the ring to slide over the knuckle as it continues to unwind.

How to Safely Remove a Ring from a Swollen Finger


If these strategies do not work, know that the ring can be cut off with a ring cutter by a jeweler, by a local EMT or fire department, or at the emergency room.

If you have any questions about hand or upper extremity pain or injuries, schedule an appointment with one of our occupational/hand therapists! Appointments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.

Find a Hand Therapist Near You

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

References:
1. ASSH. (n.d.). How To Get A Ring Off. ASSH.Org. https://www.assh.org/handcare/safety/how-to-get-a-ring-off
2. Scott Frothingham, June 2019. 6 Ways to Get a Ring Off a Swollen Finger. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-a-ring-off-a-swollen-finger
3. Rahimian et all, April 19. Cureus 11 (4): e4474. Resolution of Ring Tourniquet with a High-speed Dental Drill in a Remote Pacific Island.
4. Asher, Christian et al. (2019) Ring removal: an illustrated summary of the literature. Eur J Emerg Med
5. Patkar, Mihir. (2013) Remove a Stuck Ring From Your Finger With Windex. Http://lifehacker.com/remove-a-stuck-ring-from your-finger-with-windex-1461023241

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1 Comment

  1. Cathy

    Love the thread idea! It is heat, tho, that makes metal expand. Cold just shrinks the metal making it harder to remove. So if you can handle hot water/wet towel on your finger long enough for the metal to expand, without burning yourself, then put soap or lubricant on the finger, the ring will come off easier. I do this all summer when my hands are more swollen; in winter when my fingers are colder, it’s less of a problem. Sometimes I put a ring in hot water to be able to put it on past my arthritic knuckles.

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