Hand Fractures: Symptoms & Treatment

What is a Hand Fracture?

A hand fracture is a broken metacarpal bone of the palm of the hand or a broken phalangeal bone of the fingers of the hand. The metacarpal bones along with their corresponding fingers are described by roman numerals with the thumb being I, and the pinky finger being V. The phalangeal bones are further described by the segment of the finger. The finger bone closest to the palm is the proximal phalanx, the middle phalanx is of course, in the middle, and the distal phalanx forms the fingertip. In the thumb, or first finger, there is only a proximal and distal phalanx.

These bones are all small and delicate. Our hands and fingers are arguably the most used bones in our bodies. It should come as no surprise, then, that hand fractures are the most common type of fracture. Any of these bones can sustain an injury and fracture.

What causes a Hand Fracture?

Hand fractures are almost always traumatic injuries. Either the hand strikes an object, the hand sustains a direct blow, or something is dropped onto the hand resulting in a crush-type injury. A twisting injury can also occur. Occupations involving manual labor and contact sports are highly correlated with hand fractures. A fracture of the metacarpal head is known as a Boxer’s Fracture.

What are the symptoms of a Hand Fracture?

A hand fracture presents with pain and swelling around the location of the fracture. If the fracture is displaced, the hand may appear deformed or a finger may appear shortened. It may be impossible to bend a finger, or the position of the bent finger may be awry. In a Boxer’s fracture a knuckle may appear out of alignment. In an open fracture of the hand, the ends of the bone poke out through the skin.

How is a Hand Fracture Diagnosed?

A careful history and thorough physical exam documenting the nature of the injury and the circumstances under which it occurred is essential for the medical record. X rays will usually suffice for the diagnosis of the hand fracture although CT or MRI may be indicated for more severe fractures.

How is a Hand Fracture Treated?

Because of the importance of preservation of function of the hand, all finger fractures should be referred to a hand specialist for treatment.


In the emergency department, once a finger fracture is diagnosed it is usually splinted, pain medication is given, and a follow up appointment with a Hand Surgeon is given.

If the bones of the finger or hand are not displaced, the hand can be placed in a cast to immobilize it for 3-6 weeks while the bones heal. If minimal displacement is present, closed reduction can be attempted followed by placement of a cast. Hand therapy will usually follow to help the hand return to its full function.


If the bones of the hand or finger are displaced, if tendons or blood vessels have been severed, or if an open fracture is present, surgery will be needed to repair the injury and give the best chance of a full recovery. Pins, plates, and screws can be used for internal fixation of the bones depending on the type of fracture sustained. Once the bones have healed Hand therapy will be prescribed to ensure proper return to health.

How can Dr. Knight help you with Hand Fractures?

Fractures to the hand can be traumatic and frightening injuries, which may have lasting effects to the mobility and function of the hand, so it important that you seek out the best care possible when having one treated. In his years of practice, Dr. Knight has trained extensively on the repair of fractures, and has treated an untold number of them, so that his experience lends him great skill and understanding of the problems that can arise as a result of fractures. If you want to be treated quickly, efficiently, and with skill, then Dr. Knight is the doctor for you.

See Dr. Knight, one of the best hand surgeons in Dallas and see if he can help you live a more pain free life. Come to our Southlake hand and wrist center or Dallas Fort-Worth friendly office location.


Dylan Fait

Dr. Knight saved my career! Thanks to Dr. Knight and his staff for the excellent treatment and care now I am able to lifeguard again with full motion of my right hand. Dr. Knight was able to see me the day I was told I needed to see a hand specialist and that I has broken my right hand. I was in surgery within three days and on my way to a quick and fast recovery. Now I am back to work and feeling amazing!!!

If I ever need treatment I will definitely be seeing Dr. Knight. Thank You!!!

Dylan Fait, Lifeguard

Hand Fractures Fact Sheet

How am I likely to have fractured my hand?The bones of the hand are delicate, and therefore susceptible to breaking as the result of trauma to one or both hands. Crush fractures are the most common, but stress and torsion can also lead to breaking the bones of the hand.
Do I need to see a doctor to treat a fractured hand?Fractures should not be treated without medical oversight, and the hand is particularly difficult to treat, so in order to ensure that you are able to regain full function in the hand it is imperitive that you seek medical treatment to address the problem.
What kinds of medications are effectie at treating a fractured hand?Anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications can help releive the pain and swelling associated with fractures to the bones of the hand.
How long-lasting are the effects of a fractured hand?If not properly set during the healing process, broken bones in the hand can heal unevenly, and leave you with lasting damage that will affect your ability to use that affected hand.
What is the course of treatment for addressing my fractured hand?Setting of the bones and casting is standard, as with most fractures, but in some cases surgery may be necessary to ensure complete and proper alignment of any particularly complex breaks. Some particular bones of the hand may also have more complicated treatments, or even require replacement or implants to regain function.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I know if my hand is fractured?
As with all fractures, a fracture to the metacarpal bones of the hand will be accompanied by some form of trauma, and then quickly by pain, swelling, bruising, redness, and loss of function, depending on the severity of the break. If your hand is fractured in such a way that these apparent symptoms do not manifest, but you are still worried you may have suffered a break, you can undergo a physical examination to determine if you do, in deed, have a fracture, and an x-ray will show for certain if there is a break.

Do hand fractures require surgery?
Typically, a simple hand fracture does not require surgery, and can be rest manually by the doctor and splinted or cast, with pain and anti-inflammatory medication given to help with the swelling and pain. If the break is more severe or the bones are out of alignment, or if there are multiple pieces of bone that need to be put back into place, then surgery may be necessary, but it is generally a last resort.

Can a hand fracture heal on its own?
If the fracture in question is a hairline and the patient is able to adequately immobilize the hand for a period of time that will allow for healing, then it is possible, but generally people work and speak with their hands and so the level of immobility necessary to properly heal a fracture without some kind of intervention is impossible to reach. If you think you have a fracture, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to avoid any complications that may arise from untreated symptoms of your injury.

How long does a hand fracture take to heal?
While the severity of the fracture and the general health of the patient can have some effect on the speed of healing, it usually takes somewhere from three to six weeks of immobilization for a fracture of the hand to heal completely.

Can a hand fracture heal without a cast?
Some fractures don’t require casting, and may only need a splint or wrapping, but in the case of the hand, it is best to immobilize the affected area in some way so that further injury is avoided.


Animated Videos

Surgical Video

Note: The following video contains graphic images.

Book an Appointment or Ask a Question
Email Us

    Call Us
    (817) 382-6789

    HandAndWristInstitute.com does not offer medical advice. The information presented here is offered for informational purposes only. Read Disclaimer

    Dr. John Knight
    Dr. John Knight

    Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.