A Broken Knuckle Guide

A broken knuckle is no joke, it is one of the most painful and awkward hand injuries of all. Even a broken pinky knuckle can leave the sufferer unable to use their whole hand for several weeks.
A sunken knuckle, the after effect of a broken knuckle healing badly, can leave the affected finger weak for the rest of the sufferer’s life.

If you think that you have broken a knuckle, you need to make sure that you understand the symptoms, as well as the causes and the treatment of this injury. Within this broken knuckle guide, you will find this information and more.

Selection a section:

What is a Broken Knuckle?

A broken knuckle, which is also often known as a boxer’s fracture, is a break in one of the bones that form one of the knuckle joints on a finger of the hand. Most commonly, it is the metacarpal bone that connects to the proximal phalanx of the finger that is broken.

Broken Knuckle Key Facts

Although a broken knuckle is often referred to as a boxer’s fracture, many doctors have dropped this term and now favour the name brawler’s fracture, as it is unlikely that a boxer would actually suffer from a broken knuckle finger injury.

We have 14 knuckles in each hand. Our fingers have 3 each and our thumb has just two. The largest knuckle is at the bottom of the finger and has the unpronounceable name of the metacarpophalangeal joint, which for obvious reasons is usually shortened to just MCP joint.

When you look at the back of your knuckles, you will see a number of wrinkles across the top of your finger. Each of these wrinkles marks where a tendon is attached to the skin and the knuckle.

For decades, people who crack their knuckles were frequently warned that it would cause arthritis and weaken the knuckles. This has now been disproved. Long-term negative effects of the habit of knuckle cracking do not include either arthritis or the weakening of the knuckle.

If you check the image below, you can clearly see that for a broken knuckle, the break is really very visible. This is because in most cases, as with this fractured knuckle middle finger the two bone structures will sperate away from each other entirely.

Broken knuckle

Broken knuckle

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Knuckle?

If you think that you have suffered a broken knuckle, then there are a number of broken knuckle signs that we will explain below. If you have a broken knuckle symptoms will include one or more of the following:

  • The finger and the hand itself will be painful. This will be a fairly severe pain, and although it will diminish if the hand is held immobile, it will still throb steadily.
  • There will be considerable swelling of the knuckle, or even the whole hand if the knuckle fracture is severe. There may be some visible bruising, but not in every case.
  • The flesh around the knuckle will be tender and touching it will cause pain and discomfort. In extreme cases, the entire hand will be tender.
  • The finger with the broken knuckle will be very stiff, you will not be able to move it without severe pain.
  • The upper part of the finger may be pointing in an odd direction, sticking up, or dropping down.

Both knuckle sprain and a bruised knuckle share some of the symptoms of broken knuckle injuries. Therefore, you must seek medical attention if you are exhibiting any of the symptoms of a broken knuckle, even if you think you may have a different, minor injury.

What Are the Most Common Causes of a Broken Knuckle?

Our knuckles are fairly tough, and they do not injure easily. Most usually a broken finger joint is the result of some form of blunt trauma shock.

Slip, trip or fall accidents are a very common cause of a fractured knuckle. This is because most people, as they fall, will use their arms and hands to try and break their fall. This is an especially common cause of a broken knuckle in people over 60 years of age, whose bones are much more fragile and break far easier.

Serious accidents, such as a car or motorcycle crash can often result in a broken knuckle injury. This is especially true if the fingers of the hand are trapped and significant sideways pressure is applied during the accident. Our knuckles only bend through around 180 degrees in one direction (downwards). Any lateral pressure against this movement range can break or snap a knuckle.

Sporting injuries are another common cause of a broken knuckle. Contact sports such as football and rugby are high-risk sports. Skiing accidents are another common cause of a broken knuckle. However, despite a broken knuckle often being referred to as a boxer’s fracture, boxers are not at a high risk of receiving a broken knuckle injury.

How to Get a Free Expert Orthopaedic Assessment for Your Broken Bone Report

As part of the treatment of a broken knuckle NHS medical staff will take an x ray of broken knuckle to discern a) whether the knuckle is actually fractured and b) how severe the fracture is. A doctor will then view the results of the X-ray and write up a broken bone report. This report is used as the basis for working out exactly what broken knuckle treatment is required.

You are within your rights to request a copy of this broken bone report. We can help you use it to get a free orthopaedic assessment of your broken knuckle report. This orthopaedic assessment can be used to work out if you have been treated correctly, and whether any further treatment should be utilised to help you recover faster and better. Call us now to find out if you are eligible for a free expert orthopaedic assessment of your broken bone report.

How is a Broken Knuckle Treated?

The type of broken knuckle treatment you receive will depend entirely upon the severity of the fracture. For example, for a serious injury such as a 5th metacarpal fracture surgery is often required to set the bones before they can begin healing. Regardless of the severity of your injury, you must get it treated. A boxer fracture untreated can lead to a sunken or even frozen knuckle, severely restricting the function of the finger.

If you think that you have broken a knuckle, there are a number of things you can do before you have it treated, to minimise the pain and keep the injured hand safe:

  • Immobilise the entire hand if you can. Do this using a sling. If you don’t have a proper sling, make one form a bedsheet or something similar. If you cannot immobilise the arm, then immobilise the finger that has the broken knuckle. You can do this by taping it to the adjacent finger. If this is too painful to do, then simply protect your hand by holding it to your chest using your undamaged hand. You may also like to find out how to wrap a broken knuckle so you can strap up the finger to keep it immobile.
  • Keep the hand lifted up above the level of your heart. This will restrict the blood flow a little, which will help to keep the swelling down. It may also lessen the pain.
  • If you have a broken knuckle on finger, then applying an ice pack will help with pain and swelling. If you don’t have a proper medical ice pack, you can make a temporary one using a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a hand towel.

Now you have protected your damaged hand, and taken measures to reduce the swelling and pain, you can head off to the hospital for more treatment. Please note, you should not take any over-the-counter painkillers before going to the hospital, as if you need surgery to fix your broken knuckle, it may be delayed until the painkillers have left your system.

Treatment for a Broken Knuckle at the hospital:

Once you arrive at the hospital, one of the medical staff will take a look at your damaged hand. They will then decide on the first course of action in the treatment of broken knuckle. Usually, this will take the form of getting an X-ray taken of your broken knuckle to find out how bad the fracture is.

Almost every broken knuckle will need the bones adjusted to heal correctly. For example, a fractured knuckle middle finger will need the doctor to use their hands and move the bones back into place. You will be given a local anaesthetic while this is done. In more severe cases, surgery might be needed to reconstruct the bones of the knuckle and keep them in place using surgical pins, rods and screws as they heal. If so, these fittings used to secure the bones while they heal will be removed once healing is complete.

Once the bones have been realigned, the knuckle will be immobilized. This might be done by securing the damaged finger to the adjacent one. However, more commonly a broken knuckle cast will be used, to stop the entire part of the hand close to the injury from moving.

Once this course of treatment is complete, you will be sent home after being told how to take care of your broken knuckle cast and continue your self-treatment at home.

Caring for your Broken Knuckle at home:

Once the doctor has sent you home from the hospital, you can do much to shorten your boxer’s fracture healing time by caring for your injury properly at home. The tips below explain some of the ways you can make sure you heal quickly and fully:

  • Rest the damaged hand. Even slight movement of the hand can result in the knuckle flexing. The less you move the hand, the quicker the fractured knuckle will start to heal. When resting your hand, keep it nestled on a cushion, and try and keep it above the level of your heart.
  • It is likely that your doctor will prescribe you a course of painkillers for the first few days of your injury. If they do not, you can use over-the-counter painkillers. If after a week or so, you are still in significant pain, go back to visit your doctor as there may be complications with your fractured knuckle.
  • To help reduce the initial swelling, you can apply an ice pack to your fractured knuckle 4 or 5 times a day, for about 10 minutes each time.
  • Once your broken knuckle is close to being completely healed, you can ask your doctor if there are any exercises you can perform, which will help prepare your hand for full recovery.

What Free Private Treatment Can I Qualify For?

Your broken knuckle healing can be speeded up if you were to have access to high-quality private treatment. What you probably do not realise, is that there may be some type of private health care that you can claim in your area.

After a short phone call, and we can let you know if we think there is any type of free private medical treatment which you can claim based on your postcode.

Is There Any Other Good Treatment I Can Get for Free?

Whilst NHS medical care is pretty good, it can be improved upon. You might be able to claim some type of free medical supplies such as a better-quality sling, that will help with your recovery from a broken knuckle.

Contact us now, and within less than 30 seconds, we can let you know if you have access to any free medical supplies in your area.

How Long Does a Broken Knuckle Take to Heal?

How long your broken knuckle takes to heal, will depend on the severity of the injury. For example, 5th metacarpal fracture healing time takes up to a full 8 weeks. Note that this is 2 weeks longer than the average time it takes to heal a broken bone. This is because a broken knuckle can take longer to begin healing, as it is difficult to stop the two broken parts from moving so that they can begin to knit back together.

8 weeks to heal a broken knuckle sounds like a long time. However, several weeks before the injury has healed entirely, you will be able to begin using your hand again, although carefully. Pain will have disappeared, and as long as you do not overstress the knuckle and damage it again, you will be fairly functional. Your doctor will advise you when its time to start using your hand again.

How Can I Recover Safer and Possibly Faster?

One of the ways that you could reduce your broken knuckle healing time is through private physiotherapy. The problem is, private physio is expensive, most people cannot afford it. Or can they? Many people might be eligible to claim some free physiotherapy to help get them back to work faster after suffering a broken knuckle.

If you would like to find out if free private physio is available in your area, then just give us a call. We can tell you almost immediately whether you are eligible for this free private medical care.

What are the Possible Complications with a Broken Knuckle?

A broken knuckle is not seen as a particularly serious injury. Yet there are a number of complications which could set in during its healing, and these are:

  • Rotation – this is a side effect of a fractured knuckle that has not properly healed. The two knuckle bones rotate before knitting back together, leading to the healed knuckle being crooked.
  • Joint stiffness – scar tissue will grow on and around the joint as the bone repairs. If this scar tissue restricts the movement of the joint, it will leave the knuckle stiff.
  • Nonunion – this happens when the two halves of the knuckle do not knit back together, either because they are too far apart, or something has gotten between them such as the skin of the finger.
  • Osteomyelitis – an infection of the bone, most commonly caused by corrective surgery during the treatment of a fractured finger.

These are the main potential complications with a broken knuckle injury, there are more. If you notice anything strange about your broken knuckle whilst it is healing, you should visit your doctor immediately.

Do You Think Your Doctor Might Have Missed Something About Your Injury?

Although NHS treatment for a broken knuckle is straightforward, from time to time doctors do make a mistake. You may suspect that your treatment has not been up to par, but how do you know for sure? The websites below will give you additional information about broken knuckle injuries, more than this brief guide has given. They will help you decide whether your treatment was correct:

NHS – Boxer’s fracture information
NHS – Broken finger information
NHS – How do you know if you have broken a bone?

Are There Any Long-Term Health Issues Caused by a Broken Knuckle?

Even though the treatment to help with broken knuckle healing is pretty straightforward, there are two common long-term side effects, especially in injuries that went untreated, or were treated wrongly.

A sunken knuckle is a knuckle that has healed without the two parts of the knuckle being aligned properly vertically. People who suffer from a sunken knuckle will usually have a restricted range of movement in the joint.

A frozen knuckle is more serious. A frozen knuckle occurs when the two parts of the joint have healed so badly, that they will no longer act like a joint, they do not bend. Untreated broken knuckle injuries can result in a frozen knuckle. In some cases, the problem can be repaired through surgery.

Contact Us to Find Out if You Qualify for Free Private Treatment

If you have recently suffered a fractured knuckle, you might be able to claim some form of free private medical care or support. You could be able to claim key medical supplies such as a sling to keep your fractured knuckle immobile. You might be able to receive a free expert orthopaedic assessment of your fractured bone report. Other private medical care such as physiotherapy might be available, to help you recover from your broken knuckle faster and better.

If you would like to find out if you are able to claim any of this free private health care for your broken, call us now on 020 3870 4868 and we will tell you within a couple of minutes if we believe you can claim free private health treatment.