Broken Hand Overview
The hand is a marvelously complex part of the human anatomy. Every year, however, millions of people experience broken bones within their hands. Because we are so dependent on our hands, even a small loss of function can result in a lifelong disability. A broken hand will often require a visit to a doctor, and it may require months of rehabilitation care.
- The hand is composed of 27 bones, including those in the wrist. Broken bones most commonly result from a direct blow to the hand or a fall onto the hand. Common injuries include fractures of the fingertip, or of the pinkie side of the palm, or of the thumb.
- When doctors describe the bones in the hand, they use several terms.
- Carpals are the 8 bones in the wrist. They are not actually part of the hand but are vital for its function.
- Metacarpals are the 5 bones that form the palm of the hand.
- Phalanges are the 14 small bones that, when strung together, form the thumb and fingers. The thumb has 2 phalanges. The other 4 fingers are made of 3 phalanges each.
- The knuckles of the hand are referred to as the MCP joint, which stands for metacarpal-phalangeal joint (because the fingers, composed of phalanges, join the palm, made of metacarpals).
- The joints in the fingers are called the PIP and DIP joints. The PIP joint is the proximal interphalangeal joint and is the joint closest to the palm. The DIP joint is the distal interphalangeal joint and is the joint closest to the fingertip.
- The fingers are called the thumb, index finger, middle (or long) finger, ring finger, and pinky (or small) finger.
- The handedness (right or left) of the person is called the dominance of the hand. If you are left-handed, then you are left-hand dominant.
Broken Hand Causes
Hand injuries are caused by workplace injuries, improper use of tools, crush injuries, falls, and sports injuries. The vast majority of injuries can be prevented.
Broken Hand Symptoms
Most injuries of the hand are fairly obvious. The symptoms may include the following:
- A history of injury
- Misalignment of the fingernails
- Inability to grasp
- Reduced range of motion of fingers
When to Seek Medical Care
As a general rule, see a doctor for any injury to your hand unless it is very minor. Your hands are central to being able to function, and you should be certain that no permanent damage has been done.
Because your hands are so important, a doctor should see any hand injury, except the most minor. Contact your doctor, who will often refer you to the emergency department for diagnosis and treatment.
Exams and Tests
Most injuries of the hand will require an x-ray. The history of how the hand was injured will help the doctor determine the most likely fracture. For example, if the hand was injured by punching, the most likely fracture is that of the fifth metacarpal.
The doctor will touch your fingers and hand and wrist to determine the areas that are most painful and to evaluate if any damage has occurred to the blood vessels or nerves or tendons in the hand.