Finger Injury

Finger Injury

Is this your symptom?

  • Injury to the skin or nail of the finger
  • Injury to a bone, muscle, joint, or ligament of the finger

Some Basics...

  • There are many ways that people can injure their fingers.
  • There are also many types of finger injuries. There are bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and muscles in the fingers. These can all be injured.
  • Treatment depends on the type of injury a person has. A doctor will know the right way to treat a finger injury.

Types of Injuries

  • Abrasion: This is the medical term for scraped skin. This happens when an injury scrapes off the top layer of the skin. An example is when people "scrape" their knuckles. Pain is usually mild. This can usually be treated at home.
  • Contusion: This is the medical term for bruise. It is caused by a direct blow to the skin and muscles. The skin is not broken, and there is no cut. The bruised skin may first look red, then purple, and finally orange-yellow. These skin color changes are from blood that leaked from tiny torn blood vessels in the bruised area. The skin may also be swollen. Pain is usually mild to moderate. Bruises are tender to touch. Most often this can be treated at home.
  • Cut - Superficial: Superficial cuts (scratches) only go part of the way through the skin and rarely become infected. A scratch is an injury to the skin made by a sharp edge. For example, scratches can be caused by fingernails, a sharp nail, a piece of metal, or a branch of a tree or bush. A paper cut is a scratch from the edge of a piece of paper. This can usually be treated at home.
  • Cut - Deep: Deep cuts (lacerations) go through the skin. A laceration is caused by cutting the skin with the sharp edge of an object. Lacerations longer than ½ inch (12 mm) usually need sutures (stitches).
  • Dislocation: This is when a bone comes out of the joint. The joint always looks crooked or deformed. The pain can be moderate to severe. A person with this problem should go to the doctor right away. A doctor will treat this by pulling the finger bone back into the joint socket.
  • Fracture: This is the medical term for a broken bone. It means the same thing as a break or crack in the bone. The pain is severe and there is often marked swelling. The type of treatment needed depends on the type of fracture. Usually a person with a finger broken finger just needs a splint. A person with a bad fracture may need surgery.
  • Sprain (Jammed Finger): A sprain is the medical term used when ligaments are torn or over-stretched. Ligaments are the bands of tissue that connect bones to each other. For example, this can happen when a person catches a basketball and the ball jams the fingertip. Pain and swelling can range from mild to severe. Minor sprains heal themselves with time and rest. Usually a person with a finger sprain just needs a splint.
  • Smashed or Crushed Fingertip: This injury most often results from smashing a finger in a door. It can also happen from a heavy object like a hammer hitting the finger. Most often, the fingertip gets a few cuts, a blood blister, or a bruise. Sometimes the nail is damaged. Rarely, the fingertip bone can get broken.
  • Subungual Hematoma: This is the medical term for blood under the fingernail. It is caused by a crush injury to the fingertip. It can happen when a heavy object like a hammer hits the finger. The more blood under the nail, the more it hurts. If the pain is severe, the pressure may need to be released to help the pain go away. This is done by putting a small hole through the nail. A rule of thumb is that this may be needed if blood is under more than half of the nail. The fingernail sometimes falls off after this type of injury. If it does, a new nail will grow back in 6 to 12 weeks.

Pain Scale

  • None: No pain. Pain score is 0 on a scale of 0 to 10.
  • Mild: The pain does not keep you from work, school, or other normal activities. Pain score is 1-3 on a scale of 0 to 10.
  • Moderate: The pain keeps you from working or going to school. It wakes you up from sleep. Pain score is 4-7 on a scale of 0 to 10.
  • Severe: The pain is very bad. It may be worse than any pain you have had before. It keeps you from doing any normal activities. Pain score is 8-10 on a scale of 0 to 10.

When are Stitches Needed?

  • Any cut that is split open or gaping most likely needs stitches. Cuts longer than ½ inch (12 mm) most often need stitches.
  • A doctor should look at any open wound that may need stitches. This is the case regardless of the time passed since the injury.

When to Call for Finger Injury

Call 911 Now

  • Major bleeding (nonstop bleeding or spurting)
  • Finger has been partially or completely amputated
  • You think you have a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Finger looks crooked or deformed (like a dislocated joint or bad fracture)
  • Bleeding that won't stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
  • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
  • Blood under the nail is causing severe pain
  • Fingernail is torn from a crush injury or cut
  • Fingernail is torn off
  • Base of fingernail has popped out from under skin fold
  • Dirt in the wound is not gone after 15 minutes of scrubbing
  • Cut or scrape looks infected (redness, red streak, or pus)
  • You think you have a serious injury
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Severe pain
  • Finger joint cannot be fully straightened or bent
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Last tetanus shot was over 10 years ago, for CLEAN cut or scrape
  • Last tetanus shot was over 5 years ago, for DIRTY cut or scrape
  • Pain from injury keeps you from working or going to school
  • Pain from injury is not better after 3 days
  • Injury is still painful or swollen after 2 weeks
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Minor finger injury

Care Advice for Minor Injuries of Finger

  1. What You Should Know:
    • There are many ways that people can injure their fingers.
    • There are also many types of finger injuries. There are bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and muscles in the fingers. These can all be injured.
    • You can treat minor finger injuries at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Treatment of Cuts, Scratches and Scrapes:
    • Use direct pressure for 10 minutes to stop any bleeding.
    • Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes.
    • Gently scrub out any dirt with a washcloth.
    • Cut off any pieces of dead loose skin using small sharp scissors. Clean the scissors with rubbing alcohol before and after use.
    • Put an antibiotic ointment on the wound. Cover it with an adhesive bandage (Band-Aid) or dressing and change daily.
  3. Treatment of Bruised Finger: Soak the finger in cold water for 20 minutes.
  4. Treatment of Jammed Finger:
    • Caution: Be certain that you can bend and straighten each finger.
    • Soak the finger in cold water for 20 minutes.
    • Protect your finger by "buddy-taping" it to the next finger.
  5. Treatment of Smashed or Pinched Fingertip:
    • Put an ice bag on the area for 20 minutes.
    • Wash the finger with soap and water for 5 minutes.
    • Trim any small pieces of torn dead skin with scissors. Clean the scissors with rubbing alcohol before and after use.
    • Put an antibiotic ointment on the wound. Cover it with an adhesive bandage (Band-Aid) and change daily.
  6. Treatment of Subungual Hematoma (blood under the nail): Put an ice bag on the area for 20 minutes.
  7. Treatment for a Torn Nail (from catching it on something):
    • For a cracked nail without rough edges, leave it alone.
    • If the nail has a tear in it, you will need to trim off the loose piece. Use sterile scissors to cut it off along the line of the tear. Clean the scissors with rubbing alcohol before and after use. Pieces of the nail could catch on objects and cause further tearing.
    • Put an antibiotic ointment on the nail bed. Cover it with an adhesive bandage (Band-Aid) and change daily.
    • After about 7 days, the nail bed should be covered by new skin. It should no longer hurt. It takes about 6-12 weeks for a fingernail to grow back.
  8. Pain Medicine:
    • You can take one of the following drugs if you have pain: acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve).
    • They are over-the-counter (OTC) pain drugs. You can buy them at the drugstore.
    • Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your pain feel better.
    • Acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen or naproxen in people over 65 years old.
    • Read the instructions and warnings on the package insert for all medicines you take.
  9. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Cut or scrape looks infected (redness, red streak, or pus)
    • Pain becomes severe
    • Pain is not better after 3 days
    • Pain or swelling lasts more than 2 weeks
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Last Reviewed: 12/12/2017 1:32:07 AM
Last Updated: 5/7/2017 1:36:05 PM

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First Aid - Bleeding Finger
  • Apply direct pressure to the entire wound with a sterile gauze dressing or a clean cloth.
First Aid - Removing a Fishhook

This is method of fishhook removal is sometimes referred to as the Advance and Cut Method.

There are four steps in removing a fishhook using this method:

  1. Step 1. Using pliers (or needle drivers) firmly grasp the hook.
  2. Step 2. Push (advance) the hook until the tip of the hook pops out through the skin.
  3. Step 3. Cut off the tip of the hook (and the barb).
  4. Step 4. Pull (back out) the hook out.

Important Note:

  • These instructions assume that you can not get into see a doctor right away. In most circumstances it is best to have a physician (or other licensed health care provider) remove an embedded fishhook.
  • The hook in this drawing has only a single barb at the tip, and thus the tip of the hook (with the barb) can be cut off and the hook pulled backwards through the skin.
  • Some hooks can have more than one barb along the shaft of the hook. In such cases, it is better to cut off the ring at the bottom of the hook and push the hook all of the way through the skin.
First Aid - Amputated Finger or Toe - Transport
  • Step 1: Briefly rinse amputated part with water (to remove any dirt)
  • Step 2: Place amputated part in plastic bag (to protect and keep clean)
  • Step 3: Place plastic bag containing the part in a container of ice (to keep cool and preserve tissue).

Note: Take patient and amputated part to emergency department immediately.

First Aid - Removing a Splinter

You can remove splinters, larger slivers, and thorns with a needle and tweezers. Check the tweezers beforehand to be certain the ends (pickups) meet exactly. (If they do not, bend them.) Sterilize the tools with rubbing alcohol or a flame.

Clean the skin surrounding the sliver briefly with rubbing alcohol before trying to remove it. Be careful not to push the splinter in deeper. If you don't have rubbing alcohol, use soap and water, but don't soak the area if FB is wood (Reason: can cause swelling of the splinter).

Remove the splinter:

  • Step 1: Use the needle to completely expose the large end of the sliver. Use good lighting. A magnifying glass may help.
  • Step 2: Then grasp the end firmly with the tweezers and pull it out at the same angle that it went in. Getting a good grip the first time is especially important with slivers that go in perpendicular to the skin or those trapped under the fingernail.