Who among us has never felt the searing, burning pain of slamming their finger into a door? Sometimes, especially when it first happens, this event can hurt so much that we fear the worst, turning to whoever is closest and asking, “Do you think it’s broken?” Our fingers are made up of multiple tiny bones, and fractures aren’t uncommon -- but how do you know if your finger is truly broken, or if it just really hurts?

At OAA Orthopedic Specialists, our board-certified, fellowship trained hand and upper extremity specialists treat all types of finger injuries every single day, and fractures are no exception. Here are some questions you might ask yourself if you’re afraid your finger may be broken:

How Might I Have Broken a Finger?

We use our hands to complete so many tasks each day, it’s no wonder that there are endless ways you can potentially injure them. When specifically looking at what can potentially cause a finger fracture, you might think about the following events:

  • Catching a ball without appropriate protection during sports, such as baseball or softball.
  • Closing a door or lid on your finger and “jamming” it.
  • Improperly using power tools and other types of machinery or equipment.
  • Falling down and using your hands to catch yourself, which is an involuntary reflex many of us have.

Many people who injure their fingers also do so in the context of the workplace, especially in industries such as package handling and construction. In fact, hand injuries are the second most common workplace injuries in the United States, just behind back injuries in their frequency.

What Are Some Common Symptoms of a Broken Finger?

Not all finger injuries are fractures, and you may feel pain, swelling or stiffness in your finger after any number of traumas have occured. That said, there are certain particular indicators of a fracture that you should look out for if you fear your finger may be broken:

  • Your affected finger is bent into a strange or unnatural position
  • There’s excessive swelling in one localized area
  • There’s significant tenderness and bruising in one localized area
  • Your pain is exceptionally severe
  • You’re finding it difficult to move the affected finger

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it’s time to get your hand examined by an orthopedic professional. At OAA Orthopedic Specialists, our team of hand and upper extremity specialists can help you reach an accurate diagnosis and get started on your treatment plan.

What Else Might’ve Happened to My Finger?

As we’ve said, not every finger injury is a fracture. If you’ve gone through the checklist above and it doesn’t seem to be quite so severe, there may be something else going on with your finger that could still benefit from medical attention. 

The most common finger injuries you may deal with apart from fractures are jams and sprains. If your finger is jammed, you most likely don’t need to go to the doctor -- just take the appropriate dose of over-the-counter pain relievers and use ice to reduce any swelling that may occur. Of course, if your symptoms persist, it’s time to make sure nothing more serious is going on. Sprains can be another story, and you should let a doctor take a look in order to determine if you need a splint to help your ligaments heal in the right position. 

Finally, it’s possible that your finger could be dislocated rather than fractured. If your finger feels more numb than painful and appears crooked or out of place, you’ll need to receive an immediate evaluation from a specialist and begin treatment as soon as you can.

If you fear your finger may be broken or dislocated, do not wait to see the doctor! When left untreated, broken and dislocated fingers can cause serious problems in the long term, including permanent loss of movement and sensation. Call on the specialists at OAA to help you reach an accurate diagnosis and begin treating your injury as soon as possible.

If you’ve injured your finger, hand, or wrist, the upper extremity team at OAA is here to help. Reach out to us for an exam and accurate diagnosis from a board-certified professional. If you’re ready to start living pain-free, schedule an appointment with us today!