Broken Finger vs Jammed Finger: How to Tell the Difference

Have you ever stubbed your toe? Doesn’t it feel like you just dropped a 20 pound weight on it? Yet, most of us, after screaming out in pain and hopping around and wincing, wait for the ache to go away on its own.

The same usually goes for a finger injury. It’s tempting to think these are minor issues since fingers and toes are such a small part of the human body. However, as small as they may be when compared to, say, a femur, they are still integral parts we use to conduct everyday activities. Try tying your shoes, typing on a computer, or holding eating utensils when a finger is in extreme pain.

So how do you know if an Advil and a lot of patience will do the trick, or if you’ll have to go to an orthopedic doctor?

Broken Finger vs Jammed Finger: How to Tell the Difference

A jammed finger happens when you injure one of the joints that allow you to bend your fingers. This often happens to athletes or when you shut a door or drawer on your hand. It can be extremely painful, but not the kind that makes you want to scream bloody murder until the end of time.

A broken finger means you fractured a bone. Depending on the severity of the injury, the bone may pierce the skin, making it obvious what kind of injury the person has suffered. This type of injury causes excruciating pain. Other times, the injury is more subtle, as when you have a stress fracture.

How do you tell if your finger is jammed?

Jammed Finger Symptoms

Even though a jammed finger does not involve a fracture, it should still be taken seriously. Some of the most common symptoms of a jammed finger include the following:

  • Pain
  • Redness and swelling
  • Inability to fully extend the finger
  • The finger feels weak

Jammed Finger Treatment

A jammed finger can be treated with painkillers, icing the area, and a splint. Also, avoid using the finger (yes, athletes. This means you need to take a break from your sport of choice). The finger should be back to normal within a week or two. If it isn’t, you may have a more serious injury and need to visit an orthopedic doctor.

Complications of an Untreated Jammed Finger

If a jammed finger is left untreated, it can cause a permanent deformity of the joint. It could also cause damage to veins and capillaries and permanent stiffness of your finger.

How do you tell if your finger is broken?

It can sometimes be difficult to know whether your finger is broken or sprained. But if you know the signs of a broken finger, it can be diagnosed and treated. Proper treatment is critical to maintaining the function of your fingers and preventing permanent deformity or loss of mobility.

The steps below may help you determine if your finger is broken and how to manage the pain.

Broken Finger Symptoms

Fingers let us touch objects, grasp them, interact with our environment, and communicate. But they are easily injured. As often as we use our hands, it may come as no surprise that fingers are the most commonly injured part of the hand.

A broken finger will start to swell within minutes of the injury. In addition, a person would experience the following symptoms of a broken finger:

  • Swelling that lasts for several days
  • Swelling that may extend to other parts of the hand
  • Bruising around the injured area
  • Extremely sharp pain
  • Limited range of motion of the finger
  • The finger looks misshapen or deformed
  • Stiffness
  • Burning or tingling
  • Numbness
  • Decreased mobility
  • Bleeding

It’s also possible to hear one’s own bones cracking when there’s severe trauma. If you think you heard a crack, it wasn’t your imagination. Get to an orthopedic doctor ASAP.

Complications of an Untreated Broken Finger

If a broken finger is left untreated, the bone may heal with a malunion. This is a fancy word to say that your finger will look deformed. Besides making your hand look bad, it may also result in post-traumatic arthritis. So an injury today could cause you years of suffering later on if left untreated.

Broken Finger Treatment

You may be tempted to try bending your finger to test whether it’s broken. With certain fractures,  you can have a range of motion with subtle pain. As inflammation begins to spread, your mobility will decrease. You should avoid moving your finger if you suspect you have a fracture or sprain.

Taking proper care of your injured finger can preserve the immediate injury and assist with a smooth recovery.

How to Reduce Broken Finger Swelling and Inflammation

Ibuprofen: Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory drug that reduces swelling and relieves pain. If you take an anti-inflammatory drug, it can help with the initial discomfort from your injury. Always follow the recommended usage on the bottle.

Rest: Moving your finger will prolong your recovery and can cause further damage to your hand. It is essential to rest your hand if it is injured.

Ice: In addition to Ibuprofen, icing your finger can also reduce swelling and inflammation. If possible, ice for 20 minutes every hour and avoid direct contact with your skin by wrapping a towel around your finger or ice pack.

Tape: As previously mentioned, moving your finger can contribute to further or prolonged injury. Tape your injured finger to an adjacent finger to create a temporary splint and limit movement.

Sometimes, It’s Hard to Tell the Difference

Depending on how badly you injured yourself, it may be hard to tell the difference between a jammed and broken finger. While jammed fingers are less serious than a fracture, you will still experience bruising and swelling; and even with a broken bone, you may have a limited range of motion.

If you injured your hand and are experiencing swelling and bruising, the best way to know for sure is to get an x-ray of your fingers. Don’t wait around hoping that it’ll go away on its own. Why cause additional damage when you don’t have to?

Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today

At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you have a jammed or broken finger, that’s kind of hard to do.

Our doctors will examine your hand to determine the extent of the pain. This can include testing strength, sensation, and range of motion for strains since X-rays don’t show tendons or ligaments. If there is a suspected fracture after inspecting the finger, an X-ray may be used to examine the damage further.

If you need help treating a broken finger, contact us today.

Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.