This involves the crack or splinter of any of the three bones that make up your finger. You may not always be sure if your finger is broken, but there’s some clear signs and self tests that you can try to test it. Yes it’s painful if you fracture your finger, but usually you’ll still be able to move it. Pain is rarely a diagnosing factor. Don’t be fooled if you can still move the finger – this does not mean the finger is not broken. Fractures come in all shapes and sizes, from burst fractures like slamming your finger in a door to smaller cracks in the tip of your finger causes severe pain, but more importantly long term complications if not treated correctly.

A Broken finger is very commonly left untreated, but it causes a number of problems in the future because of stiffness and the inability to use your hand normally. It is very important that a broken finger heals in the correct position to prevent deformity and early aging of the joints in your hand. Avoid being anxious to shaking someone’s hand, just get it fixed & you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Finger pain, finger joint pain, swollen fingers, swollen finger joint, finger joint pain treatment

What is your finger made up of?

The bones in your fingers are called phalanges. Each finger has three phalanges. The bones in your fingers starting at the tips are called the Distal Phalanx, then the Middle Phalanx, and your Proximal phalanx that connect to your knuckles. Between each of these bones there are joints. A broken, or fractured finger occurs when one or more of these bones break:

DIPJ – Distal Interphalangeal Joint between the Middle Phalanx and Distal Phalanx
PIPJ – Proximal Interphalangeal Joint between the Proximal Phalanx and Middle Phalanx
MCPJ – Metacarpophalangeal Joint between the Metacarpal and Proximal Phalanx (Also known as the knuckles)

These joints provide a hinge point for your finger bones to pivot and move on. When a fracture extends into the joint space, it scrapes away cartilage and heals much slower. Surgeons rather opt to stabilize the fracture to safe the joint from further damage. If this is not done, you might lose all forms of movement and the joint ceases up and become permanently stiff.

Periosteum. This is the membrane covering the bone’s outside surface that supplies nutrients to the bone. It plays a vital role in the healing of a fracture to restore the normal form of your finger bones. In fractures this delivery of vital nutrients is disrupted which causes broken bone to heal much slower.

How does a finger fracture happen?

In all cases, bones are very resilient to forces, but they are not made to withstand the crush of a concrete block. In short, if there is a force applied to the bone that is too much, eventually it will break.

When an egg is in an upright position it is able to hold a much greater weight than when it’s turned onto its side. In the same way, when a force is applied to bone at the wrong angle, it can be very fragile to break. This includes twisting, angle and pressure applied to your finger bones. Finger bones are a lot less resilient to handle rotational forces.

Remember that Bones are made out of spongy bone on the inside, and only the outer framework of the bone is quite thick. It is hollow and looks like a sponge on the inside. When the outer shell gives in, it doesn’t take much to crack right through.

Causes of a broken finger

  • Working with a tool – Hitting your fingers with a hammer.
  • When a fast-moving object hits your hand – Catching a ball awkwardly.
  • Slamming your hand between two objects – Closing the car door on your finger or falling on your finger tip.
  • Crushing your fingers with an object – Something heavy falling on your fingers like brick.
  • Punching something or someone – Hitting your fist against a face or wall.
Finger pain, finger joint pain, swollen fingers, swollen finger joint, finger joint pain treatment

Symptoms of a broken finger

Self Test

You may not always be sure if your finger is broken. If it’s broken and you try to bend it, it will be painful, but you’ll still be able to move it. Don’t be fooled if you can still move your finger, this does not mean the finger is not broken. Swelling tends to stabilize the fracture site, and lessen the pain during movement. Be careful, as this swelling subsides your pain may get worse.

Try bending your finger, if there is a specific point that’s very tender or produces a sharp pain, it may be the site of a crack or break in the bone.

  • Tap the suspected fractured finger on a table top
  • Gradually increase the tempo of the tap
  • Stop at any point when its painful, and consider that you may have a broken finger.
  • Spread your fingers wide
  • Bend the first and second knuckles of your fingers and thumb
  • Do not bend the third knuckle that meets the palm.
  • You should be able to curl all your fingers in to your palm.
  • If this movement is too painful or is stopped due to pain, you may have a broken finger.
  • Consider this: If you are unwilling to allow someone to pull on your finger, you may want to consider that you’ve broken your finger.
  • Spread the fingers of your hand
  • Hold the tip of one finger with your other hand
  • Give each finger and the thumb a gentle tug forward, backward and to each side.
Finger pain, finger joint pain, swollen fingers, swollen finger joint, finger joint pain treatment

How bad is my broken finger really?

Bone position

  • A hairline crack in the bone, that doesn’t split apart more than 3 mm is a stable finger fracture, but may heal slowly if not treated correctly, causing pain with light pressure like typing and texting.
  • In a non-displaced or stable fracture, the bone breaks completely but doesn’t move apart.
  • In a displaced or unstable fracture, the bone breaks into separate pieces that move and no longer line up.
  • A comminuted fracture consists of three or more bone pieces, scattered around and doesn’t resemble the original form or shape of the bone. Also called a burst fracture, where the pieces of bone looks like broken glass on X-ray. This is usually from a high impact force that shatters and crushes the bone at the same time.
  • A Spiral fracture snaps the bone under twisting and turning forces.

Diagnosis of a broken finger

We are experienced in testing the different types of problems that can cause your finger pain. Our specialists use a variety of joint mobilizations to determine the extent of the damage, not only the bone, but the surrounding soft tissue like ligaments, tendons, muscles and joints. We mainly test the two components of your finger bones, the first involves movement testing and we develop a certain dexterity to identify a fracture. The second involves testing bone stability and integrity.

If your tests prove that we suspect that you may have a finger fracture, we must do further investigation, the first on the list will be X-rays.


X-rays are helpful to determine the type of fracture and clearly mark the location of your broken finger. They confirm if there is a finger fracture or dislocation in the Distal Phalanx, Middle Phalanx and the Proximal Phalanx. Especially to determine if the broken pieces of finger bone have moved apart from each other or not.


An MRI is only done when a sonar, X-ray and CT scan has been unsuccessful at showing the fracture, it is our last resort to determine a hairline crack. In some cases some fractures may not be visible on a normal x-ray, and an MRI will definitely show the crack.

Sonar (Diagnostic Ultrasound)

A sonar reveals bleeding or swelling around the bone fracture or crack and even ligament tears, but it won’t show the degree of the broken finger bone.

A gap with clearly defined edges signals a fracture and must be followed by an X-ray.

The sonographer might report on bone healing or callus tissue formation that fills up the gap between the bone fragments, especially after the first 3 weeks.

Why is my finger pain not going away?

A fracture of your finger bone normally heal between 6-9 weeks. If however the bone is not protected it can grow back in the wrong place or change the shape of your finger. This leads to a deformity with continuous pain, discomfort, lack of movement and grip strength. Ignoring a broken finger alters movement patterns and leaves you in pain, because the stability that the bone provides is absent.

Although the bone can grow back by itself, it is important to protect the bone using a splint or cast to preserve the correct position. We talk about a malunion when the bone grows back but not in its original shape. You may be left with a disfigured hand.

Sometimes the bone does not join (due to many factors), this is called a nonunion. In these cases surgery will most likely be required to connect the ends of the bone to ensure that healing happens.

If your pain remains the same, or progressively gets worse and more frequent you may be at higher risk of developing complications. Rather get an expert’s guidance and consult a professional.

Hand Therapy Treatment


  • Use medications that mask the pain

  • Do not use heat packs or soak your hands in warm water for the first 2 to 3 days after an injury

  • Don’t try to lift heavy objects or grip anything that brings on the pain

  • Ignore the pain (the longer you wait the greater the risk of developing a nonunion )

Must Do

  • Protect it from further injury

  • Put an ice pack in a towel and place it on your finger for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours

  • Take off any jewelry if your finger starts swelling

  • Wear a splint to support your finger, especially at night – you can get these at our practice

  • Stop activities that causes the pain

  • Diagnose your problem fast & treat it

  • Give us a Call to set up an appointment to determine the tissue damage & how severe your problem is.

Makes it worse

  • Typing

  • Writing

  • Button pressing

  • Carry bags

  • Catching a ball

  • Yoga or Pilates

  • Shaking hands

  • Grasping for something

  • Putting your hand into your pockets or bag

What makes a broken finger worse

The highest priority in a broken finger is the splintered bone. There’s guaranteed soft tissue damage surrounding the fracture site like bone that pierces muscles, tendons and ligaments. Volar plate tears regularly accompanies a finger fracture. The most obvious damage is to the bone, but the foundation of soft tissues rely on a stable anchor, the broken bone dismantles this stability.

Your fingers contains the highest concentration of nerve endings. A finger fracture can compromise nerves resulting in the sensory receptors in your fingers to lose sensitivity and sacrifice dexterity. This leaves you clumsy and uncoordinated.

Intra-articular fractures extend into the joint space between two finger bones. These types of fractures are more complex, pain lingers and takes much longer to recover as it involves the finger joint.

A big problem we see with a broken finger these days:


This is when the bone grows back in the wrong position. This causes movement problems because the bone’s position is out of its normal alignment. Splinting the finger in the wrong position leaves your finger deformed and further reduces the power and mobility of your finger.

Remember that pressure from the swelling around the finger fracture keeps the fracture site stable. As the swelling gradually subsides, the broken segments are more vulnerable to move apart. This delays healing or even causes further separation of the fractured pieces.


This is when the bone doesn’t join together at all, and the separate pieces grind and scratch against each other every time you move your finger. You can just imagine the world of problems that you can get into if this happens.

Generic braces can separate the fractured segments even more. They can even put undue pressure onto the fracture site, causing more problems than solutions. So be careful. Our braces offer direction specific and angular reinforcement to reduce the risk of complications.

Returning to sport too early may risk putting the finger bone under stress increasing the likelihood to impede bone healing.

Hand therapy treatment for a finger fracture

Our experts are the best to test and diagnose your finger fracture. We even assess the integrity of all the surrounding tissue like muscles, tendons, pulleys, volar plate and ligaments. Our practitioners use the latest technology and techniques that’s proven to work. These finger fracture treatments include splinting, compression garments, laser, cupping, and furthermore to monitor your progress and recovery. Making sure you’re safe.

Splinting – A custom splint made and tailored for your finger, to allow optimal healing and ensure the bone re-attaches in the correct position. A splint or brace is a compulsory treatment for a broken finger.

Passive Exercises – Small oscillating mobilizations to maintain movement of all the non-affected joints and regain articular mobility.

Active exercises – Isometric, Eccentric and concentric contractions in a controlled loading program to regain and strengthen the muscles. Breaking down the fear of movement and avoid stiffness from a broken finger.

Tendon gliding techniques – Recover the slide of the tendon along it’s axis through it’s sheath. This treatment is crucial after a broken finger to restore grip strength.

Callus tissue formation – to guide and prevent any abnormal bone formation. Follow up X-rays is ideal when you have completed your finger fracture treatment program.

Sensory retraining – Many broken fingers involve a component of nerve re-training and pain modulation to recondition the nerve endings. This works on the sensory cortex pain perception model.

Phases of Rehabilitation & Treatment of a broken finger

Early Phase: (Week 0-4)

  • Stabilising the finger fracture with splinting to protect the bone and ensure the correct position for good bone regrowth.
  • Lower the damaging effects of swelling.
  • Limit secondary complications and avoid chronic pain.
  • After this phase we will remove the splint and guide you to achieve at least 5% grip strength.

Intermediate Phase: (Week 5-6)

  • Start with gentle range of motion to improve the movement within pain limits.
  • Start to work on improving strength and the function of your hand.
  • During this phase of treatment for a broken finger you’ll wear the splint intermittently.
  • Regain normal patterns of movement and load distribution over the fracture site.
  • Improve fine motor coordination.

Rehabilitation Phase: (Week 7-8)

  • Terminating the use of the splint.
  • Confirm callus formation and bone regrowth.
  • We aim to achieve sensory retraining and avoiding hypersensitivity.
  • At the end of this period you must achieve 80% of normal range of motion and 50-75% of normal grip strength.

Medical Clearance Phase: (Week 9-12)

  • This is the final phase of the treatment for a finger fracture and our goal is to reach full active and passive range of motion and 100% normal grip and pinch strength.
  • Final confirmation and clearance to return to playing sports and work safely.

Healing & Recovery Time for a broken finger

The expected healing time for your fractured finger ranges between 9-12 weeks but other factors can limit your recovery.

Your finger tips are the most distal part of the circulation line and can be effected by compromised blood supply or injury to the joints in your finger. Recovery time can easily double if not correctly treated and monitored.

Finger pain, finger joint pain, swollen fingers, swollen finger joint, finger joint pain treatment
Finger pain, finger joint pain, swollen fingers, swollen finger joint, finger joint pain treatment

Surgery of a broken finger

If you ignore your finger fracture and you end up with a non-union or malunion, the chances are high you’ll need surgical treatment, even a misdiagnosed finger fracture usually results in surgical repair.

Pins, screws, and wires are used in surgical correction of broken fingers. If your fracture is unstable or displaced, your doctor will opt to perform surgery that stabilizes the fracture

This is the same for:

  • multiple fractures
  • loose bone fragments
  • a fracture extending into the joint space
  • damage to the ligaments or tendons
  • unstable, displaced, or open fractures
  • an impacted fracture

A Broken finger is also known as

  • Finger fracture
  • Distal phalanx fracture
  • Middle phalanx fracture
  • Proximal phalanx fracture

What else could the pain be?