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Did you know you have 14 finger bones in each hand? It takes that many bones to do the fantastic things our fingers do for us every day. Our fingers are also especially susceptible to injuries. Our hands are often our first line of defense, whether we’re catching something or trying to break a fall. But we tend to adopt a more laid-back approach to finger injuries than to other bone breaks. Sometimes patients think there’s not much their doctor can do. But if you have a broken finger and you don’t get treatment, it can cause problems down the road.
What Causes Finger Fractures?
Our hands and fingers are always front and center. We use them when we’re exercising, participating in our favorite sports, or just completing day-to-day activities. We use our fingers when we’re working with tools or catching a ball. Some common causes of finger fractures are sports injuries, workplace injuries, slamming our hands in a home or car door, or catching ourselves when we fall. Finger fractures are common in children and young people since they’re especially active in sports and physical play.
What Are the Signs of a Broken Finger?
Not being able to move your finger is one of the most important warning signs of a potential break. Here are some other common symptoms of a finger fracture:
- Shortening or deformity of the finger
- Depressed knuckle
How Severe Is My Finger Fracture?
If you break a finger, there are different levels of severity that will determine what approach your doctor decides to take. If you have a stable, non-displaced fracture, this means you have a crack in the bone, but the bones are still in the right place. A stable fracture is the simplest type of fracture to fix and usually requires stabilization and immobilization.
A spiral fracture or shatter can be much more complicated and problematic. A spiral fracture happens when the bone breaks with a twisting motion. It often separates into two parts, with the edges no longer aligned. Other more complicated breaks include a break at the knuckle and damage to ligament around the bone. Any of these more complex breaks may require surgery.
Another frequent finger injury is the pinkie finger break, sometimes called a boxer’s fracture. The boxer’s fracture is actually an injury to the metacarpal bone of the hand, just below the bottom joint of the pinkie finger. It accounts for around 10 percent of hand injuries and is especially common in boys and young men ages 10 to 29, according to a 2019 article in the medical publication StatPearls.
Should I See My Doctor If I Think My Finger Is Broken?
Some of us may remember the old tape and popsicle stick splints from our childhoods. Yes, some finger fractures don’t need more than a basic splint. But if you think you have a broken finger, it’s worthwhile to have a doctor check it out. Getting an accurate diagnosis as early as possible is essential for proper healing. You also want your doctor to check on the healing process moving forward to make sure things are going as planned. If you have a bad break and don’t get treatment, it can affect your grip and movement for life. To best address a finger break, your doctor needs to look at which bone you broke and how it’s broken. The best way to get an accurate picture is with an X-ray. If you see your primary care physician and have a more complicated break, ask for a referral to an orthopaedist. In the case of a complex fracture, a specialist is the best person to provide a diagnosis and move forward with a treatment plan.
Can I Wait to Get Treatment If I Think My Finger Is Broken?
In many cases, when there’s a finger injury, families opt to wait a day or two to see if symptoms go away. According to the Mayo Clinic, a few days usually won’t make a big difference with a broken finger. But if you wait too long, it can impact healing and possibly lead to decreased range of motion or reduced grip strength. If you have any of the warning signs, it makes sense to see a doctor as soon as possible.
What Is the Treatment for a Broken Finger?
The first critical step for any finger injury is immobilization. We need to keep the finger in place to allow it to heal. Your doctor may recommend a cast or splint depending on where and how severe the fracture is. For a stable fracture, a simple splint may do the trick. There are also specialized splints available for fingertip and thumb injuries. In some cases, your doctor may recommend a cast up to the elbow to protect the finger and let it heal, even for stable breaks.
You may need surgery for more complex fractures, and this may mean pins, screws, or wires to help with healing, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Whatever treatment approach you need, careful follow-up is essential, including follow-up X-rays to monitor healing.
Do I Need Rehab for a Broken Finger?
A finger injury can be frustrating and can create a surprising number of limitations. When we think about how we use our fingers in everyday activities, from writing to cooking to dressing, we realize how vital full use of our fingers is. After immobilization, it’s essential to get your fingers moving again to regain strength and movement. In some cases, there are simple exercises you can do at home. In others, your doctor may recommend hand therapy to help rebuild strength more quickly and reduce ongoing pain.
Choosing an Orthopaedics Practice for a Broken Finger
Your primary care provider can help with a broken finger in the most straightforward cases. However, a referral to an orthopaedics practice usually makes the most sense. Your orthopaedist takes a sophisticated approach to diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care and can offer in-house hand therapy if needed. At Countryside Orthopaedics, we take finger injuries very seriously because we know what benign neglect can mean: a potential loss of function and mobility. Our practice includes a hand specialist surgeon, top-notch physician assistants, and trained hand therapists. We’ll accurately diagnose and treat your finger injury the first time around and get you working and playing again.