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What is a hand/finger fracture?

The palm and fingers of the human hand consist of 19 bones – 5 metacarpal bones located in the palm and 14 phalangeal bones located in the thumb and fingers. A hand/finger fracture occurs when one of these bones is broken, which often results from trauma such as falls, crush injuries, twisting injuries, direct blows or sporting accidents.

One of the most common fractures in the hand is the Boxer’s fracture – a break in the neck of the little finger metacarpal bone (near the knuckle area of the little finger). It is commonly caused by a punch of the fist against a wall or a solid object at high speed, as well as by a fall if you land on a closed fist.

How do I know if I have a hand/finger fracture?

Signs and symptoms of a hand/finger fracture may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Warmth, bruising or redness
  • Obvious deformity of the bone or joint
  • Inability to use or move the injured hand or finger
  • Unable to put weight on the hand

How are hand/finger fractures diagnosed?

Your specialist Doctor will obtain your health history and perform a physical examination. Your Doctor may also order radiological investigations (e.g. X-rays, CT scans) to help diagnose the fracture.

How are hand/finger fractures treated?

Hand/finger fractures can be treated both surgically and non-surgically, depending on the severity of the injury.

Non-surgical Treatment

Fractures that are stable may be realigned manually by your specialist Doctor and immobilised by a cast, splint or traction device. The cast or splint helps to hold the fractured bone in a stable position while it heals and needs to be worn for 3 to 6 weeks on average. Once your specialist Doctor ascertains that the fracture is stable and healing adequately, your Doctor will refer you to our Hand Therapist to start gentle hand/finger exercises.

Surgical Treatment

Sometimes, when the hand/finger fracture is more severe, unstable or complex, your specialist Doctor may recommend that you undergo surgery to secure the fractured bones back in place with metal implants. After surgery, your specialist Doctor will refer you to our Hand Therapist when it is safe for you to begin gentle hand/finger exercises.

Hand Therapy

Joint stiffness, muscle tightness, weakness and loss of function of the hand or finger are common problems in the early stages of recovery from a hand/finger fracture. As such, daily activities such as self-care (e.g. dressing, showering, brushing of teeth), work activities and leisure pursuits (e.g. sports activities, baking, craft work) are often affected. Hand therapy plays a pivotal role in the recovery of upper limb movement, strength and function after a hand/finger fracture.

If you require protective immobilisation for your hand/finger fracture, your specialist Doctor may refer you to our Hand Therapist for a customised splint. Once you are able to start therapy for your hand, our Hand Therapist can then help you in your recovery through treatment options such as:

  • Advice and education pertaining to your condition
  • Wax therapy
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Exercises to improve finger/hand and muscle movements
  • Management of swelling
  • Scar management
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Soft tissue mobilisation and release
  • Pain relief/management
  • Functional retraining of the finger/hand
  • Personalised home exercise program