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  • Writer's pictureDr. Terrell Joseph

Is My Finger Sprained or Broken?

Updated: May 16

Broken hand in cast

Burning, searing pain in your finger after an injury? Maybe you slammed your finger in the car door or fell awkwardly onto your hand. No matter what the reason the pain has you asking the question: is my finger broken?

There are a few key differences between these finger injuries. Here’s how to spot whether your finger is sprained or broken.

How To Identify a Sprained Finger

Stiff Fingers

A sprained finger is typically the result of a direct impact that injuries the ligaments in the finger. This can be from:

  • Jamming your finger with a door, lid, etc.

  • Catching a ball without appropriate protective gear

  • Hyperextending your finger by bending it backward

When the ligaments in the finger are damaged, it can also impact the surrounding muscle and cartilage, causing the following symptoms:

  • Pain

  • Redness

  • Swelling

  • Throbbing

  • Bruising

  • Reduced mobility

Symptoms of finger sprains usually begin immediately after the injury and then gradually lessen with treatment. Treatment for finger sprains very rarely requires anything beyond basic intervention, unless the ligament is severally sprained. Conservative treatment measures for a sprained finger can include:

  • RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation)

  • Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications

  • Splinting or taping the finger

  • Finger brace

  • Stretching and at-home exercises

Very rarely, the ligament in the finger can tear during a sprain. In those cases, Dr. Joseph and his team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery may recommend surgery.

Finger Sprain vs. Broken Finger

Broken finger

Unlike a finger sprain, a broken finger involved direct damage to the bones in the finger. This is typically the result of a sports injury, but it can also happen due to accidents in our everyday life.

Like a finger sprain, broken fingers can cause pain, swelling, and reduced range of motion. There are, however, a few symptoms that are unique to a broken finger, including:

  • The finger is disfigured, bent in a strange position or misaligned

  • Excessive, localized swelling

  • Localized bruising

  • Severe pain and tenderness

  • Difficulty moving the finger

  • A pop or cracking sound during the injury

A broken finger can be anything from a hairline fracture (tiny break in the bone) to a complex fracture that involves several bones in the finger joint. Treatment for a broken finger will depend on the severity of the injury, which can easily be determined through a physical exam and imaging tests.

Treatment for a broken finger can include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications

  • Splinting

  • Casting

  • Surgery to realign the bones and fix them in place

  • Physical therapy to restore movement and regain strength

If the symptoms of your finger injury point towards a fracture, it’s essential to see an orthopaedic hand specialist for a proper diagnosis. Failure to properly treat a broken finger can cause further issues down the line, such as arthritis or permanent loss of function.

Finger Pain? Contact Team Joseph Today!

If you are experiencing prolonged pain in your finger, contact Dr. Joseph and his team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery today! Known throughout Eagle and Summit County for his expertise, Dr. Joseph will skillfully and accurately treat your finger injury, getting you back to the activities you love.

Make an appointment at any of his three clinic locations by calling (970) 476-7220 or complete our online appointment request form.

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