A broken or fractured finger is a common injury that usually takes a few weeks, or sometimes months, to heal.
Symptoms of a broken finger
A broken finger may be:
- painful, swollen, and bruised
- stiff or difficult to move
- pointing in an unusual direction
In some cases, the broken bone may poke through the skin (an open fracture) or you may see the bone through the wound.
It can be hard to tell if a finger is broken, dislocated or badly sprained, as the symptoms tend to be similar.
If you’re not sure whether your finger is broken, it’s a good idea to get medical advice.
What to do if you’ve broken your finger
You should get medical help if you think you’ve broken your finger – see below for information about where to go if you’ve broken your finger.
While you’re waiting for medical help:
- avoid moving the affected finger as much as possible – you could try gently securing it to the finger next to it, or to something like a pen or lollipop stick, using tape from a first aid kit as long as you’re confident you know how to do it safely
- hold the affected hand above the level of your heart – this will help reduce any swelling
- gently hold ice wrapped in a cloth against the finger – this will also help reduce swelling and pain
If it’s an open fracture, cover the wound with a sterile dressing and secure it with a bandage. Apply pressure around the wound to control any bleeding.
Where to get medical help
You can also call NHS 111 for advice and information about the most appropriate local service to treat your injury.
Go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department if there’s no suitable alternative in your area, or you can see bone through the wound or sticking out of it (an open fracture).
Treatments for a broken finger
You’ll be assessed by a trained practitioner, who will determine what tests and treatments are needed.
An X-ray will usually be carried out to confirm whether your finger is broken, dislocated, or sprained.
If it’s fractured:
- the bone may need to be moved back into place – an injection of local anaesthetic is given to numb the area and a doctor then realigns the bone
- your finger will be put in a splint or plaster cast, or may be strapped to the finger next to it – this will hold the bone in position until it heals
You’ll be able to go home once the splint, cast, or strapping is in place. A follow-up appointment to check how your finger is healing may be arranged before you leave.
Surgery may be required if the fracture is particularly severe and there has been damage to nearby nerves, tendons, or other tissue. The fracture may also need to be stabilised by fixing the bone with small wires or plates and screws.
Aftercare for a broken finger
A broken finger usually takes between 2 and 8 weeks to heal, depending on which part of the finger is broken and how severe the break is.
It may be a few months before full strength returns to the affected finger.
While you’re waiting for your follow-up appointment:
- try to avoid using the affected hand and disturbing the splint
- take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve any discomfort
- raise the affected hand above the level of your heart when you can to help reduce swelling – try resting it on a cushion while sitting and sleeping
- hold an ice pack, or something like a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a cloth, against the finger for about 10 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day – this can also help reduce any swelling
The splint will be removed when the bone has healed. This will be after about two to three weeks for most people.
Once the splint is taken off, keeping the finger moving as much as possible will help stop it becoming stiff. A physiotherapist may be able to advise you about some gentle hand exercises.
Your doctor will be able to advise you about when you can return to contact sports or other activities that put a lot of strain on your fingers.