Finger Fracture

Definition

A finger fracture is a break in any of the bones in a finger. Each finger consists of three bones called the phalanges. The thumb has only two phalanges.

Finger Fracture
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Causes

A finger fracture is caused by trauma to the finger. Trauma includes:

  • Falls
  • Blows
  • Collisions
  • Severe twists

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of a finger fracture include:

  • Advancing age
  • Osteoporosis
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain congenital bone conditions
  • Participation in contact sports
  • Violence

Symptoms

A finger fracture may cause:

  • Pain, often severe
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Inability to move finger without pain or difficulty
  • Possible deformity at fracture site

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms, your physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The injured finger will be examined. The doctor will order x-rays of the finger to determine which bones are broken and the type of fracture.

Treatment

Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications or problems with your finger, such as immobility or misalignment. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include:

Intial Care

Extra support may be needed to protect, support, and keep your finger in line while it heals. Supportive steps may include buddy taping (your injured finger is taped to healthy fingers next to it), or a splint or cast.

Some fractures cause pieces of bone to separate. Your doctor will need to put these pieces back into their proper place. This may be done:

  • Without surgery—you will have anesthesia to decrease pain while the doctor moves the pieces back into place
  • With surgery—pins, screws, or a wire may be needed to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place

Children’s bones are still growing at an area of the bone called the growth plate. If the fracture affected the growth plate, your child may need to see a specialist. Injuries to the growth plate will need to be monitored to make sure the bone can continue to grow as expected.

Medication

Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be given to help reduce inflammation and pain.

Medications may include acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Check with your doctor before taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.

Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.

Rest and Recovery

Healing time varies by age and your overall health. Children and people in better overall health heal faster. In general, it takes up to 6-8 weeks for a fractured finger to heal.

You will need to adjust your activities while your finger heals, but complete rest is rarely required. Ice and elevating the hand at rest may also be recommended to help with discomfort and swelling.

As you recover, you may be referred to physical therapy or rehabilitation to start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. Do not return to activities or sports until your doctor gives you permission to do so.

If you are diagnosed with a finger fracture, follow your doctor's instructions .

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of finger fractures, take these steps:

  • Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the bone.
  • Always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a car.
  • Do weight-bearing and strengthening exercises regularly to build strong bones.
  • Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.

To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:

  • Clean spills and slippery areas right away
  • Remove tripping hazards such as loose cords, rugs, and clutter
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower
  • Install grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or tub
  • Put in handrails on both sides of stairways
  • Walk only in well-lit rooms, stairs, and halls
  • Keep flashlights on hand in case of a power outage

Revision Information

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

    http://www.orthoinfo.org

  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine

    http://www.sportsmed.org

  • Canadian Orthopaedic Association

    http://www.coa-aco.org

  • Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation

    http://www.canorth.org

  • Fracture of the finger. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00257 . Updated October 2007. Accessed September 16, 2013.

  • Newberg A, Dalinka MK, et al. Acute hand and wrist trauma. American College of Radiology. ACR Appropriateness Criteria. Radiology. 2000;215:Suppl:375-8. Updated 2008.

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