Buddy taping is an easy and convenient way to treat an injured finger or toe. Buddy taping refers to the practice of bandaging an injured finger or toe to an uninjured one.
The uninjured digit acts as a sort of splint, and helps to support, protect, and realign your finger or toe. It can also help prevent further injury to the digit.
Buddy taping can be used for minor finger and toe injuries such as sprains or strains. You shouldn’t use it if there are any obvious deformities from the injury, such as a bone at an odd angle.
Seek medical attention if you have any open wounds that could require stitches, bones visibly out of place, or severe pain.
Read on to for instructions on how to buddy tape and more information about when and when not to use this treatment method.
It’s possible to buddy tape your own fingers or toes, but it may be helpful to have someone do it for you, if possible.
For your toes, always tape the injured toe to the neighboring toe closest to your big toe. However, avoid buddy taping the big toe. If you injure your toe closest to the big toe, tape it to the middle toe. If you’ve injured your big toe, you can tape it by itself to help stabilize it, if necessary.
For your fingers, you can use trial and error to decide which finger to tape the injured finger to. Taping your ring finger to your middle finger may be more stable, but taping it to your pinky finger will allow you to have more mobility.
The same goes for your middle finger when deciding if you want to tape it to your index finger or your ring finger. Similar to your big toe, you should avoid buddy taping your thumb, but you can tape it on its own to help stabilize it.
To buddy tape, you’ll need:
- alcohol or antiseptic wipes
- soft padding such as foam, gauze, or cotton
- medical cloth or zinc oxide tape
To buddy tape a finger or toe:
- If you have broken skin, clean the affected area using alcohol or antiseptic wipes.
- Dry your skin thoroughly and place the padding between your fingers or toes.
- Starting at the base, wrap the tape around the digits.
- Wrap the tape around two to three times. Use gentle pressure as you wrap the tape without making it too tight.
- After taping, check that you still have good circulation to the digits. To do this, press the tips of your fingers or toes for a few seconds, and then release. If they fill back up with blood, then the wrap isn’t too tight. If they stay pale, then you’ve wrapped the tape too tight. You should remove the tape and start over.
- Cut the tape from the roll before you start taping to make it easier to apply.
- Change the tape each time you shower or bathe to prevent skin irritation.
- Always clean the affected area between tapings.
- Pay attention to how your skin is reacting or healing. Watch out for signs of infection or irritation.
- Remove the tape if you feel any pain or numbness.
- Reduce the width of the tape to make it more comfortable.
Usually, your toe or finger will heal within two to six weeks. To help improve your recovery:
- ice and elevate your injured hand or foot as much as possible, especially during the first few days
- take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen to alleviate pain
- avoid putting pressure on your affected digits and refrain from any activities that could lead to stress or strain
- rest the injured digit as much as possible
The healthy digit works as a splint to support the injured digit and keep it in the correct position, protecting it from further injury.
Keeping the injured finger or toe stable helps to prevent any unnecessary movements, and reduces inflammation. Together, these factors help to promote a speedy recovery.
Generally, buddy taping is safe for most people, but there are a few complications that could occur, especially if it’s not done properly. Pay attention to how your body is healing to make sure your symptoms are improving. Remove the tape if any of your symptoms get worse after taping.
It’s possible that one of the taped digits will become stiff and difficult to move. Be sure the tape is loose enough to promote healthy circulation.
Avoid buddy taping if you have:
- peripheral arterial disease
- any type of circulation concern
Taping has the potential to irritate skin. This can occur where the tape touches your skin and in between the affected digits. Check your skin each time you change the tape and keep an eye out for any redness, swelling, or discharge.
Don’t buddy tape any digits that have open wounds, cuts, or broken skin. Taping injured skin has the potential to cause infections. Skin necrosis, or the death of tissue, is also possible.
Seek medical attention if you:
- have severe pain, swelling, or discoloration in your finger or toe that doesn’t improve within a few days
- think you have a broken finger or are unable to straighten it
- think you need stitches
- have injured toe that’s making it difficult to walk or wear shoes, or an injured finger that’s making it difficult to hold things or use your hand
Buddy taping can be an effective healing treatment provided it’s done the proper way. Keep an eye on your healing process to make sure you’re healing correctly and without complications.
Always talk to your doctor if you have any questions or if your injury appears to be getting worse. As your injury heals, take care of yourself and take time to rest. Follow a healthy diet, and engage in regular exercise that doesn’t affect your injured hand or foot.