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Treatment for a finger fracture typically involves realigning, or setting, the bone and immobilizing it with a splint or cast. A finger fracture, or broken finger can take up to six weeks to heal, but this recovery process is typically uneventful and uncomplicated. A finger fracture is usually caused by a strong impact and symptoms generally include pain, swelling, deformity, and bruising.
Properly aligning and immobilizing the finger fracture is important, because if this process is incorrectly done, the bones will not heal properly, resulting in stiffness, pain, and reduced mobility. If a crushing injury of the bone occurs, it may not be feasible to simply immobilize the finger. In these cases, surgery may be necessary to insert hardware that will treat the break.
Pain is often a common complaint of a finger fracture. Taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication is generally helpful in reducing pain and swelling. If the pain does not respond to non-prescription pain relievers, the health care provider may recommended prescription analgesics.
Physical therapy may also be recommended to treat a finger fracture. Sometimes, after cast removal, pain, stiffness and immobility persist. When this occurs, the health care provider may recommend a course of physical or occupational therapy to improve function.
Occasionally, when a finger fracture occurs, the fingernail is also injured, and many times, the nail will discolor and eventually fall off. Other complications of a fractured finger include tissue damage. When the fracture occurs, the skin can break, creating an opportunity for infection. When this occurs, it is important that the wound be gently washed with soap and water to clean out the wound.
When skin integrity is compromised as a result of a finger fracture, antibiotics might be recommended to prevent a bacterial infection. In addition, a tetanus booster may be recommended to avoid tetanus, a rare but serious complication of an open wound. Diagnosing a fractured or broken finger is generally simple with an x-ray of the finger.
Typically, only the affected finger gets splinted, however, some health care providers choose to splint neighboring fingers to reinforce support. The splint is typically worn for approximately three weeks and then removed. Sometimes, additional diagnostic testing such as x-rays will be performed to gauge healing and monitor hardware, if surgery was performed. If the recovery period remains uncomplicated, additional treatment is generally not required, unless symptoms such as pain or swelling persist.