Despite finger dislocation being a common injury, that doesn’t make it any less painful or urgent to treat. After all, finger dislocations are painful and can affect our daily activities, resulting in frustration and restrictions.
These dislocations can occur due to physical trauma, such as an accident or overuse due to repetitive motions. Understanding your treatment options when dealing with finger dislocation is important to get the most effective care for your injury.
There’s good news, though! Most of the time, you can treat a finger dislocation without surgery. However, whether or not you need surgery for a dislocated finger depends on the severity and location of the dislocation.
This quick guide will discuss the causes, signs, and potential treatments for finger dislocations. By the end, you’ll have all the information to decide how to handle your injury.
How Do You Know If You’ve Dislocated Your Finger
If you think you may have dislocated your finger, taking action as soon as possible is important. However, not every finger injury means a dislocation. Here are a few signs that can tell you if you’ve injured your finger:
- Sudden and intense pain. If you experience sudden and intense pain when you move or touch your finger, this could indicate a dislocation. This is usually accompanied by swelling and bruising, which would be more visible the longer after the initial injury.
- Loss of sensation or movement. If your injured finger feels numb or tingly, or if you can’t move it anymore, this could mean that it has been dislocated.
- Visible deformity near the joint. Sometimes after a serious injury, there may be obvious signs that your joint has become misaligned due to dislocation. This could look like an obvious bulge along one side of the joint. It might even look like a lump along the length of the bone near where the joints meet up with each other.
If these symptoms sound familiar to you and don’t disappear within a few days, you need to get checked out by a hand doctor immediately. They’ll assess any injuries and provide the appropriate treatment so your finger can heal quickly and (most importantly) properly.
Common Causes of Finger Dislocation
Finger dislocation is a common injury when your finger, usually at the knuckle joint, moves out of its normal position. It’s important to know the most common causes, so you can take preventative measures to help prevent it from happening to you. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here are some of the most common causes:
- Sports injuries: Contact sports, such as football and rugby, can put your fingers at risk of falling out of place. Other sports involving gripping or grasping tools, such as golfing, tennis, and basketball, could cause injury or dislocation if you overuse or grip them too tightly.
- Accidents: If you experience any impact or trauma to your finger, your joints can slip out of place during this sudden shock.
- Overstretching/overuse: Sometimes, pushing your body beyond its limits can lead to a dislocation. This is especially true in cases where you have a weakened muscle or ligament caused by repetitive strain injury or arthritis.
- Genetic conditions: Some people may already have a higher-than-average likelihood of suffering from a dislocated finger due to their genetics. An underlying medical condition like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) that affects connective tissues could make it easier for you to dislocate fingers and other joints.
It’s important to be aware of these potential risks. They can vary according to age and general health status. So, taking preventative steps like wearing protective gear when playing contact sports and using proper form for activities involving gripping tools could go a long way in preventing finger dislocation from occurring!
Types of Finger Dislocation
Now, let’s get into finger dislocation treatment options.
You can have a partial dislocation, which means the ligaments tear partially along the bony surface. Or you can completely dislocate your finger or thumb, meaning it’s out of the socket. You’ll want to visit the ER or your local doctor ASAP with a fully dislocated thumb or finger. However, with a partial dislocation, you might be able to go a few days until your appointment.
Regardless, it’s important to know what kind of dislocation you have to treat a finger dislocation effectively. Usually, they fall into one of three main categories.
A dorsal finger dislocation is a type of finger injury that occurs when the joints of your fingers shift out of place. This can cause intense pain and deformity in the affected area (like any other type of dislocation, honestly). It’s usually caused by a sudden trauma or force applied to the joint, such as getting hit by an object or slipping and catching your hand on something.
In a dorsal (or backward) dislocation, this force will cause the bones in your finger to move backward (towards the back of your hand) while stretching or tearing surrounding tissues. This displacement can cause bruising, swelling, and stiffness near the injured joint. You may also experience numbness, tingling, or difficulty moving your finger if you have suffered a dorsal finger dislocation.
It’s important to get checked out by a doctor if you have experienced one of these dislocations. Don’t just try to push it back into place yourself. You could lead to incorrect alignment or further damage by doing so.
With proper diagnosis and treatment from an expert, most people with this kind of dislocation should regain full mobility within six weeks.
Volar finger dislocation occurs when the bones of your finger shift out of place towards the palm side of your hand. When this occurs, you may find your finger deformed and swollen, with intense pain in the affected area. You may also experience numbness, tingling, and difficulty moving your finger if the volar dislocation isn’t treated.
As with dorsal dislocations, seeking professional help is important if you suffer from one of these injuries. Pushing it back into place yourself is not recommended, as it can cause further damage.
The main difference between volar and dorsal dislocations is that a lateral dislocation moves in a sideways direction instead of backward or forwards (hence its name).
Due to their increased ligament and bone damage potential, lateral dislocations are often more serious than volar and dorsal dislocations. However, they can all be equally painful.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the healing time or treatment differs, though. As with doral and volar dislocations, with proper diagnosis and treatment from an expert, most individuals should regain full mobility within as quickly as six weeks.
How to Treat a Dislocated Finger
By now, you can likely tell whether you’ve dislocated your finger. If you have, it’s important to act quickly. If you can’t go to a doctor immediately, here are two ways to treat your finger dislocation at home.
The first thing to do after dislocating your finger is ice it. Applying an ice pack as soon as possible after a finger dislocation can help reduce swelling and pain.
Wrap the ice or cold compress in a clean cloth or bag and apply it directly to the affected area for 20 minutes at a time, up to every three hours. This will temporarily relieve discomfort and inflammation until you can seek medical treatment.
However, cold therapy is not meant to replace professional medical help, so ensure you still get your finger checked by an expert soon after. However, icing can give you temporary peace of mind that the pain is being managed until you reach a clinic or hospital. It’s also a good way to prevent swelling from leading to other secondary injuries.
Schedule an Appointment
As mentioned above, icing your finger won’t replace needing a hand doctor. If you suspect you’ve dislocated your finger, visiting a doctor or medical center as soon as possible is important. The earlier the injury is treated, the better the chances of reducing swelling and restoring full movement.
How quickly should you schedule your appointment? Within a couple of days at the most.
Before visiting the doctor, avoid moving the affected joint or applying pressure. You can use an ice pack and over-the-counter pain relief medications (like Ibuprofen) to reduce inflammation and discomfort. However, always consult with a doctor before taking any medication.
Also, remember to bring up any details about your last physical activity. This may help a medical professional better understand the best treatment plan for you.
Dislocated Finger Treatment Options
After you schedule your appointment with your local hand doctor, they’ll likely offer one of a few treatment options. As mentioned at the beginning of this guide, not every finger dislocation requires surgery. First, your doctor will recommend other non-invasive methods.
One of the simplest ways to treat this problem is reduction. It’s a procedure in which a healthcare professional moves the bone back into its original place. This approach usually involves numbing the area with a local anesthetic before performing the reduction. They might also order an x-ray after the procedure to ensure everything is aligned.
- Reduce swelling
- Restore mobility
- Provide relief from any discomfort
It’s important to remember that a trained medical professional should only perform reduction, as it requires skill, precision, and knowledge of anatomy. So, as we’ve mentioned before, avoid trying to push your finger back into place if it’s popped out of the socket.
After reduction, protecting and immobilizing the injured finger is important for proper healing. This is often done with a splint or a cast which provides rigid support for the broken or dislocated bone so that it does not move. Immobilizing the finger also stops you from re-dislocating or re-injuring it. That’s the last thing you want.
Sometimes, we might recommend buddy taping, where an uninjured adjacent finger supports the injured one while still allowing some range of motion.
How long can you expect to wear this? We’ll get into recovery time below, but you might need to wear the splint or cast for several weeks (though not too long) to ensure proper healing and recovery. Keeping the finger in this position helps to prevent stiffness and reduced mobility in the joint after healing.
Depending on the severity of your dislocation, it might require K-wire fixation. This involves inserting thin metal rods into the bone to provide stability and secure the broken or splintered pieces together. This can help ensure proper healing of the bone and restore mobility in the joint.
While this is usually done under general anesthesia, a local anesthetic may be used if necessary. After K-wire fixation, a splint is typically needed to protect and immobilize the injured finger during healing. However, it’s a very effective way to ensure your finger or thumb heals correctly so you can use it normally.
Finally, some dislocations do require surgery. Finger dislocation surgery helps realign a dislocated joint by manually moving the bone back into its normal position. Sometimes, as mentioned above, you might also need wires or pins to hold the bones in place. Sometimes, we rely on arthroscopic surgery to repair torn ligaments or tendons.
The best candidates for finger dislocation surgery are those who have had recurrent dislocations and can no longer be reduced without surgical intervention. Other conditions that would make someone an ideal candidate include if there is damage to tissue such as ligaments, cartilage, tendons, etc.
Dislocated Finger Recovery Time
Finger dislocations can take anywhere from six weeks to several months to heal. Generally, movement will return within four weeks with regular exercise. However, pain, swelling, stiffness, and decreased strength may remain for a few months as the injury completes its healing process.
Recovery time also varies depending on the severity of the injury. Some underlying medical conditions could also affect the healing process. Overall, most people recover in under two months. Following your doctor’s instructions and completing finger exercises is important.
You can start by gently moving and stretching your finger in all directions. This helps reduce stiffness and increase blood flow. You can also try squeezing a stress ball or rubber grip to strengthen weak muscles around the joint. Another exercise is making a fist and slowly opening your hand repeatedly.
Doing this regularly will help improve the range of motion in your finger.
Speak With a Doctor
If you are suffering from finger dislocation or any other hand, wrist, elbow, or thumb pain, contact us today. Our highly skilled and experienced physicians are committed to providing the best quality care and will work with you to find the right solution.
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