Diagnosis of a broken finger
Your doctor will assess your finger to see how the bone broke. For example, it may have broken across, in a spiral, in a few pieces, or shattered. They will begin by taking a medical history and listening to exactly what happened to your finger. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam during which they will want to see how your finger is functioning. They will assess how your fingers line up when you make a fist or flex your fingers. Your doctor will move your fingers around to see what causes pain. They may order an x-ray to compare your broken finger to the same uninjured finger on your other hand.
In rare cases, they may need additional tests such as an MRI or CT scan to obtain further images of your finger and hand.
In most cases, a broken finger can be treated and will heal without surgery. Your care team will reset your broken bone (if necessary) and will give you a splint or cast to wear for the duration of your healing. This will protect it from re-injury and will keep your finger straight. Your doctor may choose to splint your finger with the ones next to it for additional support. It generally takes three weeks for a fractured finger to heal.
Home treatment for a broken finger includes:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE)
If you’ve had an open fracture or complex finger injury, Dignity Health offers surgical repair. Your care team will put your bones back into alignment and will use pins, screws, or wire to keep the bones in place.
Most finger bone fractures just need time to heal. Talk with your doctor about when it’s safe to use your hand again. Rehabilitation will help you gain back the functionality of your hand. Physical therapy may be recommended, or you might be able to do exercises at home to increase strength.
Fully recovering from a broken finger may take a bit of time, but the outlook is good. If you follow your doctor’s instructions about when to return to activities, you lower the risk of re-injury. Doing simple exercises either at home or with a physical therapist will help to minimize stiffness and swelling, as well as strengthen your hand and fingers.
Recovery will take longer if you need surgery, but ultimately your rehabilitation will look similar to the recovery path for those who did not require surgery. Be patient with your body as you recover, and talk to your doctor about any concerns you have.
Complications are rare, but may include:
- Nerve or blood vessel damage
- Osteoarthritis years later
- Continued stiffness or aching
When to see a doctor for a finger injury
It is normal to want to “wait it out” when you’ve experienced a finger injury. However, if you think you may have broken your finger, it is essential to be seen by a medical professional. If you are experiencing numbness, swelling, or difficulty moving your fingers after a fall or blow to your hand, it is especially vital to contact your doctor or head to urgent care as soon as possible.
Delaying diagnosis and treatment can delay your healing. This can lead to a deformity in your fingers, decreased range of motion, limited grip strength, and may increase your recovery time or lead to long-term issues.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.