Merck Manual

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How To Buddy-Tape Fingers


Miranda Lewis

, MD, University of Washington

Reviewed/Revised Jul 2021 | Modified Sep 2022

Buddy-taping a finger dynamically splints one finger to an adjacent, uninjured finger.

In buddy-taping, a digit that requires immobilization (eg, because of an injury or deformity) is attached to an adjacent, unaffected digit, helping to provide alignment as well as support and protection. The unaffected digit provides support during range of motion of the injured digit.


  • Minor finger sprain*

  • Nondisplaced stable fracture of the proximal or middle phalanx

  • Proximal interphalangeal (PIP) dislocations (reduced)

* Includes sprains with small avulsion fracture.



  • Skin breakdown due to lack of padding between fingers

  • Vascular compromise, usually due to an overly tight application


  • Cotton or gauze for padding

  • Adhesive tape 1.25 cm (½ inch)

Additional Considerations

  • Dislocations should be reduced.

  • Consider a digital block before splinting if manipulation or reduction is required.


  • The patient should be positioned so that the operator has appropriate access to the patient's affected finger.

Step-by-Step Description of Procedure

  • Insert cotton padding or gauze between the fingers being splinted to prevent skin maceration between the fingers. Ensure there are no folds in the gauze between the fingers.

  • Apply tape around both fingers to bind the injured finger against the uninjured finger.

  • Use one strip of tape to bind adjacent phalanges proximally between the metacarpophalangeal and proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joints, leaving the interphalangeal joints untaped to allow them to flex and extend.

  • Use a second piece of tape to bind the 2 digits distally between the PIP and distal interphalangeal (DIP) joints, again leaving the interphalangeal joints untaped to allow motion of those joints.

  • Check distal sensation and capillary refill.


  • Arrange or recommend appropriate follow-up.

  • Patient should keep the tape and padding dry to avoid skin breakdown and change the dressing if it becomes wet.

  • Instruct the patient to seek further care if pain cannot be controlled with oral drugs at home.

Warnings and Common Errors

  • Taping too tightly can restrict circulation.

  • To prevent chronic deformity and loss of function, use buddy-taping only in select finger injuries.

Tips and Tricks

  • Instruct the patient as you apply the tape, taking care to keep the joints free, so that the patient can reapply the tape should that be necessary.

NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
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