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How to Recover From a Broken Finger

by Dan Hinckley » on May 26, 2020 0

We use our fingers for every essential function under the sun like writing, typing, holding/ carrying objects, cooking, bathing, texting, among a million other functions; therefore, a broken finger can feel extremely inhibiting for day-to-day activities. Once you suspect your finger might be broken, it’s important to know how you can stabilize the injury, minimize pain, and prevent the injury from getting worse before your finger is treated by a medical professional. Below, we’ve outlined how to identify a broken finger, what to do when you suspect your finger is broken, and steps you can take for a full recovery. 

Identifying a Finger Fracture

Signs of a fractured finger can be:

  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling or redness
  • Numbness or stiffness
  • Intense pain when bending or straightening
  • An alignment issue or finger looks abnormally bent

Temporary Pain Control

If you experience a combination of these symptoms, a fracture could be the potential cause and you’re advised to seek medical attention by visiting your local urgent care. Immediately after an injury or an accident where you feel like your finger may be broken, temporary treatments can be conducted to mitigate the pain such as:

  • Keeping your hand elevated
  • Icing the area using a towel to reduce swelling
  • Creating a temporary splint to minimize movement
  • Limiting unnecessary motion of the finger

In a pinch, temporary splints can be applied at home by laying your finger over a popsicle stick or pen and then tightly wrapping medical tape or bandages over both the item and your finger to keep it stable. 

Medical Treatment

Once you’re able to be seen by a doctor, they will perform x-rays to see whether the finger is broken or not and gauge the severity of the break. Oftentimes, surgery is not needed with common stable fractures and doctors will simply apply a more permanent splint to your finger to be worn for a 4-6 week time period. If the situation deals with a complex, unstable fracture, then surgery may be necessary. 

It’s important to explain to your doctor exactly how and when the accident happened. Whether you injured your finger while trying to break a fall or while playing sports, these details are salient to the doctor’s diagnosis. If diagnosed with a simple fracture, oftentimes a doctor will inject a local anesthetic to your finger to numb the pain, while he/she attempts to straighten the finger and put the broken bone back into place. Depending on the break, the doctor will apply a splint to your broken finger or may splint multiple fingers next to the broken one for added support. Both of these treatments are in attempts to foster healing and prevent the finger from further injury. 

Recovery

During the 4-6 weeks where you’re wearing the splint, you must keep the splint or dressing dry and clean. Moisture collected under the splint can cause skin irritation and itching. You will need to wash your finger at least once a day while it’s splinted. If showering, tape a plastic bag over your hand to prevent the splint from getting wet or bathe outside of the shower. 

Other best practices during the 4-6 week healing period:

  • Keep your hand elevated when possible to minimize swelling
  • Be sure to attend your follow-up appointment with your doctor
  • Avoid excess hand motion or playing any sports with the injured hand until your doctor has advised it’s ok to do so
  • Contact your doctor if you’re worried the fracture is not healing properly or if you’re still feeling an intense amount of pain

During your follow up appointment, your doctor may perform another round of x-rays to gauge how the break has progressed during the healing period. Once your doctor has removed your splint, he/she may advise physical therapy or range of motion exercises for you to perform on the injured hand, depending on the severity of the fracture. Joint stiffness often results from a finger fracture, so continuing these exercises over time can be critical to ensuring long-term recovery. Overall, if these steps are abided, the prognosis for a healthy recovery is strong for a broken finger.

Rehabilitation Exercises

Your doctor or physical therapist will advise you when to start rehabilitation exercises for your finger as well as which exercises will be most effective for you, given the nature of your fracture. Be sure to start these exercises slowly and tell your doctor or therapist if these exercises start to induce pain.

Common range of motion exercises, once per day include:

 

  • Finger extensions: Lay your hand, palm down, on a flat surface and raise the affected finger 8-10 times
  • Isolated finger flex: Lay your hand on a flat surface, palm up. With your other hand, press down on the non-affected fingers. Bend and straighten your isolated affected finger, that is free to move, 8-10 times.
  • Imaginary ball squeeze: spread your fingers in the air as if you’re gripping an invisible ball. Bend your fingers around the ball and squeeze the ball for 5 seconds. Slowly straighten your fingers to release and repeat this motion 8-10 times. A similar exercise can also be performed by squeezing a towel roll. 
  • Tendon glides: Hold your hand up with your fingers pointing straight up, as if you’re about to give a high five. Slowly curl all five fingers down until you’ve formed a fist. Then slowly uncurl your fingers back to the starting position. Repeat this motion 8-10 times.

 

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