If you’ve sustained a hand injury, then you know how painful it can be. Severe pain in your hand along with bruising and swelling are all cause for concern and should be evaluated by your doctor before symptoms worsen.
When broken bones are left untreated, long-term complications can arise such as permanent nerve damage and bones that fail to heal.
But how do you know if your hand is broken? What are the signs and symptoms?
This can be tricky, as signs of broken bones vary from person to person. However, there are 10 common ways to identify if your hand is broken, especially if you’re considering talking to hand doctors.
If you have any of the following symptoms or experience pain, be sure to see a trusted physician as soon as possible.
Keep reading to learn about common indicators associated with broken bones in your hand and what to do about it.
Bones in Your Hands
It’s easy to take your hands for granted. You rely on them for virtually every aspect of your life, and may not realize this unless you sustain a break.
But what bone did you break? How many bones are there in the human hand?
Your hand has 27 bones, eight of them being in your wrist. Your palm has five bones and your thumb and fingers make up the other 14 bones.
With this many bones in your hands alone, it’s no surprise that they can become broken with the right amount of force. When engaging in contact sports, for example, your hands are at risk.
This is also true if you’ve recently suffered from an injury or recently fallen, as you most likely used your hands and wrists to break your fall.
Fingers are especially susceptible to breaks, so be sure to monitor your hands if you think you’ve sustained an injury.
If you’re experiencing any pain or see swelling or bruising, then you may have broken your hand. The following checklist will help you determine if it’s time to see a doctor.
How to Tell If Your Hand Is Broken
Depending on the type of break you’ve sustained, you may experience different symptoms in your hand. The first symptom is common when a break is present and is a telltale sign that your hand is broken.
1. Hand Deformity
Perhaps the most obvious sign your hand is broken is a deformity within your hand or fingers. Is it obvious that a bone in your hand is out of place or crooked? If so, you need to consult a physician as soon as possible.
Misaligned bones can press on nerves, causing numbness. See a doctor immediately to rule out nerve-damage and to prevent your injury from worsening.
Bruising is another common sign your hand is broken. However, not all bruises mean you broke something.
Be sure to evaluate your hand for other symptoms. Bruising accompanied by pain and swelling all point to a broken bone, something your physician will officially diagnose.
When you break a bone, swelling occurs. This is due to the white blood cells and fluid that come to that area. It’s also a sign that you may have broken a bone.
4. Extreme Pain
Does your hand hurt when you touch it? Does the pain go away and come back or does it radiate consistently?
If you notice the pain is worse when gripping or holding an item, be sure to consult a physician, as this also an indicator that you have broken bone in your hand.
5. Stiff Fingers
As your body adjusts to the shock of a broken bone, your joints may swell. This may lead to stiff fingers and joints and an inability to bend your fingers.
6. Moving Fingers With Difficulty
You may not have lost the ability to bend your fingers, but are you noticing difficulty moving your fingers? This may mean you have a broken bone, especially if you have multiple symptoms.
When swelling in your hands worsens it can press on a nerve. The result will be a sense of numbness in one or more fingers as well as your thumb. Never ignore compressed as they require medical attention.
8. Snapping Noise
There’s a difference between a popping sound and a snapping noise. At the time of injury, did you hear an audible “snap?” If so, chances are you broke a bone in your hand.
If any part of your hand is tender to the touch, a broken bone may be to blame. It can be difficult to determine if tenderness is the result of a break to a bone, but it’s one of the main symptoms to look out for.
Be sure to have your doctor address them.
10. Range of Motion
You may have a compromised range of motion if your hand is broken. This may be due to swelling, inflammation, or pain caused by the injury.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms discussed, especially pain in your hand, immediately contact a trusted hand doctor before symptoms worsen.
What to Do if Your Hand Is Broken
If you have an open wound or visible bone protruding, seek emergency help as soon as possible. Additionally, if your fingers turn blue or are cold, immediately call 911.
For breaks and fractures that don’t require emergency services, contact your local hand surgery specialist to schedule an evaluation.
Until then, there are several things you can do at home to help with pain and inflammation.
There are several ways to help manage pain and swelling at home. For starters, don’t attempt to move or stretch your hand and fingers. Keep them as immobile as possible, to avoid the risk of further aggravating your injury.
If you have a splint or ace bandage available, use this to wrap your hand and to keep it in place.
Remember to ice your injured hand in order to reduce swelling and inflammation. However, never apply ice directly to any exposed skin. Use a towel as a protective barrier and to protect your skin.
Apply ice to your hand for 20 minutes, every one or two hours. This should help with any swelling and to provide temporary relief until you can see your doctor.
Another way to help reduce inflammation is by elevating your hand above your heart. This works by helping lymphatic drainage to occur from your hand.
Once you’ve iced and wrapped your hand, schedule an appointment with your physician to have your injury examined, and to determine your course of treatment.
What to Expect at Your Appointment
On the day of your appointment, your doctor will ask you to recount how you sustained your injury and asked to explain the type of pain and symptoms you are experiencing.
During your examination your doctor will examine your hand, checking for visible signs of a break and checking your range of motion. They will give you an x-ray to check for a break and to determine the severity of it and where it’s located.
Once your physician has confirmed whether or not you broke your hand and what bones(s) you have broken, they will be able to come up with a treatment plan.
Treatment for a Broken Hand
The first thing your doctor will take into consideration is bone alignment. Gaps in between bones can be problematic and cause long term issues. As a result, your doctor will move the bones into place.
Your pain tolerance will dictate whether or not you need local anesthetics throughout this process.
Once the bones have been set, your doctor will need to ensure your hand is immobile. This is crucial for the bones to heal.
One way of immobilizing your hand is by applying a splint or cast. Splints are less permanent and rely on a hard material to support the bottom of your hand, keeping it in place.
The splint will have soft material, such as an ace bandage, wrapped around it to keep it in place. You can remove these bandages as needed but they should stay on for as long as your doctor recommends.
A cast, unlike a splint, covers your entire hand and requires a physician to remove it. Casts are typically made from plaster or fiberglass and are completely hard in order to protect the bone while it heals.
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy once your bone has healed. This will help you regain mobilization but can take weeks or months.
In severe cases, you may need surgery. This is commonly found if you have an open fracture, pieces of bone that threaten a local joint, nerve or ligament dama, or fractures that compromise your joints.
Once your doctor sees you and examines your injury, they will construct a treatment plan for you.
Casts, splints, and surgery are all effective ways to heal broken bones, so be sure to follow the advice given to you by your doctor.
Common Causes of Hand Injuries
Hand injuries and broken bones have a variety of causes. One of the most common reasons for a broken hand is a force.
Punching a hard surface or sustaining a fall can cause a bone to break, most characterized by pain in your hand. It’s not uncommon to use your hands to break a fall, leading to swelling in hands and broken bones.
It’s also possible to twist your hand in a way that manipulates the bones, causing one or more to break. This is also true if your hand is accidentally crushed or caught under extreme weight.
People with osteoarthritis are more susceptible to broken bones, as this disease wears down the joints within your hands. If you suffer from osteoarthritis it’s important to take extra precautions to prevent breaks and fractures.
It’s also common to break your hand in the thumb or fingertip region. The side of your hand below your pinky is also another common site for breaks and fractures.
Ways to Prevent Injuries
The shock of breaks and fractures will leave you stunned. Once you recover from the initial trauma of breaking a bone, you may want to evaluate ways to prevent future breaks from happening.
If your broken hand is the result of a fall, then keep rooms clutter-free to avoid tripping. Additionally, make sure furniture is set up to give you ample space when moving from room to room.
Ensure area rugs are securely in place with anti-slip rug pads or special adhesives.
For rooms with wires (cable wires, lamps, electronics, etc.), be sure to keep them off the ground and away from where you walk. Keep lots of lighting in each room to help you navigate and, if possible, wear shoes indoors to protect against slipping.
Make sure tile floors are free of spills, especially bathrooms and kitchens.
Add anti-skid pads to your bathtub, along with bath-grab bars to help keep you from slipping when bathing.
When walking, make sure to wear the appropriate shoes. Shoes that fit poorly can cause you to fall, so look for comfortable walking shoes that provide plenty of support.
Trusted Hand Doctors for All Your Needs
If you suspect your hand is broken, don’t wait to see a doctor. Delaying treatment can cause further damage and in some cases lead to surgery or permanent damage.
Depending on the nature of your injury, your doctor may order x-rays or an MRI to rule out additional damage to the surrounding ligaments and tendons.
Don’t let a hand injury slow your down. Whether you’ve gotten hurt and suspect a broken bone or are experiencing general discomfort within your hands, contact us today.
Our highly-knowledgeable physicians have the experience and equipment to treat any hand injury. A member of our dedicated staff is ready to help you and will be happy to set you up with an appointment.
Never underestimate the importance of your hands.