5 Signs of a Broken Hand and What You Should Do About It

signs of a broken hand

Did you know that around six million Americans fracture a bone every year? When a bone in your body gets cracked, that means it’s fractured or broken. Broken bones are a common injury in both adults and children.

Our hands are one of the most essential parts of our body since we use them for nearly every activity. Unfortunately, they also bear the brunt of the force when it comes to falling, tripping, or catching something.

This guide will go over the top five signs of a broken hand. We’ll also discuss how often broken hands occur and what you can do if you fear your hand is broken.

1. Bruising and Swelling

Bruising is a common sign that you have a broken hand. However, just because you have bruising doesn’t necessarily mean that something is broken. You’ll need to evaluate your hand for additional symptoms.

Another symptom of a broken hand is swelling. When a bone is broken, swelling will occur. This is because of the fluid and white blood cells that enter the area. Bruising and swelling together in your hand could signify a broken bone.

2. Hand Deformity

An obvious sign that your hand might be broken is your hand or fingers appearing deformed. If it’s evident that your bones are crooked or out of place, you’ll want to contact a physician immediately.

Misaligned bones can cause numbness since they press on nerves. You’ll want to have your hand treated immediately, so your injury doesn’t get worse. You also don’t want nerve damage.

3. Extreme Pain and Tenderness

A sign of a broken hand is extreme pain. The pain might continually radiate, or it could come and go. It also might be worse when you hold or grip an item.

Additionally, if your hand is tender at any spot, it might be due to a broken bone. It is challenging for you to determine if your hand’s tenderness is because of a broken bone, but it’s a common symptom to pay attention to.

4. Snapping Noise

There’s a significant difference between a snapping and popping noise. When your hand was injured, did you hear a snapping sound? If you did, there’s a chance your hand is broken.

5. Stiff Fingers

If you’ve broken a bone, the joints in your hand might start to swell. This can result in stiff joints and fingers. It’ll also be difficult for you to bend your fingers.

Sometimes you might still be able to bend your fingers, but they’re still challenging to move. If you have that symptom, coupled with some of the others we’ve mentioned, you might have a broken hand.

How to Tell if It’s Broken or Sprained

Unfortunately, a broken hand or a sprain have similar symptoms. A sprained hand involves your ligament, while a fractured hand involves the bone. A sprain occurs when a ligament is torn or stretched.

The symptoms of a sprained hand include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Decreased mobility

If you know what caused the symptoms in your hand, that can help you pinpoint whether it’s a break or a sprain. The best course of action is to contact a physician who specializes in hand injuries.

The Causes of a Broken Hand

There are a variety of reasons your hand can get broken. It’s typically a result of physical trauma, including:

  • Heavy impact or force
  • Direct blow
  • Hand crushing
  • Hand twisting

There are various scenarios that would cause one of the above injuries. They include:

  • Falling
  • Car accident
  • Punching
  • Contact sports, like football or hockey

Knowing what caused the symptoms in your hand will help you determine if it’s broken. It’ll also give your doctor additional information when they’re treating you.

What to Do Immediately Following a Hand Injury

You should see a physician immediately if you believe you’ve broken your hand. Before you head into the doctor’s office, there are a few things you can do to take care of your hand.

First, don’t move your hand. If you believe the bone has shifted out of place, don’t try to realign it.

To reduce swelling and pain, you can gently apply a cold compress or ice pack. Be sure you wrap the cold compress in a clean towel or cloth first. If there’s any bleeding, gently apply pressure with a sterile bandage or cloth.

The goal of doing preliminary first aid to your broken hand is to avoid getting injured further. It can also reduce the amount of pain you’re experiencing.

If there is bleeding, that typically means you have an open fracture. An open fracture is when the bone sticks out through your hand’s tissue. If you have an open fracture, you need to head into the emergency room right away.

How a Broken Hand Gets Diagnosed

Your physician will use a few different methods to determine if you have a broken hand. The first step is checking your hand for bruising, swelling, and other visible symptoms. They also might check your arm and wrist to see how severe the injury is.

Your doctor will also ask about your medical history. This is so they can learn about any underlying conditions you might have that pertain to your hand injury. If you’ve recently been in a car accident, they’ll ask about it and if your hand got injured during the crash.

Next, your doctor will typically x-ray your hand. The imaging test helps them identify the direction and location of the break. This also helps rule out other conditions, like a sprained hand.

Broken Hand Treatment

While a broken hand can heal on its own, it’ll likely heal incorrectly if you don’t seek proper treatment. The bones might not correctly line up. That can interfere with your hand’s normal function.

Broken Hand Brace, Cast, and Splint

When your hand is immobilized, it eliminates unnecessary movement. This works to promote proper and healthy healing. It also guarantees that your hand bones line up correctly.

You’ll wear a broken hand splint, cast, or brace to immobilize your hand. Whatever option your doctor recommends varies from person to person.

A split is a less permanent option. They utilize a hard material that supports the bottom of your hand. The soft material will get wrapped around your hand to immobilize it.

A cast covers the entirety of your hand. A physician will typically need to remove it.

They’re usually made from fiberglass or plaster. Casts are also completely hard so that they can protect your bone.

Pain Medication

Your doctor might also prescribe over-the-counter pain medication to manage your discomfort. If you have a severe injury, your doctor could prescribe something stronger. They’ll also give you instructions for the appropriate frequency and dosage.

Broken Hand Surgery

Usually, a broken hand doesn’t need surgery. If you have a severe injury, like an open fracture, it becomes necessary. You could potentially need metal pins or screws to keep your healing bones in place.

Surgery is usually a course of action if your hand injury includes:

  • Loose pieces of bone
  • A broken bone that extends to your joint
  • A crushed hand bone
  • An open fracture

Additionally, if your bone has rotated, you might need surgery. A rotated bone could affect the function of your hand and rotate your fingers. You could also need surgery if your hand was immobilized but didn’t heal properly.

The Benefits of Fractured Hand Physical Therapy

As we mentioned before, your doctor might prescribe physical therapy for your broken hand while it’s still healing and after. Physical therapy works to ensure your hand reaches optimum function as quickly as possible.

During your first physical therapy appointment, you’ll be assessed and evaluated. Your physical therapist will typically take measurements of your hand around the area it was fractured.

These measurements could include:

  • Strength
  • Range of motion
  • Flexibility
  • Pain
  • Swelling or girth
  • Overall mobility and function

After they initially evaluate you, your therapist will create a customized treatment plan that helps you reach a full recovery. Part of the process is overcoming the negative impact having an immobilized hand had on your body. Immobilization can result in loss of strength and range of motion.

If you received surgery to fix your broken hand, you might have scar tissue. Scar mobilization and massage can work to rescue your scar adhesions. It’ll also improve your mobility around the scar tissue.

Your physical therapist will be focused on the joints around your broken bone and the fractured area. For example, mobility exercises will typically extend to your wrist and potentially your elbow for a broken hand.

Everyone heals at different speeds, so the length of physical therapy will vary from person to person. The type of break you had, in addition to your age and overall health, will affect how long your rehab is.

What is the Average Broken Hand Healing Time?

Generally, a broken hand takes three to six weeks to recover fully. During that time, you’ll have to wear the brace, cast, or splint.

Your recovery time depends on a few different factors, including:

  • How severe your injury was
  • Where the break occurred
  • Your body’s overall health

After around three weeks, your doctor might have you start hand therapy. This will help you decrease stiffness and regain strength in your hand. You might also continue this therapy after your splint or cast gets removed.

In the weeks after your injury, your doctor will conduct several x-rays. The x-rays will help them determine when it’s safe for you to resume your normal activities.

Complications From a Broken Hand

Broken hand complications are rare, but they can happen. You might experience ongoing aching or stiffness in the area of the broken bone. Those symptoms typically go away after surgery or when your cast is removed.

Some individuals have permanent pain or stiffness. It’s important to be patient during your recovery time. Speak with your doctor if you experience long-term pain to see what their recommendation is.

Breaks that go into your joints can result in arthritis down the road. If your hand begins to swell or hurt years after a break, you should contact a physician.

Hand trauma can injure nearby blood vessels and nerves. If you have circulation problems or numbers, you need to reach out to a physician.

How to Prevent a Broken Bone

While many scenarios occur outside of our control, there are ways we can prevent a hand injury from occurring. If your broken bone was caused by a fall, keep all of your rooms and walkways clutter-free. Arrange your furniture, so you have plenty of room to move around.

If you tripped over a wire, keep all of your wires off the ground. Make sure each room in your home is adequately lit so you can see where you’re walking.

Install anti-skid pads to the bottom of your bathtub. You can also install grab bars that will help you if you slip in the shower.

Wear appropriate shoes when you’re walking. Shoes that don’t fit well can cause falls.

Increase Your Bone Strength

Another method to avoid broken bones is building your bone strength. You should ensure that you’re getting enough weight-bearing exercise. This can include brisk walking.

You’ll also want to make sure your diet is full of foods that have vitamin D and calcium. If you’re a smoker, you should quit smoking. Smoking can decrease your bone mass, making your bones more vulnerable to breaks.

Don’t Ignore the Signs of a Broken Hand

If you have any of the above signs of a broken hand, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. Waiting too long to have a doctor evaluate your hand could result in your hand getting injured more.

To schedule an appointment for a hand problem in the Houston area, contact The Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas.

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