Is My Finger Broken or Just Bruised?

Fingers are among the most easily injured body parts. We all use our hands for most daily activities and our fingers are relatively fragile. So, whether it’s a sports injury or an accidental fall, injured fingers are common. While fingers are easy to hurt, it can be difficult to diagnose the injury at home. Sometimes, what appears to be a simple bruise can be a broken finger and vice versa. So, how can you tell? If you’re unsure if your finger is broken, read below to find out which injury you may have.

What are the Symptoms of a Broken Finger

When a finger is fractured, the bone has lost its integrity. Depending on the severity of the impact, a fractured finger could mean that it has a hairline crack or a completely shattered bone. A finger bone can become broken in many ways, though it generally occurs after some type of trauma or accident. Symptoms of a broken finger include:

• Severe pain
• Loss of range of motion
• Finger deformity
• Swelling
• Redness

If the fracture is severe, these symptoms may not go away on their own.

Is My Finger Broken if I can Bend it?

Even if you’re able to bend your finger, there’s still the chance that it is broken. Bending a broken finger will usually be very painful, but in some cases, you may still have full motion of your finger and only a dull pain even though it’s broken. Within about 5-10 minutes of breaking your finger, you may notice bruising, swelling and possibly redness. As the swelling continues, it will become difficult to move the finger as it will become stiff. This swelling can also occur in the surrounding fingers. If the swelling continues and the finger becomes numb, there could be nerve damage or the nerves could be compressed due to the swelling.

How is a Broken Finger Diagnosed?

To diagnose a broken finger, your orthopedic doctor will need to perform multiple tests. The most common test that can show a broken finger is an X-ray. An X-ray will help the doctor evaluate the situation and the position of the broken bone in the finger.

What Should You Do if You Break your Finger?

For most minor finger breaks or fractures, the best treatment is to apply a splint or tape the injured finger to its neighboring finger for support and to minimize movement. You may also want to apply ice to minimize the swelling, but make sure the ice isn’t applied directly to the skin, use a towel between the ice and your finger.

Always consult with an orthopedic doctor to make sure that using a splint is the best treatment. The doctor will need an X-ray to evaluate the bones in the finger and decide on the best treatment plan.

When Should I See a Doctor for a Broken Finger?

After injuring your finger, you should seek medical care if the pain, swelling and limited motion continue or if numbness begins. Go to your nearest emergency department right away if there are any lacerations, crushed tissues or if the bone is exposed. If any of the following occurs, seek a healthcare provider right away:

• Increased pain or swelling
• If your hand or arm becomes cold, blue, numb or tingles
• Any signs of infection: warmth, drainage or increased redness
• Inability to move the finger or hand
• Bruising elsewhere for unknown reasons

What are the Complications of a Broken Finger?

Allowing four to six weeks for your finger to heal by immobilizing it with a splint should be all a broken finger needs to recover. If this technique doesn’t work, there may be complications to the healing process. You should consult with your doctor to evaluate possible complications including:

• Joint stiffness: a common issue after treatment for a broken finger. Physical therapy may be the preferable procedure to regain your finger’s range of motion.
• An abnormal turning of bones: during healing, the bones in the finger could turn abnormally which can cause the finger to become deformed.
• Non-union: when the two ends of the bone do not heal together properly, leaving the area unstable.
• Infection: if surgery was necessary to fix the break; post-operation infection is a possibility.

How to Tell If Your Finger Is Bruised

A bruised finger can sometimes be just a painful as a fractured or broken finger. However, unlike a broken finger, there is no bone break or fracture. The impact it the injured finger causes bleeding under the skin. Symptoms of a bruised finger include:
• Pain
• Stiffness
• Swelling
• Discoloration
• Loss of finger mobility

A bruised finger is also known as a finger contusion. These injuries can take a few days to a few weeks to heal. During the healing time, the bruise will change color from reddish to purple-blue, to greenish-yellow and finally to a yellow-brown before the bruise will fully go away.

Home care for a finger contusion consists of the following techniques:

• Elevation: Elevate the hand above heart level to reduce pain and swelling. Elevating your hand is very important for at least the first 48 hours after injury.
• Icing: Wrap an ice pack or bag of ice around the finger, making sure the ice does not directly touch the finger. Use a towel to make sure there’s something between the ice and finger. When applying ice to a finger contusion, leave the ice on the finger for 20 minutes, every 1-2 hours within the first 24 hours. Continue this process of applying ice for 20 minutes 3-4 times a day until the pain and swelling decreases.
• Reduced Movement: Reduce the movement of the finger by using a splint or taping the finger to a finger beside it and adding gauze between the fingers to absorb any sweat.
• Pain Medication: Unless you doctor supplied you with another pain medication, you can take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to control pain. Always talk with your doctor before taking any medications if you have any medical conditions.

Call Coastal Orthopedics Today

If you think your finger may be broken, contact an orthopedic doctor immediately. You will need an X-ray to evaluate the severity of your injury. Some fractures may only need a splint and rest to heal, while others might need more extensive treatment. Even if you are unsure whether your finger is broken, if you are experiencing severe pain, seek medical attention. Your finger may still be broken and using it, as usual, could worsen your condition. If you have suffered a recent trauma to your finger and believe it may be broken, visit Coastal Orthopedics today. Our physicians specialize in healing all types of bone fractures. Simply give us a call today or contact us online to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced physicians.