Most Common Finger Injuries

By: Jennifer M. Neuenfeldt, MOTR/L, CHT

The most common finger injuries occur because of how much we use our fingers for activities every day. From opening containers, putting on make-up, holding a fork, and holding the hand of a loved one, we use our fingers almost every waking moment of every day. It is because we use our fingers so much that the chance of injuring them is high.

Watch this VIDEO why Hand Pain Can't Wait for care.  Please read this article on the anatomy of the hand.

Finger AnatomyWhat Are The Most Common Finger Injuries?

How Are Most Common Finger Injuries Diagnosed and Treated?

The quick answer is that injuries to the finger are diagnosed by a physical exam and an x-ray or occasionally an MRI or a CT scan if the fracture is hard to visualize. They may be treated with immobilization.

Tendon tears are diagnosed by the presentation of loss of motion, and occasionally an MRI is needed to confirm. Most injuries to the fingers are diagnosed by a combination of X-ray and evaluation by a physician. Once diagnosed, treatment by a therapist may be necessary, depending on the injury. Read this article to learn more about why hand pain can't wait for treatment.

Finger Fractures

The most common fracture of the hand is of the tip of the finger called the distal phalanx. It is one of the most common finger injuries. These injuries often occur as a result of a crush injury where the finger is caught between two objects. Although those are the most common finger fracture injuries, fractures can occur in any bone and any location on the bone.  To read more about finger fractures, please read this article to find out if your finger is broken.

X-ray image of a finger fracture in the fourth proximal phalange

Treatment of Finger Fractures

Treatment for a finger fracture varies based on the severity and the location. If a fracture occurs into a joint where motion may be limited, surgery is often recommended. If the bone is fractured away from the joint and is stable without movement of the fracture, sometimes immobilization in a splint or cast may be the best option. 

Therapy for Finger Fractures

Therapy is often necessary following a finger fracture due to the high probability of stiffness occurring due to the importance of protecting the fracture by immobilization. If surgery was completed to a fracture, therapy is also common early on the following surgery to work on protected ROM, scar treatment, and education by the therapist. 

Finger Arthritis

Image of a hand with bones and joints showing arthritis in the fingers. Image of normal joint compared to a joint in the finger with osteoarthritis or arthritis.Image of arthritis in the fingers

Arthritis can happen to anyone, and it is common in the fingers due to the wear and tear we put our hands through daily. 

Arthritis is a narrowing of the joint space and can sometimes be due to bone spurring. When bone spurring occurs is can be in the form of visible nodules on the joints of the fingers, but not always is joint narrowing visible on the hand unless an MD sees it on an x-ray. 

It usually comes on gradually but without apparent injury to the area and most often causes swelling and stiffness in the area of arthritis. 

A fracture to a region, especially within a joint, can lead to the possibility of arthritis in the future due to a change in the anatomy and how to joint moves following the injury. 

Treatment of Finger Arthritis

Techniques for relieving arthritis pain are 

  • applying warmth
  • regaining ROM when stiffness occur
  • adapting daily activities to take the pressure off the joints
  • NSAIDs (if able) to decrease inflammation

Surgery can be performed for some joints either by fusion of a joint or a joint replacement in an area of pain that disrupts a person’s quality of life. 

If you have arthritis of the fingers read this ARTICLE to learn the top 4 hand exercises for arthritis.

Trigger Fingers

Trigger Finger effects the finger's Range of Motion. Our fingers' range of motion is controlled by 2 muscles that supply a tendon to each finger. Swelling of those tendons from overuse or unknown reasons can cause the tendon to get stuck under a pulley in the finger. These pulleys are located on the finger to provide smooth motion of our fingers, but when swelling occurs can cause the tendon to pop back and forth through the tissue and can be painful. 

Image of a hand with Trigger finger at the 4th digit

Occasionally, if too much swelling occurs, the tendon will get stuck on one side of the tissue and cause pain, swelling, and loss of motion. You should rest your finger from activities that require grasping. Wearing a splint at night may also help. Severe cases may need to be treated by an orthopedic hand specialist.

Treatment of Trigger Finger

This is most often treated with local steroid injections to the area and then surgery if conservative methods fail. After surgery, you will have physical therapy with a hand specialist.

Tendon Ruptures/Lacerations

Tendon ruptures can occur by extreme pressure to a joint where the tendon connects to a bone or can be cut by a sharp object that penetrates deep enough to injure the tendon. 

A tendon laceration or rupture of a tendon off of a bone is confirmed when a patient cannot move a joint independently, whether it's for straightening the joint or flexing the joint downwards.

Occasionally a rupture of the tendon will pull a piece of bone with it (called an avulsion rupture) and, in that case, can be seen on an X-ray. 

Tendon ruptures will require surgery to regain the joint's range of motion and function to allow the motion to occur. Following surgery, protection of the repair and therapy by a skilled therapist will be required to regain range of motion while protecting the repair as it matures. 

How Do You Know If Your Finger Is Sprained or Strained?

A sprain is an injury to the bands of tissue or ligament that connect two bones together. A ligament provides stability. Any stress to the area of injury in the direction away from where the support would usually cause discomfort with a sprain.  Swelling often occurs in the region of injury. 

A strain involves an injury to a muscle or tendon, which is the tissue band that attaches a muscle to a bone. A common known strain is tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), as it’s a partial tear or inflammation of the muscle that attaches to a bone. Pain with a strain is more commonly elicited with the use of the muscle and can cause inflammation at the site of injury. 

Treatment of a Sprained or Strained Finger

Treatment of soft tissue such as the muscle or the ligament can take a long time to heal and can require treatment by therapists, use of NSAIDs, and occasionally surgery if the injury progresses from a partial disruption to a full disruption. 

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If you have a finger injury, JOI is here for you!  Don't let a finger or hand injury limit your daily activities. We have northeast Florida's top hand therapists. To schedule an appointment with a JOI Rehab Hand Therapist in 1 of our 12 locations, call 904-858-7045.  Our top orthopedic doctors can further discuss the most common finger injuries that you may have experienced. Let JOI get you on the road to recovery. To make an appointment, call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the image down below!

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