How do I Treat a Broken Finger?

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  • Originally Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Revised By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 May 2020
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A broken finger can be painful and frustrating, making a person keenly aware of how often the fingers are moved for even the smallest of tasks. If you need to treat a broken finger and don't have immediate access to medical care, tape or tie it to a non-broken neighboring finger with sticks of some sort on the outside of the two, creating an impromptu, immobilizing splint. Then use an ice pack and over-the-counter pain reliever to keep the swelling down on the way to a medical professional.

Jewelry Off, Splint On

Leaving a ring on a broken finger could cause severe circulatory complications later on, blocking blood flow as swelling intensifies. Unless there is additional damage, such as burned flesh, or the pressure creates too much pain, remove any rings from finger that might be broken as soon as possible. Cooking oil can can be used to help it slide off more easily.

It is important to keep a broken finger as immobilized as possible, protected from any movement at all. Applying a finger splint is often the safest and most practical way to accomplish this. Finger splints can be made using whatever is handy — two Popsicle® sticks and masking tape, two chopsticks from the kitchen and string, or two thin but sturdy twigs and some twine all would work well. The two sticks are then tied firmly on the outside of the fingers, tight enough to prevent the fingers from moving, but not so tight that circulation is blocked.

When It's Broken

If in doubt, medical professionals nearly all agree: Wrap the finger up and let an x-ray be the judge. A broken finger typically will create a throbbing pain that's impossible to ignore, particularly when moved in any way. Some form of disfiguring will often be evident, too, along with fairly immediate swelling to the site.

It's best to let a medical professional decide the proper treatment as soon as possible. What feels like a broken finger could be a jam, sprain, or more acute ligament damage, and a different type of treatment will be needed for each.

Reducing Pain, Swelling

Using over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin or ibuprofen can help minimize the inflammation until a medical professional can prescribe something stronger. Limiting the degree of swelling will make it easier for the doctor or other healthcare professional to set the broken bone perfectly straight. This reduces the chances of the bone healing crooked.

An ice pack can often help just as much to reduce swelling and pain on the way to the healthcare provider. Don't apply ice directly to the finger or hand, however, as this can damage the skin. Instead, put some ice inside a freezer bag, which can then go inside a towel.

The finger should be elevated above the heart to further limit blood flow and swelling before and after a permanent splint can be applied. This, in turn, should reduce the throbbing pain. If the end of the finger is broken, blood may collect under the fingernail. This may be relieved somewhat by elevating the hand, but a medical professional may it out if it causes pain.

Professional Treatment

In many cases, a relatively simple break will be treated with a permanent splint. Once a medical professional has examined and set the broken finger, if needed, a splint tailored to the finger can be used during the recuperation period. This will give the finger the best chance of healing straight. The healthcare provider can prescribe pain medication, if needed, as well as instruct you on how to properly clean the finger and replace any dressings.

When break is more serious, surgery may be required to fix it. This could involve a surgeon inserting wires or plates into the finger to hold the bones together and make sure they heal correctly. Depending on the device used, they may be left in permanently or, in the case of a special type of wire called a Kirschner wire, removed after the bones have healed. Complicated breaks may need external fixation, which is metal rods are inserted into the finger, then attached outside the body to a plate that holds the bones in place.

Recovery Time

Compared to other bones, a broken finger can heal in a relatively short period of time, if actions are taken to quickly immobilize it and seek immediate medical attention. Generally, the finger will heal in a matter of weeks, although it may take a little longer in the case of a complicated break. If a broken finger does not seem to be healing, or there is more pain or inflammation than expected, patients should notify a medical professional immediately.

Possible Complications

If you aren't able to splint the finger or get to a hospital quickly, it is possible that the injury will not heal correctly. The injury will usually take longer to heal, and is likely to continue to be extremely painful and stiff. This can make it very difficult to use the finger — and probably the entire hand — normally. A finger that is not set will likely heal crooked, which may make it difficult to grasp and hold objects tightly or without pain.

It's also possible that an untreated break will not heal at all, and therefore continue to be painful and not really usable. The bone could also become infected. If this happens, antibiotics and even surgery might be required to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of the body.

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Discuss this Article

Post 23

I broke my middle finger and after 15 days, I had an X-ray and saw it was a fracture. I got a plaster and the doctor told me I needed to keep it for 20 days. However after 15 days of plaster, now my middle and index both fingers have started swelling and hurting. What can be the reason behind the same?

Post 22

Yesterday I slammed my middle finger in my moms car door and it hurts badly but they didn't showed me the x-ray I took. They just said that it was swelling and I have to go home, but it hurts a lot. What do I do about it?

Post 20

I met with an accident. My hand was caught in a die cutting machine. One of my fingers was crushed. I was hospitalized.

Two fingers had ganglions removed from the palm, my finger has multiple fractures and my other finger is bent from the center joint. I want to know whether there is any surgery for it or my finger may become straight and able to function. Are there any artificial fingers that can be put on the hand?

Post 17

I broke my middle finger a year ago and I have not given it any care, and now I can't bend it. Is there any way possible to get it right?

Post 16

i broke my baby finger seven weeks ago and the swelling is the same as the day it happened. they want me to go to physio for two weeks and than if that doesn't help i have to go a better physio therapist for another two weeks? I am still in pain and can't make a fist. I don't want a swollen and bent finger forever. what do i do?

Post 15

i have fractured my left thumb. i have even got x ray, but i want to play cricket as soon as possible, so kindly suggest me some measures for early recovery.

Post 14

not sure if i have a broken finger,it hurts so much and is pretty swollen with heavy bruising and no movement,it feels numb and cold! maybe i should take it seriously and go to the er?

Post 12

I broke my middle finger. it hurt like hell for about an hour, but then swelled and went hot and numb.

Got my xrays and it was broken at the tip. It's just strapped to another finger now and i have to go back in four weeks. I couldn't feel any pain for about three days.

Post 11

Middle, 4th and 5th finger were smashed against a dock 2.5 months ago. Self taken x-ray shows bone fragments through out the three fingers with separated jagged bone at finger tips. I still have discomfort and some numbness at the tips of my fingers. Actually they ache all the time.

I am praying the bone fragments will resorb. It's a bit late to think this way but should I take the x-rays to a physician and have them looked at? At the time of the injury the pain was excruciating!

Post 10

I just slammed my finger in my front door. it hurt badly and swelled straight away. now it feels really numb and hot and is still swollen, though it doesn't hurt as much now. do you think it's broken? what should i do?

Post 9

I went to a doctor and he said i broke my finger but it still really hurts. any ideas on what i should do?

Post 8

I slammed the tip of my left pinkie in a door (Ouch!) and popped the nail right out of the nail bed (more ouch), but was surprised when the doctor wanted to X-ray it. To my amazement (since the pain was not severe), I have a fracture in that fingertip as well!

Good thing the X-ray was taken, as I am now on antibiotics and in a sterile dressing to prevent bone infection from setting in via the exposed nail bed. Soon I will see an orthopedic specialist to determine what else will be done for this finger. So be careful when closing doors, everyone, and if you do slam your finger in a door, get it X-rayed!

Post 7

I was swept off some rocks by a freak wave on a trip to Albany, WA. I find myself lucky to have escaped with just a broken finger. My middle right hand finger is snapped into two places. The pain didn't start until half an hour after the accident happened. By then i was on my way to the hospital.

My finger is now taped to the two surrounding fingers that holds it in place. It was painful for the first two days - even with a decent amount of codeine! I am now recovering and meant to see the doctor in two weeks. Hope it all goes well.

Post 6

I broke my baby finger and tore some tendons last june. The doctor put pins and screws and I was in a cast for a few weeks. After the cast was removed, I was doing physio every day to try and keep the mobility in it. The finger scarred down and I had a second surgery in feb to try and get the finger moving. now i am left with a bent finger that only moves from my knuckle.

I am supposed to go see another hand specialist and have another surgery. The finger is constant pain and has been swollen now since the original break.

I am very frustrated and wondering if i have hope of ever having my finger straight again.

Post 5

i broke my left index finger on sunday playing footy. i now have a back slab of plaster on. I am going back to the doctor tomorrow and he is sending me to plastics. My finger feels fine though.

Post 4

I broke my baby finger. I went to emergency and was told at first that it might be just a sprain. I knew it wasn't a sprain when the swelling didn't go down by Tuesday.

The finger was x-rayed at various angles and the last x-ray showed the break. The break was right above the distal joint and was nice and clean. My doctor told me it takes roughly four to six weeks to heal.

I have to see him at the four-week mark to make sure everything is going well and hopefully I can take the splint off.

Post 3

I broke the third and fourth finger at the joint to the hand (left) set at emergency room on a Thursday and saw a specialist the following Monday. The X-Rays looked like he set was holding. Went back in two weeks told that the fifth finger had separated and I would need to have surgery for pins (total of five).

The swelling is still fairly significant, movement is very limited and pain continues to be pretty uncomfortable. Physical therapy is not helping and it has been two months since the accident. Is this normal?

This stretching and holding the joints down until I am ready to scream is taking over my life.

Post 2

it says '"a matter of weeks."

Post 1

you didn't mention any timeframe.

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