Signs of a Fractured Hand

Updated April 15, 2017

A fractured hand means that at least one of the bones of the hand is broken. The wrist comprises eight small bones called carpals and is part of the mechanism of the hand because it allows movement. The carpals are attached to the five longer bones of the hand, called metacarpals, by ligaments and tendons, and make up the area between the wrist and the first joints of the fingers. The finger bones, called phalanges, extend from the metacarpals.

Signs of a Closed Fracture

A closed simple fracture means the stabilisation of the broken bones can be achieved using a splint or cast. Symptoms of a simple fracture include severe pain, numbness, tenderness, bruising, and swelling of the hand, wrist and fingers. A deformity is an obvious sign that a fracture has taken place if it is not located at a joint. Movement can be impaired, including that of the fingers. If the fracture involves the wrist it can be difficult to bend it.

Signs of a hand fracture can vary according to the individual. Some people may not experience any pain or swelling while others may exhibit severe pain and extreme swelling.

Signs of a Compound Fracture

Compound fractures are uncommon in the hand, but they do happen. The right type of force on the hand can break the bones causing them to protrude through the skin and causing a compound fracture. A piece of bone will be evident along with blood and broken skin. The patient will experience extreme pain, swelling, bruising and-- if a tendon is involved--a lack of mobility. Excessive bleeding from the wound can be a sign that a large vessel has been damaged or severed. A crushed vessel can result in the hand turning white or purple from a lack of circulation. The treatment for a compound fracture is surgery.

Signs of Comminuted Fracture

When a bone is fractured into more than one piece, it is called a comminuted fracture. A crushing type of injury is usually the cause. Circulation can be affected, causing a white- or purple-coloured hand or fingers. One common sign is the flexibility or looseness of the break area, and you may be able to feel the fragments of bone through the skin. Surgery that can include pins and plates is required.

Hand fractures that have required surgery will often need physiotherapy as part of follow-up treatment.


After a hand injury, monitor the site for swelling. Remove any rings and use ice packs until medical treatment can be obtained. If a compound fracture is evident, seek immediate medical attention. In case of excessive bleeding use a clean moist gauze or cloth to apply pressure.

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About the Author

Vickie Van Antwerp began her career as a technical writer for a consulting firm in 1987. Now a freelance writer in her fields of interest, her writings appear on, and in "The Phelps Connection" and "The Storyteller." Van Antwerp holds an Associate of Arts in liberal arts from Gloucester County College and certification as a surgical technologist from Lenoir College.