What is it?
  • There are three finger bones, called phalanges. A broken bone is called a fracture, whether it is just cracked or broken into several pieces.
  • This section deals with acute or recent injuries. Treatment of healed or nearly healed finger fractures is a different situation.
  • Moving from the base of the finger out toward the tip, these are some of the more common finger fractures, and what they are called by doctors: 
Proximal phalanx collateral ligament avulsion fracture.
Proximal phalanx base fracture with dorsal angulation.
Proximal interphalangeal joint dorsal fracture-dislocation.
Middle phalanx oblique shaft fracture.
Distal interphalangeal joint  mallet finger  or fracture dislocation.
  • The list goes on and on. There are really an infinite number of different types of finger bone fractures.
What caused it?
  • Usually it's no surprise - the finger has been whacked, jammed, crushed, or sustained some other direct injury. However, fractures can also happen when the finger has been pulled or twisted suddenly and forcefully. Rarely, a bone may break through a weak spot caused by a tumor or cyst - this may be the first sign of the problem.
What can you do to help?
  • Ice, elevation and rest - and check with your doctor. If the injury involved a cut, medical evaluation is particularly important - check whether or not a tetanus shot, antibiotics or other treatment is needed.
What can a therapist do to help?
  • Depending on the problem, a therapist can be very helpful in providing a protective splint and supervising special exercises to improve movement and strength.
What can a doctor do to help?
  • Confirm that this is the problem. X-rays are usually needed to show exactly what the problem is.
  • Treatment really depends on the type of  break. Your doctor may recommend:
    • moving the fingers and doing exercises right away
    • wearing a splint or a cast
    • having surgery to set the break, possibly using hardware (pins, screws, wires, etc.) to hold the pieces in place.
How successful is treatment?
  • Again, it really depends on what the break is. The biggest problem people have after a finger fracture is stiffness. Stiffness means difficulty bending or straightening finger joints. This is very common, and is more likely the closer the break is to where the finger meets the hand. The best way to prevent stiffness is to move joints as soon as possible. Sometimes the break is too unstable to let the fingers move - even with surgery, but otherwise, it's best to start moving the fingers as soon as possible.
What happens if you have no treatment?
  • It's a roll of the dice. You may luck out and wind up with a pretty good result. However, if the break really needs to be set, it's best to do it right away. If the bone heals in the wrong position, it can be rebroken and re-set later, but the results of this late intervention are not as reliable, and usually not as good.
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