Broken Finger Overview
Fingers enable us to touch, grasp, and interact with our environment.
Therefore, they are easily injured. Injuries may range from simple bruises or contusions to broken
bones and dislocations of the joints.
Understanding the basic anatomy of the hand and fingers is very useful in
understanding different types of finger injuries, broken fingers, and how some
treatments differ from others.
- The hand is divided into 3 sections: wrist, palm, and fingers. There are 8
bones in the wrist, which move together to allow the vast ranges of motion of
the wrist. The palm or midhand is made up of the metacarpal bones. The
metacarpal bones have muscular attachments and bridge the wrist to the
individual fingers. These bones frequently are injured with direct trauma such
as a crush from an object or most commonly the sudden stop of the hand by a
- The fingers are the most frequently injured part of the hand. Fingers are
constructed of ligaments (strong supportive tissue connecting bone to bone),
tendons (attachment tissue from muscle to bone), and 3 bones, called phalanges.
There are no muscles in the fingers. Fingers move by the pull of muscles,
located in the forearm, on the tendons.
- The 3 bones in each finger are arranged in the same manner. The finger
bones are named in their relation to the hand. For example, the first bone is
the proximal phalanx. The second bone is the middle phalanx. The smallest and
farthest from the hand is the distal phalanx (often injured by jamming or
mallet finger). The thumb is the shortest finger and does not have the middle
- Knuckles seen on the back of the hand are joints formed by the bones of the
fingers. They are commonly injured or dislocated with trauma to the hand. Each
joint has a specific name depending on its location and the bones
- The first and largest knuckle is the junction between the palmar bones and
the fingers. Medically, it is the joint of the metacarpals and phalanges. This
joint commonly is injured in closed fist activities and is most commonly known
as a boxer's fracture.
- The next knuckle out toward the fingertip is the joint closest to the hand
and between the finger bones. It is termed the proximal inter-phalangeal joint.
This joint may be dislocated in sporting events when a ball or object directly
strikes the finger.
- The farthest joint of the finger is the distal inter-phalangeal joint.
Injuries to this joint usually involve a fracture (a break) or tendon tearing
Broken Finger Symptoms
Broken fingers rarely go unnoticed. Frequently, you have immediate pain
after trauma and sometimes a deformed finger either at a joint (commonly a
dislocation) or through the bone as a fracture. If there is no deformity, a
sharp pain usually is felt very specifically at the injury site and will get
- Sometimes you are not really sure if the finger is truly broken, and you
try to bend the finger in question. A true fracture usually will be painful,
but do not be fooled by a finger that has some range of motion and dull pain.
Fractures are common. Depending
on their stability, some may hurt more than others.
- As time goes on, usually within the next 5-10 minutes, you will notice
swelling and redness of the finger. The finger will become very swollen and
stiff to move. Swelling is not as specific as pain and therefore may affect the
adjacent fingers as well.
- If the fracture is severe, bruising from released blood may be seen.
- Finally, if the swelling gets too massive, numbness of the finger may occur
because the nerves in the fingers are compressed.