How to Get a Ring Off a Swollen Finger

A ring stuck on your finger can be frustrating. It can also be dangerous. But don't worry: There are a number of simple techniques you can try at home to remove a stuck ring.

Try twisting it off

Grasp the ring and gently twist it back and forth while slowly pulling your finger from the ring.

Avoid tugging too much. Being rough could cause additional swelling.

Try Windex

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand suggests squirting Windex (an ammonia-based window cleaner) on the ring and finger, then trying to gently ease the ring off your finger.

Try lubricating it off

To help the ring slide off your finger, try lubricating it with a slippery substance, such as:

  • petroleum jelly
  • vegetable oil
  • liquid dishwashing soap
  • butter
  • hand lotion
  • cooking spray
  • hair conditioner or shampoo
  • coconut oil
  • baby oil
  • shortening (lard)
  • mineral oil
Reduce swelling

Reduce swelling using the RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) method. It's a common step in first aid for strains and sprains.

You can adapt it to help remove a stuck ring:

  1. Fully submerge your finger with the stuck ring into a cup of ice water.
  2. Hold your hand with the finger in the cup over your head for about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the finger from the ice water. With your other hand, compress your finger above the stuck ring.
  4. Slowly and gently ease the ring off your finger. Consider adding some lubrication.
  5. You might have to repeat this process a number of times, allowing a 5- to 10-minute break between attempts.
Try wrapping it off

The Harvard Medical School suggests the wrap method:

  1. Tightly and evenly wrap dental floss around the finger above the ring and past the lower knuckle.
  2. Start unwrapping the dental floss from the area closest to the string.
  3. As you unwrap the dental floss, the ring should move up the finger and off.
  4. If the ring doesn't come off, remove the dental floss and get emergency care.
Try cutting it off

A specialty tool called a ring cutter can cut the ring without damaging your finger.

Most jewelers, fire departments, and emergency rooms have a ring cutter.

When to get medical help

See your doctor before attempting to remove a stuck ring if the swelling is from an injury, you have a cut or wound on your finger, or both.

Your doctor can provide options that should avoid additional damage and risk of infection.

Seek emergency care if your injured finger is:

  • swollen
  • discolored
  • has no feeling

The ring could be acting as a tourniquet on your finger, which could cause serious permanent damage.

How rings get stuck

There are a number of ways that rings get stuck on fingers. Some common ways include:

  • You tried on a ring that's too small for your finger.
  • You've worn the ring for a long period of time and your finger has grown.
  • Your finger is swelling due to trauma or injury.
  • Since you've put on the ring, your knuckles have enlarged due to a condition such as arthritis.
  • You're retaining fluids due to diet or a condition, such as kidney disease or thyroid disease.
Ring resizing

Once the ring is no longer stuck on your finger, consider getting the ring resized to avoid a future incident.

To resize a ring, a reputable jeweler will cut the ring shank and add enough metal to get the ring to a larger size. They'll then solder it all together. Finally, they'll polish the ring until the change is virtually invisible.

The total cost depends on the type and amount of metal needed as well as the jeweler's time.

Resizing will typically work with the following metals:

  • sterling silver
  • gold
  • platinum

Rings made with certain metals can't be resized. These include stainless steel and titanium.

Takeaway

There are a number of ways to help get a ring off a swollen finger, from lubrication to swelling reduction. There's even a tool for safely cutting a ring off a finger.

If your finger is swollen because of an injury, consider having your doctor take a look at it before trying removal techniques that could possibly cause more damage.

If your finger is very swollen, discolored, and either numb or extremely painful, get emergency care to avoid possible permanent damage.

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