Jammed vs. Broken Finger: How Can I Tell?

A jammed finger is an incredibly common injury, especially if you play sports. While jammed fingers may be common, they can also be extremely painful and may require medical attention. Below, you can learn how to tell if you have a jammed finger or if the injury might be more severe.

Anatomy of the Finger

Your finger is made up of three different joints. These different joints are supported by ligaments, called collateral ligaments. When you jam your finger, it’s usually because one of these ligaments has been sprained or injured. If the bone fractures, you have a broken finger.

Jammed Finger Signs and Symptoms

A jammed finger or broken joint will cause pain, swelling, and immobility of the finger. Swelling may occur and last for a few weeks. The swelling should go down after a few weeks, but the swelling may persist depending on the severity of the injury. You may even notice decreased pain and increased mobility even though your finger is still swollen.

How to Alleviate Pain from a Jammed Finger

Always see a medical professional if you believe you have a serious injury. In the meantime, these at-home methods can help alleviate the pain associated with a jammed finger.

  • Take Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen can reduce swelling and help the pain, even for a broken or jammed finger. Read the instructions on the bottle closely and follow the dosage recommendations there.
  • Test your finger’s mobility. If you try to move or bend your finger and feel a sharp pain and experience a lack of motion, you may have a broken finger. If this is the case, see a doctor right away.
  • Rest the injured finger. One of the most important things is to rest your finger. If you have an injured, jammed or broken finger, you may harm or increase the severity of the injury by moving it. Rest is one of the keys to success.
  • Ice the jammed finger. Wrap ice in a paper towel or cloth and place it on your injured finger. This will help reduce the swelling. If possible, ice for 20 minutes every hour.
  • Tape your fingers. Tape your injured finger to the finger beside it. This will immobilize your jammed finger and serve as a splint. Taping your fingers together will help secure the healing process by lessening injuries to your jammed finger.

When Should You See a Doctor for a Jammed Finger?

Jammed fingers are very common but unfortunately often overlooked. While resting and icing your jammed finger can help reduce the pain and swelling, if your symptoms persist, it could require hand surgery. Do not hesitate to call a doctor.

What Causes a Broken Finger?

Your fingers are one of the easiest parts of your body to break. You can break bones in your fingers by using tools, such as hammers and nails, etc., slamming them in a door, or catching a ball. One of the easiest ways to break your fingers is by bracing yourself when you fall and sticking your hands out in an attempt to catch yourself.

Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Finger

Broken fingers are hard to ignore. There is usually an intense pain after the incident and potentially a deformed finger. Here are some of the most common symptoms to watch out for if you think you have a broken finger.

  • Swelling, Stiffness, and Bruising. Typically within five to ten minutes, you’ll experience swelling of your finger. You may also experience stiffness in the joint as you try to bend it, depending on the intensity of the fracture.
  • Numbness. If your finger is numb, that means the nerves in your finger are being compressed. This may be due to swelling along with a severe fracture.
  • Exposed Bone. If you can see your finger bone through your skin, the bone is definitely broken. You should go to the emergency room immediately.

Common Types of Fractures In a Broken Finger

A "broken bone" is actually the same thing as a fracture, and there are several types of fractures possible when your finger is injured.

  • Avulsion Fracture. The ligament and tendon attached to the bone pull away from the main bone in your finger.
  • Impacted Fracture. The broken ends of the bone move into each other.
  • Shear Fracture. The bone splits into two pieces that move away from each other.
  • Open Fracture. The bone is exposed through your skin.
  • Closed Fracture. The bone breaks, but your skin is intact.
  • Non-displaced/Stable Fracture. The bone will crack slightly or completely, but it doesn’t move.
  • Displaced Fracture. The bone breaks in place and cannot line up again.
  • Comminuted Fracture. The bone breaks in three or more places.

Broken Finger Treatment Options

At-Home Treatment Before You Go to the Doctor.

If you believe your finger may be broken, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor. You should also take care of your finger with these simple first-aid tips.

  • Do not try to set the bone yourself or push the exposed bone back into the skin. If the bone of your finger is visible, go to the emergency room immediately.
  • Stabilize your finger by creating a splint. You can do this with any firm object, such as a popsicle stick. Tape your finger or fingers around the popsicle stick to make sure they are stabilized.
  • Apply an ice compress to your finger(s). Make sure to put a paper towel or washcloth in between the ice and your finger on your way to the emergency room.

Treatment at the Doctor’s Office.

At the doctor’s office, you will get an X-Ray to determine the type of fracture and where it is in your finger. After this, your treatment will depend on the type of fracture you have. Some treatments are as easy as taping two fingers together and forming a splint. Other procedures may require surgery. This really depends on the stability of your finger and how intense the fracture is.

Follow-Up Procedures.

If you are in a splint after seeing the doctor, it is important not to disturb or move your splint. Make sure to keep it clean and keep it elevated so it can heal properly. Try not to use the injured hand as much, as overuse of your injured finger may cause stress and pain. Listen to your doctor and take any follow-up appointments seriously.

We are passionate about helping our patients heal. If you or a loved one is in need of medical attention, do not hesitate to call us. We are ready and able to assist you with any of your needs.