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How to Identify Fractures in a Finger

How to Identify Fractures in a Finger

Are you worried if the throbbing pain in your finger is the result of a fracture? To know for sure, keep reading this article on how to identify fractures in a finger.
Mukulika Mukherjee
A fracture in the finger not only limits our ability to perform many of our day-to-day activities, but also is extremely painful. We use our fingers to perform almost every activity of our daily life, right from brushing our teeth and tying our shoelaces, to opening a door to writing letters (and even typing them!) to a loved one. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a life where we are restricted to use our fingers. This is the reason why an injury to the hand and fingers might make you feel that your world has come to a standstill. An injury on the finger can be of many types and there can be several circumstances that can cause you to end up with a broken finger. A broken finger is a term used to refer to a fracture in the bones of the finger.

Fractures in the finger might take a long time to heal, depending on the exact location of the injury and the severity of the injury. But how to tell if your finger is fractured? While a fracture in the bones of the finger can cause you to experience excruciating pain, there are a few other symptoms that you can look out for, in case you wish to ascertain if it is indeed a broken finger that is causing you the pain. In this article, we'll delve into the various symptoms of a fractured finger and also look into the effective treatment options available. But first of all, we'll have a quick look at the basic anatomy of the hand and the fingers as this will make our task of diagnosing fractured fingers, easier and all the more effective.

Anatomy of the Hand and Fingers
The anatomy of the hand consists of the bones of the wrist, the palm and the fingers, known as the carpals, the metacarpals and the phalanges, respectively. There are in all, 8 carpals, 5 metacarpals and 14 phalanges, making a total of 27 bones. The bones of the fingers are joined to each other with the help of ligaments, and they are joined to the muscles of the palm with the help of tendons. The three bones that constitute the fingers, in order of their growing proximity to the palm, are known as the proximal phalanx, the middle phalanx and the distal phalanx. The joints formed by these bones with each other and the bones of the palm, are what we call the knuckles. Fractures on the phalanges or the bones of the fingers, are the most common.

How to Know if Your Finger is Fractured
Now, let us discuss the symptoms of a fractured finger to help you know whether you have a fractured finger, so that you can seek proper and timely treatment.
  • Very sharp throbbing pain
  • Inability to move the fingers or a specific joint
  • Gross swelling in the affected finger, which might be accompanied by redness
  • Loss of sensation in the affected finger
  • Bleeding from the site of injury, in case of an open fracture
In certain extreme cases, you might witness a loss of blood flow to the injured site leading to discoloration and this calls for an emergency. In case you notice any of the above symptoms, rush to your doctor for advice on further course of action. If you visit a doctor with a swollen and painful finger, he will conduct an X-ray of your hand and look for any signs of a fracture on the X-ray image. Not only this, he will also assess the extent of damage of the bone tissue and accordingly, recommend a suitable mode of treatment.

Types of Fractures in Fingers
Depending on the extent of the injury, a fracture in the finger or, for that matter, any part of the body, can be classified into two main types: open fracture and closed fracture. An open fracture, also referred to as a compound fracture, is one that is characterized by the fractured bone projecting out through the skin and this type of fracture can be fatal due to the high risk of infection. A closed fracture, on the other hand, is one which cannot be detected without the use of suitable diagnostic procedures. A closed fracture takes lesser time to heal completely. Also, the fractures in different joints of the hand are known by different names. For example, the fracture of the knuckle that connects the fingers to the palm, is termed as a boxer's fracture (as shown in the image).

Causes of Fractures in a Finger
There can be many possible causes for fractures in fingers. Mostly one ends up with a finger injury while playing outdoor games such as cricket or football, while operating certain devices, or while opening or closing doors and windows. Also, accidents are a major cause for injuries to the body, including the fingers. Some people are prone to fractures due to a medical history of diseases such as osteoporosis, which is caused by the deficiency of calcium and results in porous bones.

How to Treat a Fractured Finger
A fracture in the finger is mostly treated with medication but in some cases, surgical treatment is recommended. Surgery is necessary if the fracture has resulted in change of alignment of the bones, or if there is a chance of infection due to an open fracture. For treatment with medication, your doctor will use a cast to protect your finger during the course of treatment, which may last for a period of 4-5 weeks. Even for a few weeks post the recovery period, you will be advised not to subject the injured finger to too much movement or strenuous activity.

Always remember to consult a doctor if you feel a persisting pain in a specific finger or experience any of the symptoms mentioned above. It is very important for you to identify a fracture in your finger because timely diagnosis and treatment can prevent many a complication. By following a course of prescribed medications and with the help of certain physiotherapy exercises recommended by your doc, you can safely recover from a broken finger.