Treating a Dislocated Finger

Leena Palande May 6, 2019
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Read on for the treatment and the time required to recover from the discomfort and pain after the dislocation of a finger.
Finger dislocation occurs when an injury or an accident moves one of the three bones of a finger (dislocate) out of its normal position. Any of the joints of any finger can get dislocated, but it has been noticed that the middle knuckle of the little, ring, middle or index finger often get dislocated.
Many times a finger gets caught in equipment such as a game jersey or pads. A dislocated finger appears crooked and swollen and it is very painful too. It may appear bent at strange angles. Sometimes numbness or tingling sensation occurs.
Pale or blue colored skin or broken skin needs prompt treatment. You need quick medical care when a finger is dislocated. Delay in treatment can cause difficulty in healing and permanent disability.

Treatment for Finger Dislocation

  • After examining the injured finger, the doctor will ask you to get an X-ray of the finger to confirm the dislocation of the bone and see whether there is any broken bone.
  • As swelling after dislocation may cause difficulty in removing the ring or any other jewelry, you should remove the rings in the finger as soon as you feel finger dislocation.
  • Before approaching the doctor, you may apply ice pack to the affected finger, at home. This helps relieve the pain.
  • Hold the hand in a slightly elevated position, for instance above your heart level.
  • A local anesthetic injection helps relieve the pain. This allows the doctor to reduce the dislocation by realigning the bones.
  • You will be able to bear the pain with the help of anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen which reduces inflammation and speed up recovery. Medications prescribed by the doctor or an injection or an IV can also ease the process of realignment of bones.
  • The doctor might then place your injured finger in a protective splint or may cover it with a tape or bandage along with the healthy finger next to it. The procedure is called 'buddy taping'!
  • In case of sprained ligaments or partially torn ligaments, treatment may simply involve a short period of splinting and early exercise. Remember, the dislocated joint tightens rapidly. If the joint is immobilized for even a short period, it immediately becomes very stiff. So, early exercise is an important factor in dislocated finger rehab.
  • The doctor might use a brace to prevent the joint from straightening completely; but it may at the same time, allow the joint to bend. The brace known as dorsal blocking splint accomplishes both goals. You will be asked to wear the brace for three to four weeks, so that the ligament may heal enough to stabilize the joint till then.
  • In serious cases, the volar plate ruptures and gets caught in the joint, preventing realigning of the joint without surgery. Surgery only can remove the volar plate trapped in the joint.
  • After recovery, the doctor will need a second x-ray to confirm the finger's realignment and check for any broken bones that may not have shown up on the first x-ray.

Recovery Time for Finger Dislocation

  • With successful nonsurgical treatment, significant improvement can be noticed in three to six weeks.
  • If the joint heals after three to four weeks, then the splint can be removed. You may then begin with strengthening exercises. These exercises should be performed under the guidance of a physical or occupational therapist. Physical therapy plays an important role in the treatment of finger dislocation.
  • The injured joint often remains swollen for long period and generally the joint does not return to its exact original shape.
  • After surgery also, splint has to be worn for 3-4 weeks. Thereafter, physical therapy is a must. It is necessary to attend the therapy sessions for two to three months and full recovery may require up to four months period.

Dislocated Finger Therapy

  • The therapy treatments will first focus on moderating the pain and reducing the swelling from surgery.
  • Gentle, range-of-motion exercises can be tried thereafter.
  • Strengthening exercises which are then performed, offer more stability around the injured joint.
  • At the end, the patient is taught how to grip and support items in order to do his tasks safely and with the least amount of stress on his finger joint. The patient should avoid applying too much stress, too quickly.
  • Eventually, patient starts doing exercises which are specially designed to get his/her hand and fingers working in ways that are similar to his/her work tasks and daily activities. The therapist encourages to find ways to do the required tasks, that won't put excessive stress on the affected finger joint.
  • Before the end of the therapy sessions, the therapist will teach the patient, how to avoid future problems. After the end of the sessions, the patient should do exercises on his own, at home, as part of an ongoing program.
So, the treatment for dislocated finger should focus on controlling the pain, improving the strength and range of motion of the finger and regaining fine motor abilities for the affected hand and finger.