Trying to remove a ring from a swollen finger is a little like stuffing size eight feet into a pair of size six shoes--it can be done, but it takes persistence and may be uncomfortable. The first option, if the finger isn't too uncomfortable and if there is no discoloration--typically blue, purple, or ashen, indicating poor blood circulation--is to simply wait until the next morning, when swelling has naturally gone down. If, however, the finger is too uncomfortable and the ring needs to come off sooner, the following steps will help. If, at any time, the finger appears to be discolored for two hours or longer, the person wearing the ring should skip ahead immediately to "The Last Resort."
Reduce the Swelling
The reason the ring has gotten stuck in the first place is because the finger has swollen--so one remedy is to reduce the swelling. First, the person wearing the ring should be careful not to fiddle with the ring any more than necessary. Every twist and turn simply makes the swelling worse. Now, she should try soaking the hand in a bowl of very cold water for 20 minutes. Next, she should raise the hand above heart level and support her arm so her hand can rest in that position for 15 minutes. Finally, she should pack the hand in ice for ten minutes. There should be a noticeable decrease in swelling by now, but these steps may be repeated if necessary. The ring may now slip off.
Lubricate the Finger
If this doesn't work, another remedy is to make the finger as slippery as possible. Jewelers swear by ammonia-based products such as Windex, but many other products work: hand lotion, petroleum jelly, hair conditioner, cooking oil, liquid soap, and peanut butter all work well. The person wearing the ring should choose wisely if there are breaks in the skin, as this procedure can be rough.
At this point, she should try working the ring off by alternating pressure: First, she will press on the bottom of the ring until there is a bit of space visible between the top of the ring and the finger, then slip the top of the ring forward. Second, she will press down on the top of the ring until there is space visible between the bottom of the ring and the finger, then slip the bottom of the ring forward. She will continue alternating pressure until the ring works free.
Bind the Finger
If the first two remedies fail, binding the finger will further decrease its size. To do this, the person wearing the ring will take dental floss and, beginning at the tip of the finger, wrap it around and around the finger, compressing the tissue. When she has bound the finger up to the ring she'll cut off the dental floss, leaving a tail approximately 12 inches long, and pass this tail under the ring. The ring should slip right over the floss-covered finger.
The Last Resort
If none of these remedies has gotten the ring off the finger, the ring is going to have to be cut off. There is no need to panic--this isn't painful or expensive. In fact, most fire departments have a ring cutter on hand and will take care of it at no charge. However, Stewart Walker of Windsor Fine Jewelers recommends going to a jeweler to have the ring cut off. According to Walker, a jeweler will know exactly where to cut in order to facilitate the best repair.
Once the ring has successfully been removed, the relieved ring owner should wait a few days for swelling to go down--then go to a jeweler to have the ring resized. She won't want to risk going through that again.