Key Points about Hand Fractures

  • A hand fracture is a broken bone in the hand. The most commonly broken part of the hand is the fifth metacarpal.
  • Hand fractures are caused by falls, sports injuries, workplace injuries, trauma to the hand, and improper use of tools.
  • Symptoms of a hand fracture include swelling, bruising, pain, inability to move a finger, or finger deformity.
  • If left untreated or not treated appropriately, a hand fracture can lead to loss of hand mobility.
  • People at higher risk of developing a hand fracture are those who have osteoporosis, play contact sports, or those who have poor nutritional habits.
  • Typically, your doctor can diagnose a hand fracture with a physical exam and an X-ray.
  • Treatment depends on the location and severity of your injury. Some fractured hands can be treated with nonsurgical therapies such as closed reduction and casting, splinting, or bracing.

Overview

A hand fracture is a broken bone in the hand.

The bones in the hand include:

  • The bones that form the thumb and fingers.
  • Five bones in the palm of your hand.

While a fractured hand can be treated with nonsurgical therapies in most cases, surgery is needed for severe fractures where the broken pieces of bone need to be realigned.

Fractures in the fifth metacarpal (the bone supporting the little finger) are most common. This is called a boxer’s fracture. Generally, a boxer’s fracture is caused by hitting an object with a closed fist with great force. 

Hand fracture causes

Hand fractures are caused by several activities or events such as:

  • Workplace injuries
  • Trauma to the hand
  • Falls
  • Sports injuries
  • Improper use of tools or equipment

Hand fracture symptoms

Symptoms of a hand fracture vary based on where the fracture occurred and may include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Pain
  • Trouble moving the finger
  • Deformity in a finger

Hand fracture complications

Patients may have trouble moving their hand or stiffness in the hand after being treated for a hand fracture. In some cases, you will need surgery to help restore function in the affected finger (s).

Hand fracture risk factors

You are at a higher risk of developing a hand fracture is you:

  • Have osteoporosis.
  • Do not eat properly.
  • Play contact sports such as football or basketball.
  • Have bone issues from birth.

Hand fracture prevention

While not all hand fractures can be prevented, you can avoid some by following these guidelines:

  • Avoid activities that put you at risk for bone trauma.
  • Wear the appropriate safety equipment when playing contact sports.
  • Wear a seatbelt when driving and when riding in a car.
  • Build strong bones with eating correctly and doing weight-bearing exercises.

Hand fracture diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose a hand fracture. During a clinic visit, your doctor will take your full medical history, determine how the injury occurred, and evaluate your hand.

To understand the severity and location of your injury, your doctor will likely order imaging testing, such as an X-ray.

Hand fracture treatment

Hand fractures can be treated with surgical and nonsurgical means.

Nonsurgical treatments include:

  • Closed reduction. In some cases, your doctor can realign bone fragments by moving them back in position without an incision.
  • Casting, splinting or bracing. To hold the bones in place while they heal, your doctor may put your hand in a cast, splint, or brace. You will need to wear the cast for up to six weeks, depending on the location and stability of the fracture.

You will need X-rays approximately one to two weeks after the initial procedure to ensure your bones are properly healing.

In many cases, your doctor will need to realign and stabilize the broken fracture fragments surgically.

During surgery, your doctor will reposition the bone fragments through an incision in the skin. Screws, pins, wires, staples, or plates may be used to hold the bone in place. You will likely need to wear a cast for a specified period to keep the bones in place.

After the healing process starts, physical therapy is needed to help strengthen the hand.

When to Seek Care

If you suspect you broke your hand, visit your doctor right away. It is essential to be treated as soon as possible.

Next Steps

Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully during the treatment and the recovery period. If your symptoms worsen, call your doctor right away.

Recovery from a broken hand can take a few months. In some cases, if hand mobility has been impaired even after surgery, you may need additional treatments.