Bent Finger Due to Mallet Finger or Fracture

If your finger won't straighten out, you may have an injury known as a mallet finger or a mallet fracture. This type of injury often occurs when your finger gets jammed. This may impact the finger tendon, a flexible band of tissue that connects muscle to bone.

This article explains the possible causes of a bent finger. It will also cover first aid, when to see a healthcare provider, as well as treatment options.

What Causes a Bent Finger?

In most cases, the reason a finger won't straighten out is that the tendon is stretched or torn. Sometimes, it's because the bone where the tendon is attached has broken off, which is known as an avulsion fracture.

The tendon can be damaged if it:

  • Is stretched out and the tendon is still attached but now it's too long
  • Is torn or cut and the tendon can't move like it's supposed to
  • Has an avulsion fracture and the tendon is not necessarily stretched out, but the bone where it's supposed to be attached is broken

What Are Some Home Remedies for a Mallet Finger?

First aid for a mallet finger is similar to any other type of fracture. It needs to be rested and held still in the proper position. Immediate treatment should include rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This is known as the RICE method:

  1. Protect it from further injury
  2. Ice it to reduce swelling and pain
  3. Elevate it to reduce swelling

When Should I See a Healthcare Provider for a Crooked Finger?

If you injure your finger and it won't straighten out within three days, you should see a healthcare provider. Kids especially need to see a healthcare provider if they get a mallet fracture because the part of the bone that controls growth could be affected. This might result in a deformed finger if not treated appropriately.

This type of injury isn't something that usually requires going to the emergency room unless you see blood under the fingernail or the fingernail is coming off. Blood under the nail or damage to it could mean a severe cut or a broken bone.

Recap

See a healthcare provider within three days if you can't straighten your finger. Kids should always see a doctor with this type of injury. Seek emergency treatment if you see blood under the nail, or if the nail is coming off.

How Is Mallet Finger Treated?

Continue to ice the finger a few times a day until you can get to your doctor. Your doctor will likely give you a special finger splint, a device that keeps your finger in place while you heal. If the tendon is just stretched, keeping it straight will allow it to heal. If it's torn or if the bone is fractured, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery so your finger heals correctly.

Summary

A mallet finger may be caused by damage to the tendon, often from jamming your finger. To care for your injury at home, be sure to use the RICE method.

See your doctor if you can't straighten your finger out and it's been a few days. They may give you a splint to help your finger heal. Seek emergency care if you have blood under your nail, or your nail is coming off.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take a mallet finger to heal?

    Recovery depends on the type of mallet finger injury. If the tendon is stretched but not torn, the finger should heal in four to six weeks if you wear a splint all the time. When the tendon is torn, it may take six to eight weeks to heal.

  • Can crooked fingers caused by arthritis be straightened?

    Yes, but there's a downside. Surgery can straighten the finger and alleviate pain, but you may lose some mobility once the finger is permanently straightened.

  • What is trigger finger?

    Trigger finger is a condition that occurs when a finger gets stuck in a bent position and cannot easily be straightened. There may be popping or snapping sounds and significant pain when the finger moves. Trigger finger may be caused by ligament injuries, conditions such as diabetes and arthritis, or trauma to the hand.

5 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. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Mallet finger (baseball finger).

  2. Mount Sinai. Nail injuries.

  3. Mount Sinai. Mallet finger - aftercare.

  4. Spies CK, Langer M, Hahn P, Müller LP, Unglaub F. The treatment of primary arthritis of the finger and thumb joint. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2018;115(16):269-275. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2018.0269

  5. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Trigger finger.

By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.