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Broken Finger

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 wall.

  • 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 phalanx.

    • 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 involved.

      • 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 (avulsion) injury.

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 your attention.

  • 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.
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WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

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