As those of us who wear jewelry know, it’s not unusual for a ring to get temporarily stuck on a finger. Fingers naturally swell, especially when it’s hot and humid outside, or if you walk with your hands swinging at your sides. Usually, if you simply cool off and elevate the affected hand above your heart for a while, the swelling will go down and the ring will come off easily. Applying ice to your finger can also reduce swelling quickly. If that doesn’t work, try using cooking oil or soap and water to make your finger slippery enough for the ring to slide off. Use a twisting or “unscrewing” motion to remove the ring, rather than pulling it straight off over the knuckle
However, some situations can cause a ring to get badly stuck. For example, if you sprain or jam your finger and don’t take off your ring right away, swelling in the joint can make removal difficult. In that case, you may have to use a different procedure to get it off. All you’ll need is a piece of dental floss about two feet long.
First, slip a few inches of the floss under the ring. The short end of the floss should point toward your hand, and the long end should extend toward the swollen joint.
Next, start wrapping the floss snugly around your finger, starting just above the ring. Each row of floss should be tight up against the last one, as if you were winding thread onto a spool. Wrap your finger until the floss extends a little beyond the swollen joint. Don’t be afraid to pull the floss tight — you want to slightly compress the swollen joint so you can pull the ring over it.
Finally, when the swollen joint is wrapped, grasp the end of the floss that is tucked under the ring, and begin to gently unwrap it. Go slowly, making sure to grasp the floss firmly. The unwinding floss will push the ring along. Remove the ring once it passes over the swollen joint, then unwind the remainder of the floss so that it doesn’t block circulation to your finger.
If you can’t remove the ring and you’re worried that the swelling may be affecting circulation to your finger, call your doctor. You may need to have the ring cut off.
Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/firstaid/ring.shtml
National Center for Emergency Medicine Informatics (NCEMI). http://www.ncemi.org/cse/cse1005.htm