Finger Dislocation

A direct blow to the hand, fingers, or thumb may cause a dislocation. Falls and contact sports, such as baseball and football, are commonly linked to finger dislocations.

Other factors may contribute to a finger dislocation such as:

  • previous injuries that have damaged the bone or soft tissues (ligaments)
  • using improper equipment during daily activities and exercise
  • diseases that affect the joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis

What are the symptoms?
You will have some pain and swelling in the area of the dislocated joint. Movement will be limited and extremely uncomfortable. The finger may look crooked and feel numb or tingly. The skin may also become discolored from bruising.

What can I do after it happens?
Immediately after the injury occurs, do not try to move the finger back into place. Further movement may damage the surrounding tissues, nerves, and blood vessels. Apply an ice pack to the area and elevate the hand to control swelling. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications will also help reduce swelling and give pain relief. See a doctor as soon as possible.

How is it diagnosed?
Your doctor will examine your finger and discuss the history of the injury with you. X-rays will be needed to identify the dislocation and rule out broken bones.

How is it treated?
Typically, your doctor can reposition the bones using a hands-on technique. You may be given medications to numb the area and relax the muscles during the procedure. The finger may then be "buddy taped" to the finger next to it or a splint may be applied. These measures will support the finger and limit movement during the healing process.

Surgery at times is required to relocate the joint. In addition, surrounding soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons and nerves may need to be repaird and/or reconstructed. Postoperatively, it is common to be referred to a hand therapist to assist with a rehabilitation program to maximize function of the injured finger.

While your finger heals, treatment is focused on reducing swelling and pain. Continue to elevate the area and use ice packs for the first few days every three to four hours (10 to 15 minutes at a time). Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription drugs to control inflammation and discomfort. You may begin exercises to regain flexibility and strength in the finger when cleared by your doctor.

What is the outlook?
Finger dislocations usually mend with good results in approximately three to six weeks. Healing at times can be prolonged with these injuries with some swelling and stiffness persisting for up to six months. Your recovery will depend on your age, overall health, and how well you follow the instructions of your doctor and therapist.

Are there any complications?
Most finger dislocations heal well, but they could be complicated by injuries to the bone, tendons, and ligaments in the hand. Damage to blood vessels and nerves may also occur.