hand with finger splintSo you’ve smashed your finger performing an everyday task like closing a door, catching a ball or using a tool. Now you’re in pain, and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. It’s only natural to start to wonder: is my finger broken?

The physicians at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists treat finger injuries on a regular basis, and many will heal on their own. However, it’s important to know the difference between pain from a temporary jam and a potential fracture that needs immediate medical attention, or even surgery. Here are some frequently-asked questions about finger fractures that can help you understand your injury:

What are some common causes of broken fingers?

Your hands are one of the most hardworking parts of your body, which also means they’re one of the easiest parts to injure. Finger fractures often occur as a result of breaking a fall with your hands, catching a ball without proper protection, being careless with power tools and other equipment, and accidentally jamming your finger when closing a door. Additionally, hand injuries are one of the most common workplace injuries in the United States, second only to back injuries.

How do I know if my finger is broken?

Whenever you injure your finger, you may feel pain, swelling or stiffness when trying to move the affected digit. However, there are a few particularly telltale signs that point to a fracture:

  • The fracture site is very swollen
  • The affected finger appears unnatural or deformed
  • The fracture site is tender and bruised
  • You have difficulty moving the affected finger completely

If you notice any of these symptoms in your injured finger, it’s time to visit a specialist. Dr. Matthew Bernstein and Dr. Mark Yaffe are experienced hand specialists at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists. To learn more about our physicians, visit our list of providers. For urgent needs when our physician’s office is closed, we offer an immediate orthopedic care clinic.

If my finger isn’t broken, what might be wrong with it? 

If you’ve examined your hand and you aren’t showing the symptoms of a fracture, your finger is most likely jammed or sprained. A finger jam can usually be treated with over-the-counter NSAIDs and ice to reduce swelling, though severe sprains may require a splint to ensure the ligaments heal correctly. 

It’s also possible that your finger could be dislocated, especially if your finger appears crooked or feels numb. In this case immediate treatment is needed to properly evaluate and possibly reduce the dislocation. Waiting to treat a dislocated finger can result in long-term difficulties, including loss of movement or sensation.

How will an orthopedic specialist treat my finger fracture?

Luckily, most broken finger bones can be treated without the need for surgery. Your fracture may require a splint or cast to protect it from further injury and ensure it heals in the correct position. If your splint also inhibits the fingers next to the one that has been injured, don’t be surprised -- this provides additional support to your broken finger as it heals. 

In some cases, including a severe break or a more complex type of fracture, your doctor may recommend surgery to move your finger bones back where they belong. If you do require surgery, your orthopedic surgeon may use pins, screws or wires in your finger to hold the bones together from within.

If you’ve injured your finger and you fear it may be broken, schedule an appointment with Dr. Matthew Bernstein or Dr. Mark Yaffe, our hand specialists at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists.  Our team of orthopedic hand specialists will get you the quick diagnosis and treatment you need to start recovering now.  For urgent needs when our physician’s office is closed, visit our Immediate Orthopedic Care (IOC) clinic in Schaumburg, Illinois. Have questions? Contact us today.