What is a broken finger?
A broken finger occurs when one or more of the bones in your finger break. Another name for a broken bone is a bone fracture. People often break their fingers due to injury or weakened bones.
Small bones called phalanges make up your finger structure. Each finger contains three phalanges, while the thumb contains two. Any of these bones can break. Breaks can also happen in your knuckles, the joints where your finger bones come together.
You can relieve pain from a finger fracture for a short time with ice and medication. But you’ll need to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible for an X-ray. Depending on the type and severity of the fracture, your provider may suggest a splint to stabilize your finger or surgery to repair the break.
How common are broken fingers?
Broken fingers are common. Finger fractures are the most common sports-related fractures in adults and teenagers in the United States. They sometimes happen along with metacarpal fractures (bones that connect your wrist to your fingers).
Finger fractures often include fractured fingertips and avulsion-type fractures. Avulsion fractures happen when an injury occurs near where a tendon or ligament attaches to the bones in your hand, and the ligament pulls off a fragment of bone.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes a broken finger?
Most finger fractures result from injuries. The most common situations that result in broken fingers include:
- Having a fast-moving object, such as a baseball, hit your hand.
- Putting out your hand to break a fall.
- Slamming your finger in a drawer or door.
- Trauma that impacts your finger, such as a car accident.
- Using tools such as drills, power saws or hammers.
Who is at risk of broken fingers?
People with calcium deficiencies or weakened bones are at higher risk of finger fractures. Fractures are more likely to occur due to:
What are the symptoms of a broken finger?
If you fracture your finger, pain is likely the first symptom you’ll notice. Your finger may also look oddly shaped or out of alignment. Other broken finger symptoms may include:
- Problems bending your finger.
You may still be able to move your finger even though it’s broken. But moving it will usually cause pain. Sometimes the pain will be dull and not too much for you to bear.
You should still see a provider even if you can tolerate the pain. The chances of successful treatment increase the sooner your treatment starts.
Diagnosis and Tests
How do healthcare providers diagnose broken fingers?
To diagnose a broken finger, your provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. They may check whether your injured finger:
- Angles in the wrong direction.
- Looks shorter than your other fingers.
- Overlaps with your other fingers (rotation).
What does a broken finger X-ray show?
Your provider will also order an X-ray to look for fractures. You may need several X-rays from different angles. Your provider uses an X-ray to:
- Compare your hands. Your provider may also X-ray a finger on your uninjured hand to compare how your fingers look.
- Check the fracture’s stability. The X-ray shows your provider if the fracture stays in position over time (stable) or has the chance of moving out of alignment again (unstable). This information helps your provider decide on your treatment.
- Look for joint damage. X-rays also show injury to your finger joints (cartilage surfaces that connect bones). If your joints don’t line up, you may need surgery to try to correct this.
Management and Treatment
How do healthcare providers treat broken fingers?
Finger fracture treatment depends on the location and severity of the fracture. Your provider will also look at whether your fracture is stable or unstable.
If you have a stable fracture, your provider may splint your injured finger or may tape it to the finger next to it. The splint keeps your finger straight and protects it while it heals. You’ll usually keep the splint for three to four weeks as your fractured finger heals. You’ll need to avoid strenuous activity for another two weeks afterward, but movement is usually very important at this point. Your provider may order physical therapy to help you regain motion.
If you have an unstable fracture, your provider may immobilize your finger with a splint after aligning the fragments of the fracture. Providers are usually able to do this procedure under local anesthesia. They usually inject a numbing solution (like at the dentist's office) into the nerves at the base of your finger.
When does a broken finger need surgery?
You may need surgery for your broken finger if you have:
- Injury to a joint.
- Loose bone fragments.
- Many fractures.
- Tendon or ligament damage.
- Unstable fractures that a splint can’t support.
During finger surgery, your surgeon uses screws, small plates, pins or wires to hold your bones together. Usually, this hardware stays in your finger unless it causes issues.
Can I prevent a broken finger?
You may not always be able to prevent broken fingers. To reduce your risk of a broken finger from weakened bones, you should:
- Eat a healthy diet. Be sure to get enough vitamin D and calcium, which strengthen bones.
- Practice safety. Take care when doing activities or using equipment that may injure your hands.
- Get regular checkups. Have exams to check your overall health. Take medications to slow bone loss if you’re at risk of osteoporosis.
- Use assistive devices. To prevent falls, get support from a cane or walker if you have trouble walking.
- Use proper equipment when engaging in sports. This may help protect vulnerable areas from injury.
Outlook / Prognosis
What is the outlook for people with a broken finger?
The outlook varies depending on your age and overall health, and the type and severity of the fracture. Finger fractures generally heal very well after treatment, but you may require physical therapy to regain motion.
Recovery time for a finger fracture ranges from several weeks to a year. Healing time depends on the extent of the injury and your treatment. Your provider will let you know when it’s safe to use your hand again. You may need to do rehab exercises each day, often under the guidance of a specialized hand therapist. These exercises can help with swelling and stiffness.
When should I see my healthcare provider about finger pain?
You should always seek care right away if you suspect you may have a broken finger. You can visit an urgent care center or a hospital’s emergency department.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Broken fingers are common. They usually result from injury or weakened bones. Your provider will use an X-ray to look for any fractures. Treatment varies depending on the severity of your fracture but may include a splint or surgery. People generally recover well after finger fracture treatment if they follow a rehab plan prescribed by their provider.
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