Finger Dislocation

Thumbnail image of: Finger Dislocation: Illustration

What is a finger dislocation?

A finger dislocation is when the bones in a finger joint are moved out of place so that the joint no longer works properly.

How does it occur?

A dislocation usually occurs from a blow such as a ball striking the tip of the finger. A hard fall onto a finger or getting a finger caught in an object may also dislocate the finger.

What are the symptoms?

A dislocation causes pain and swelling right away. The finger looks crooked. Usually you are unable to bend or straighten the dislocated joint.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your finger. An X-ray will be taken to check if there is also a break in your finger.

How is it treated?

Your healthcare provider will realign the dislocated bones. Your finger may be placed in a protective splint for several weeks or taped to the finger next to it (called buddy taped).

To treat this condition:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a cloth on the area every 3 to 4 hours, for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Raise your hand on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.
  • Follow your provider’s instructions for doing exercises to help you recover.

How long will it last?

Your finger may be swollen with decreased flexibility and strength for many weeks. Sometimes the joint swelling may take weeks or months to go away, and in some cases may be permanent. It is important to keep doing finger exercises during and even after you return to your normal activities. These exercises help strengthen your finger and improve range of motion.

When can I return to my normal activities?

Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activities depends on how soon your finger recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury happened. The goal is to return to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.

Your healthcare provider will recommend that your dislocated finger be splinted or "buddy taped" (taped to the finger next to it) for 3 to 6 weeks after your injury. In many cases, you will be able to return to your normal activities as long as you wear your splint or have your finger taped.

Written by Pierre Rouzier, MD, for RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2012.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-07-27
Last reviewed: 2009-12-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2012 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.