When I see someone with a damaged hand or finger, one of the first things I do is remove any rings. You’d think the individual would have already done this, but during an accident it’s difficult to think clearly. Also, many are concerned that it will hurt (it can), while others believe the finger has already swollen too much (sometimes it has).


However, when your finger is excessively swollen, the ring acts like a tourniquet, restricting blood supply to the digit and causing it to perish. What should you do if this happens?

You may not have a ring cutter if you can’t get to a doctor, but you could have an oily substance or some strong string or tape. So, here are two handy methods for removing a ring from a swollen finger:

  1. Simply use soap and water, or any type of oil, to remove the ring. This is truly amazing.
  2. Slide the ring off by wrapping strong string (like dental floss), ribbon-like material (like umbilical tape*), or narrow strips of duct tape around the finger and pushing the swelling toward the fingertip. Tuck one end of the string beneath the ring to help you remove it, as demonstrated in my video above.

If you have a ring cutter, that’s fantastic! I’ve never had a ring that I couldn’t cut off with this.

The last alternative is to saw off the ring with a hacksaw, but use great caution.

Some people just won’t be able to get the ring off. I hope the edema doesn’t progress far enough to cut away circulation. I read about a Marine who chose to have his wounded finger amputated rather than lose his wedding ring.

If you can’t remove the ring, try this to help reduce the swelling:

  • Ice packs, five -10 minutes on, ten minutes off. (Ice the pack in a towel so it doesn’t come into direct contact with your skin.)
  • Keep the injured area at heart level or above.

Because swelling can be caused by an infection, treat any infection with antibiotics.

Have you ever had a finger that got swollen while wearing a ring you couldn’t remove? What did you do about it?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

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