Is My Finger Broken? 5 Signs You Have a Broken Finger (And What to Do About It)

broken finger

About 38.4 percent of all broken bones are broken fingers. Your finger might be broken, and you don’t even know it. That’s because you can still move around a broken finger.

If your finger is injured, in most cases you will want to seek medical attention as soon as possible. You also want to make sure you do everything you can to prevent infections or making your injury worse.

Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms of a broken finger, and what you should do after a finger injury.

The most accurate way to determine if you have a broken finger is to consult with your doctor. In the meantime, here are five signs your finger might be broken.

1. Immediate Pain

The most tell-tale symptom of a broken finger is immediate pain after the injury. If the pain and swelling prevent movement or use of the fingers, there’s crushed tissue or exposed bone, then you should seek medical attention.

2. There’s Still Some Movement

A fracture will be painful, whereas a broken finger could still have some movement to it, and duller pain. It all depends on fracture stability, as some fractures can be more painful than others.

3. Bruising And Swelling

Usually, after five to ten minutes, there will be bruising and swelling. The swelling can even affect the adjacent fingers too.

4. Stiff Fingers

The finger will also stiffen. You might notice numbness of the fingers either from the trauma of the injury or because swelling compresses the finger’s nerves.

If you have a fingertip fracture, which is called a distal phalanx fracture can happen from and smashing injuries involving the fingernail.

These symptoms include a bruising or swelling of the finger pad. Usually, there will also be purple-colored blood under the fingernail known as subungual hematoma.

5. Exposed Bone

In some cases, the trauma can be so severe that the bone can becomes exposed through the soft tissues. This is called a compound fracture, and you should seek medical attention immediately.

How Common Are Broken Fingers?

Broken fingers are some of the most common traumatic injuries in an emergency room. This is because fingers are easily injured. The most common finger fractures occur in the bones located in the palm of the hand (metacarpal bones) on the finger bones (phalanxes).

This makes sense since fingers are used for everyday activities. There’s a higher chance that your fingers can get injured compared to other parts of your body.  Finger injuries happen a lot during the workplace and sports injuries, as well as during other accidents.

It’s important to understand the anatomy of the fingers and hand to understand the different types of finger injuries and how to treat them.

The hand is made up of three parts: the wrist, the palm, and fingers.

The Wrist

Your wrist is made up of eight bones. These bones move together to allow a vast range of motion in the wrist.

The Palm

Your palm or mid-hand is made up of metacarpal bones. These bones have muscular attachments. The bridge of your wrist as the individual fingers. These bones are commonly injured during direct trauma like a crush or punching injury.

The Fingers

As we mentioned earlier, these are the most frequently injured part of the hand. Fingers are made up of ligaments that are strong supportive tissue that connects bone to bone.

Fingers are also composed of tendons which attach the tissue from muscle to the bone. There are also three phalanxes (bones). There are no muscles in the fingers, as they move by the pull of the forearm muscles on the tendons.

There are three bones in each finger that are named due to their relationship to the palm of the hand. The first bone is the one closest to the palm, and it’s called the proximal phalanx.

Next, there’s the second bone or the middle phalanx, which is on all fingers but the thumb. Lastly, there’s the distal phalanx which is the smallest bone and the farthest from the hand.

Knuckles

Knuckles are joints that are formed by bones of the fingers that can be injured or dislocated due to any trauma on the hand.

The first and biggest knuckle is the junction that is between the fingers and hand called the metacarpophalangeal joint or MCP. This joint’s fracture is called a boxer’s fracture, as it commonly gets injured due to the closed fist activities.

The next knuckle is out towards the fingernail and is called the proximal interphalangeal joint (PIP). This joint can get dislocated in sporting events when an object or ball directly strikes the finger.

The farthest joint on the finger is called the distal interphalangeal joint (DIP). Usually, injuries to this joint include a torn tendon (avulsion) injury or fracture.

When Should I See a Doctor?

The treatment of broken fingers depends on what bone is injured and what kind of fracture you’re dealing with. The orthopedic surgeon on an emergency doctor will determine how stable your broken finger is.

Stable Fractures

If the fracture is stable, then the treatment could be as simple as buddy taping or splinting one finger to another. This could last for about four weeks, and maybe two more, and you shouldn’t do any strenuous exercise during recovery.

Unstable Fractures

If your fracture isn’t stable, then the injured finger will need to be immobilized. There are a few different ways you can symbolize a finger.

First is simply with a splint, which can realign the fracture fragments. If this doesn’t help stability, then a surgical procedure might need to happen.

Seek Medical Attention Immediately If

After an injury, if swelling and pain still limit the use of your fingers, or your fingers become numb, then you will want to seek medical attention.

If your injury includes crushed tissue, laceration, exposed bone, you must go to the emergency room or seek medical care immediately.

Some fractures can be subtle and the pain might be bearable. But if you suspect that your finger might be fractured, you should seek medical attention.

How Is A Broken Finger Diagnosed?

The main tool to diagnose broken fingers is with an X-ray. The doctor will need to do an X-ray to see the position of the broken finger bones.

For more complex injuries, the doctor might need to get the advice of an orthopedic whos specializes with bones and joints. Or your doctor might need to consult with a hand surgeon.

What Is The Treatment For A Broken Finger?

Broken fingers should only be treated by a medical professional. However, you can reduce the pain and stabilize your injury on the way to get medical attention.

At-Home Treatment

You will want to first make a splint to immobilize the finger. You can do this by placing a pen or popsicle stick next to the finger, and then wrap something around the stick and finger.

Be sure that you wrap loosely as if your finger is wrapped too tightly, it can cause more swelling and could cut off your circulation. Keep your finger elevated. Before any swelling happens, make sure that you remove any rings or jewelry from the hand that is affected.

You’ll want to then apply ice to the injured finger, as you head to an emergency room. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin, wrap a towel around the ice.

Medical Treatment

Your doctor will assess the stability of your broken finger. Treatment of your broken finger depends on what bone is injured and what type of fracture that you’re dealing with.

If it turns out you have a stable fracture, meaning it won’t get worse or complications won’t happen if you move your finger, then you might just need buddy taping. This is when your finger is splinted to another with tape.

Buddy taping should stay for about four weeks, then two more weeks of not using your finger. If you have an unstable fracture, then your finger will need to be immobilized.

You might need a split after reduction which is when the fractured fragments are re-aligned. If this doesn’t help with stability, then surgery might be needed.

Your surgeon will have different techniques of surgical immobilization. This could range from pinning the fracture with small wires, to a procedure involving screws and plates.

You will likely leave the hospital with some sort of splint that immobilizes you. Keep this clean and elevated, and try not to use your hand for at least one-week post-injury.

If your finger isn’t aligned properly, this could affect the healing of your finger and leave you with a permanent disability.

When Does A Broken Finger Need Surgery?

If your finger needs surgery, then you will leave the hospital with a splint or dressing. It’s important that you don’t disturb the splint. Your splint is what is holding your fractured finger in the right position to encourage healing.

Keep your finger’s dressing clean, elevated and dry to decrease swelling. Any activity can hurt the injury and increase pain. So it’s best that you don’t use your injured hand until you have your follow-up appointment with your hand specialist.

Follow-Up

You hand specialist might want to see you about a week after the injury happened for another x-ray. Here they will evaluate the position of your fracture fragments.

It’s important to make this appointment. If your finger isn’t correctly aligned this could affect how your finger heals and leave your hand permanently disabled.

There are some rare cases where after surgery, an infection can happen. You will know you have an infection if you have a fever, swelling, increased redness, and intense pain in the finger.

Other signs of an infection include a pus discharge and a foul smell from the injury. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you will need to immediately seek medical attention.

Complications Of A Broken Finger

After immobilization, reduction, and healing for four to six weeks, there’s a good chance that your broken finger will now be healed. The most common problem after broken finger treatment is joint stiffness.

This is because of scar tissue formation and due to the immobilization period. You might need physical therapy from a hand therapist to help repair your hand’s range of motion.

You might realize that rotation happens when one of your finger bones rotates abnormally while it’s healing. This can lead to decreased ability to use your injured finger, such as when you are trying to grasp something. This can also cause a deformity.

There can also be a complication with some fractures called “nonunion.” This is when two ends of the bone don’t heal properly. This leaves the fractured area unstable.

Another complication could be if the skin is injured or if you need surgery. Sometimes an infection can happen after surgery, especially if you don’t let your finger properly rest and heal.

How Can A Broken Finger Be Prevented?

The best way to prevent your finger from getting fractured or broken is to practice safety, especially during sports and in the workplace. Most fingers get broken from machines while playing sports, or trauma that is self-inflicted like punching something.

Which is why it is so key to always use the right safety equipment when you’re doing any dangerous activity. As for sports, making sure you are wearing the proper safety equipment and practicing proper form is the best way to prevent a finger injury.

Always be sure you’re using the right safety equipment whenever you are participating in an injury that can put the safety of your hand or fingers in jeopardy.

If you get injured, don’t wait. Make sure you evaluate the injury as soon as possible and seek medical attention if needed.

Treat Your Broken Finger Now

Now that you know broken fingers are more common than you think. Try to keep your fingers safe, especially during sports or while operating machinery.

If you suspect that your finger is broken or fractured, be sure to treat it immediately, and seek medical attention if needed. Once your finger has been treated, make sure you follow the steps we suggested so your broken finger doesn’t get an infection or get worse.

For more medical resource and advice, check out our blog.

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