As summer winds down and people are still wearing flip flops out and about, we see a few more finger fractures than usual. This is due to people mis-stepping in these unsupportive shoes.
Identifying Finger Fractures
Finger fractures are obvious some of the time with a definite deformity, and can be subtle other times. Symptoms of a fracture are localized swelling and tenderness. As the finger swells, movement becomes limited. There may be some bruising around the fracture.
If you think you may have broken your finger, you will need an x-ray to confirm this. See your doctor to get the x-ray ordered and make sure the prescription says fingers and hand on it. Often times primary care physicians will order a hand x-ray thinking that they are ordering all of your hand including the fingers; however, the radiologist only looks at the hand (Metacarpals) but not the fingers.
If a fracture is confirmed, the finger will have to be immobilized to allow the bone to heal. Sometimes this involves a finger splint and sometimes this involves surgery. The length of the splint to immobilize the fracture depends on where the fracture is. Usually the doctors try to immobilize the joint before and after the fracture to keep it from moving. So if the fracture is in the middle of the finger, a finger splint will be applied. If the fracture is closer to the hand then the entire hand maybe included.
If the fracture is unstable, meaning it moves easily and doesn’t want to stay in place, the doctor may need to operate. Small plates, screws or pins are used to put the fracture in place. Often times the doctor will immobilize the fracture in addition to doing the surgery. This allows the bones to heal in the proper place and to be moved as soon as it seems stable.
From a therapy standpoint, the doctor will brace any part of your hand that he or she does not want you to move, so please move the rest of your hand and wrist.
Ice and elevation will help with the pain and swelling. Please note that ice is used to constrict blood vessels so if you have a cast on, put the ice further up your arm to get the blood vessels to constrict.
Patience is necessary to allow the fracture to heal well enough to be moved, then easy does it and gradually increase your range of motion of the joints.
If you need more help regarding fingers, hands and upper extremities, please contact us at LB Hand Therapy.