Broken Finger

What to Do About a Fractured Finger

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Finger fractures come in many shapes and sizes. Most finger fractures have simple treatments, while others may require surgical treatment. What is most important is that finger fractures are appropriately diagnosed so the best treatment plan can be initiated. Our fingers are capable of very fine, coordinated motions, and disruption of this motion can have tremendous impacts on very normal activities such as eating, typing, or tying your shoes. Because of the importance of our fingers, all finger fractures should be evaluated by a doctor to determine appropriate treatment.

A broken finger in a splint
Naheed Choudhry / Getty Images


Most finger fractures occur as a result of trying to break a fall, or pushing away from an object. Your fingers are often the first part of your body to come in contact with a wall, floor, or other object that can cause injury. Finger fractures also occur as a result of crush injuries. In addition, finger fractures can occur as the result of rotational or twisting injuries to the digit.

Sometimes a fracture can occur as a result of abnormal bone within the finger. This type of fracture is called a pathologic fracture and is the result of having a condition that causes weakening of the bone leading to susceptibility to fracture. Common causes of pathologic fractures in the finger include tumors, infection, and osteoporosis.


Signs of a broken finger include:

  • Pain when touching the bone
  • Swelling of the finger
  • Bruising of the finger
  • Difficulty bending the finger
  • Deformity of the finger

Other problems of the fingers can have similar symptoms, including infections, dislocation, and tendon injuries. Therefore, it is important that you have an injury evaluated if you are unsure of the diagnosis.

There are many situations where fractures are best treated early after the injury, before any healing or scar tissue has developed.

It is not uncommon for someone to think they sprained their finger, when in reality they sustained a fracture that requires surgical treatment. If an injury is treated as a sprain, when in actuality it is a fracture that requires specific treatment, a delayed diagnosis can lead to a worse long-term outcome. Often, this means limited mobility or chronic deformity of a finger . For this reason, any suspicious injury to the finger should be evaluated by a healthcare provider to determine if an X-ray is needed.


If you have symptoms of a broken finger, your doctor will likely obtain an X-ray to determine if there is a fracture. Not all fractures show up well on a single X-ray, so it may be necessary to obtain multiple X-rays in different orientations if the diagnosis is unclear .

Examination of the injured finger is very helpful to guide treatment. Examination can help to determine if there is shortening or rotation of the digit as a result of the injury. As you will see, these are important factors in guiding treatment. Examination can also be helpful to ensure there is no tendon damage or other injury that could alter the treatment recommendations.

The choice of treatment of finger fractures depends on three primary factors:

  • First, if the fracture involves one of the joints of the finger
  • Second, if the fracture is "stable" or "unstable"
  • Third, if there is a deformity of the finger

If the fracture involves a joint, it is important to ensure that the joint surfaces line up well. On the X-ray, your doctor will examine the joints of the fingers, and make sure there is no irregularity of the joint surface.

Second, it is important to know if the fracture is "stable" or "unstable." To determine the stability of a fracture, your doctor will look at the pattern of the break on X-ray to predict if the fracture will tend to slip out of position over time, or stay in a stable position.

Finally, your doctor will look for deformities of the finger such as shortening and rotation. Your fingers on the injured hand should line up the same way as the fingers on your uninjured hand. This means if you straighten out all your fingers on both hands, they should come to the same length. Also, when you make a fist, your fingers should not cross, they should line up parallel to each other. Crossing of the fingers while making a fist is an indication that there may be a rotational deformity caused by the fracture .

If the joint surfaces do not line up well, if the fracture is unstable, or if there is a deformity that needs correction, surgery may be necessary to allow for optimal function after healing of the injury.


If no treatment is needed, a small splint may be applied to protect the injured finger. In some cases, the finger next to the injured finger can be used as a splint; in this scenario the two fingers are "buddy taped".

When the broken finger is out of position, the deformity may need to be corrected, or "reduced." Often this can be done under local anesthesia. In this case, an injection is given into the small nerves at the base of the finger. The injection anesthetizes the finger and allows your doctor to manipulate the fracture and correct the deformity.

If the fracture has caused joint incongruity, if it is unstable, or if the deformity cannot be corrected, then surgery may be necessary to realign and hold the broken fragments in place. Pins, plates, and screws can all be used to hold the fracture in the proper position. Finger fractures can be difficult to manage with surgery, as stiffness can be a common result after surgical intervention. Therefore, your doctor may recommend nonsurgical treatment even in some situations where the bone is not aligned perfectly. The reason is that stiffness can be a worse outcome than a subtle malalignment of the digit.

A Word From Verywell

Fractures are a common cause of pain and deformity of the fingers. Prompt and appropriate treatment of a fractured finger can help to ensure that people recover from these injuries with good function and mobility of their digits. While surgery is often necessary, the key to successful treatment seems to be getting back to moving the fingers to maintain function as soon as possible after the injury.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Oetgen ME, Dodds SD. Non-operative treatment of common finger injuries. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2008;1(2):97-102. doi: 10.1007/s12178-007-9014-z.

  2. Borchers JR & Best TM. Common finger fractures and dislocations. American Family Physician. 2012 Apr 15;85(8):805-10.

  3. Haase SC, Chung KC. Current concepts in treatment of fracture-dislocations of the proximal interphalangeal joint. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2014;134(6):1246-57. doi:10.1097/PRS.0000000000000854.

  4. Won SH, Lee S, Chung CY, et al. Buddy taping: is it a safe method for treatment of finger and toe injuries?. Clin Orthop Surg. 2014;6(1):26-31. doi:10.4055/cios.2014.6.1.26.

  5. Cheung K, Hatchell A, Thoma A. Approach to traumatic hand injuries for primary care physicians. Can Fam Physician. 2013;59(6):614-8.

  6. Boyer JS, London DA, Stepan JG, Goldfarb CA. Pediatric proximal phalanx fractures: outcomes and complications after the surgical treatment of displaced fractures. J Pediatr Orthop. 2015;35(3):219-23. doi:10.1097/BPO.0000000000000253.

Additional Reading
  • Cheah AE, Yao J. "Hand Fractures: Indications, the Tried and True and New Innovations" J Hand Surg Am. 2016 Jun;41(6):712-22.

By Jonathan Cluett, MD
Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.