How does a broken finger heal?

Updated March 23, 2017

Our fingers make up of the most sensitive areas on the body. This is because they are made up of a larger collection of nerves than other areas. A grouping of nerves centralised to a small area makes this area more sensitive to any type of feeling. The fingers are also the ones to suffer the most traumas. These factors indicate that a broken finger can be quite excruciating.

The Break

Our fingers are made up of ligaments, which support and connect one bone to the other tendons. The tendons attach muscle to bone, and three bones that are called phalanges. There are also three joints but no muscles in our fingers. All of these work together to aide in our hand movement and coordination.

When we break a finger, normally we damage many of these as well. A broken bone, if protruding from the skin can, effects the tendons and ligaments alongside it. This distorts movement and function--as well as effecting all of the surrounding nerves.

The Pain

When a cluster of nerves is effected, the result is usually transference of pain or the spreading of it. What this means is that a broken finger can result in an aching hand that reaches as far as the wrist. The pain is usually felt as a throbbing burn typical of a pulsing feeling. It is often felt elsewhere than the actual damaged finger.

Transference of pain follows damage. In the case of a broken finger, more than likely the nerves directly next to the break have been damaged to the point of uselessness, but the nerves in the surrounding area make up for their neighbour's lack of ability. Patients with broken fingers have described the pain as reaching all the way to the elbow at times.

The Swelling

Following the initial pain, the finger swells around the break and a sensation of tingling and numbness will occur. You will have minimal movement and extreme stiffness as the finger swells. The throbbing will become an ache that feels close to a cramp, and it is best if your apply ice immediately, though this does very little for the pain itself.

Cold usually makes injuries ache more; however, it does reduce swelling and numbs the nerves on the surface area of your skin. This will slightly reduce the pain to more of a burning feeling.

The Healing and Treatment

Depending on how severe the break is, you may hardly feel it at all. After the initial shock and trauma to the finger has faded, the pain may not be as severe. If it is nothing more than a fracture or crack, you will be left with your finger feeling bruised. This will occur with your finger breaking at the joint as well. Pain similar to a major bruise is easier to deal with. Your skin will be tender to the touch for quite some time, even as it heals.

If you have suffered an injury to a finger, it is best to see a medical expert if you notice any swelling or black and blue colouring. Of course, if you see a bone, this is definitely the time to head to your doctor as well. A quick trip to the emergency room is an easy fix. They have the means necessary to x-ray and stint your finger. They will also give you a dose of painkiller to stave off the worst of the pain.

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About the Author

Jonita Davis is freelance writer and marketing consultant. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including "The LaPorte County Herald Argus" and Davis also authored the book, "Michigan City Marinas," which covers the history of the Michigan City Port Authority. Davis holds a bachelor's degree in English from Purdue University.