Can You Dislocate Your Finger?
As with any joint, you can dislocate your finger. In fact, the finger has several joints, which means that this part of the body is especially susceptible to dislocation. It’s important to know how to recognize and treat this injury so you don’t inadvertently cause further damage after you’ve dislocated this joint.
What Is a Dislocated Finger?
A dislocation occurs when the bones in a joint are out of place. The bones in your joint are supported by bands of fibrous tissue known as ligaments. If a strong force causes the ligaments to give out, the joint becomes dislocated. Each finger has three joints, any of which can become dislocated when the two adjacent bones are moved out of place. You can dislocate any finger joint, but this injury occurs most often in the middle knuckle, also known as the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint.
Most dislocated fingers are associated with contact sports, such as basketball, football, wrestling, and rugby. In fact, among all the upper extremity injuries sustained by National Football League players, 17% were PIP dislocations. Any time a ball makes forceful contact with your outstretched hand, you have the perfect recipe for a dislocated finger.
Hyperextension may also cause a dislocated finger. This occurs when the finger is pushed past the point of its most extended position. This can happen if a basketball player or goalkeeper reaches out to catch a fast-moving ball, and the ball pushes the fingers too far back. Landing on a finger at the incorrect angle, as in gymnastics, may cause hyperextension, resulting in a dislocated finger as well.
A sudden slip or fall can also cause a dislocated finger. If you put your hand out to catch yourself or break your fall, you may sustain enough of an impact to push your finger bones out of joint. In some cases, a heavy blow, such as slamming your finger into a door, will also dislocate your finger.
You’re more likely to dislocate your finger if your finger joints are exposed to repetitive strain. This can weaken the joints, making them more susceptible to injury when they experience any kind of impact or overstretching. Some people have naturally weak ligaments, which leaves the joints and finger bones lacking in the way of support and strength.
Signs and Symptoms
You’ll usually notice a dislocated finger immediately, as this is a painful injury. In addition to pain, you may also experience tingling or numbness with a dislocated finger. If you’re not sure whether you’ve dislocated your finger or injured it in another way, there are some common signs and symptoms that you can look out for. If you have a dislocated finger, you’ll likely notice that:
- The finger joint appears crooked or has an unusual shape.
- The finger bone is jutting out to one side.
- You can’t bend or move your finger as usual.
- The finger joint is swollen or bruised.
- The finger appears pale.
How To Treat a Dislocated Finger
You should never treat a dislocated finger on your own. Though it may seem tempting to try and push the bones back into place, you risk doing serious damage to the rest of your hand. If you attempt to move the bone back yourself, you might damage the ligaments, tendons, nerves, or blood vessels in the process. In some cases, this damage is irreversible.
It’s far better to seek medical attention and ensure that your finger is relocated correctly. Do not wait to treat a dislocated finger. While the bones are out of place, they may damage the surrounding parts of your finger and hand. This could cause long-term joint stiffness or loss of full mobility. Immediately ice and immobilize your finger if you suspect dislocation. Wrap the ice pack in a towel to avoid direct contact with your skin.
Your doctor will examine the finger visually to see if it appears dislocated. In some cases, they may need to order an X-ray or MRI scan to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any other more serious injuries. In most cases, your doctor will be able to manually reposition the bones in a process known as reduction. You may receive a local anesthetic for this procedure to numb your hand. Your doctor will then pull on your finger to maneuver the bones back into place.
Once your finger is properly repositioned, the doctor will immobilize it to ensure that the bones stay in place until your finger has healed. This may be done with a splint or by securing your injured finger to the one beside it using medical tape. Your doctor will let you know when you can remove the splint or tape.
In extreme cases, you may need surgery to repair your finger. This is more common if you’ve also sustained a fracture. Your surgeon may use a thin metal rod known as a K-wire to stabilize the bone fragments. The K-wire is inserted directly into the finger to keep fractured bones in place while they heal. For more complex fractures, torn ligaments, or broken bones, your surgeon may need to perform an open reduction where the bones are exposed, repositioned, and stabilized.
Most patients can return to regular activities, including sports, within a few weeks of a finger dislocation. However, it can take as long as six months for the finger to heal completely. Depending on the severity of the injury, your doctor may recommend physical therapy or massage therapy to promote healing and ensure that there’s no loss of mobility in the joint.
Seek Professional Treatment for a Dislocated Finger
If you suspect that you’ve dislocated your finger, it’s important to speak to a skilled physician as soon as possible. Our team members at the Hand and Wrist Institute specialize in injuries that affect your hands. Whether you’ve recently sustained a new injury, or you’re concerned about a dislocated finger that isn’t healing properly, we can help. Make an appointment at one of our convenient locations in the Dallas, Texas, area to learn more.