Finger (Phalanx) Fracture

Advice after a finger fracture

What can I expect after a finger fracture?

The fingers are made up of small bones and each of these is called a ‘phalanx’. This is a common fracture and is usually the result of a direct trauma, crush or a twisting injury.

The following symptoms for this type of injury include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Difficulty moving the finger and gripping
HealingHand fractures normally take 6-8 weeks to heal and another 4-6 weeks to get back to full strength.  As the bone heals you may notice a lump over the fracture site. With time this is often re-absorbed although it may not always be evident. The bones may take longer to heal if you smoke or suffer from diabetes.
PainPain can be eased by taking simple pain killers. You may find it continues to be a bit achy and swollen for several months after injury. It is normal for your hand to ache in cold weather or if you accidently knock it. This may be the case for up to six months following your injury.
SwellingYou may notice that your finger is swollen after the injury. Elevating your hand can help to reduce swelling.
FunctionUse your hand as normal as possible within the limitations of pain. This is to prevent your finger and hand becoming stiff.


Most finger fractures can be treated without an operation. The finger may be put into a splint or held to the uninjured finger next to it, this is called buddy strapping. This is usually done with tape or a Bedford splint which is a special fabric that achieves the same thing. Buddy strapping is a common way to support and encourage movement of the finger.

Management Information

Once the fracture has started to heal, some people may be referred to their local physiotherapy service for on-going rehabilitation.

Weeks since injuryPlan  
0-3Use the strapping, for comfort until your pain settles.Move your fingers gently to prevent stiffness – see initial exercises.
3-6Remove the strapping when pain settles unless you are advised to keep it on for longer.Start doing additional exercises.
6-12Fractures can take 6-8 weeks to unite and regain full strength around 12 weeks.Swelling should settle between 6-8 weeks but may take a few months to fully settle.Increase activity gradually using pain as a guide. For children it is important that all sporting activities are avoided for at least 6-8 weeks after the injury.
12+Resume contact sporting activities as pain allows.Avoid heavy lifting until around 12 weeks after injury. Use pain as a guide.If you are still experiencing significant pain and / or stiffness please contact us for further advice.

If after 6 weeks you are still experiencing significant pain, swelling, difficulty moving your fingers or if you have a rotational deformity, please contact us using the contact telephone numbers below. 

Initial Exercises

Start these initially with your strapping on. Work though the below exercises in sequence, the movement will be restricted but aim to bend and straighten the fingers comfortably. Do not force this. Initially pain, swelling and bruising will restrict movement.

Do little and often daily to avoid stiffness. Aim to repeat x 5 repetitions.

Once the strapping is removed, continue with these exercises aiming to curl the fingers into a fist.

Additional Exercises

You can continue with the above exercises and add gentle pressure at the end of the movement to encourage the bending of the fingers. If you continue to have finger stiffness you can start the below exercises. Continue little and often as guided above.

Using your other hand, bend each joint in your affected finger downwards in the direction of your palm. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat x 5-10.

Straighten your finger, hold for 5 seconds, repeat x 5-10.

Continue to make a gentle fist and as the pain and swelling subsides increase the tightness to regain a full grip.

Smoking Cessation

Smoking can prolong fracture healing time. In extreme cases, it can stop healing altogether. It is important that you consider this information with relation to your recent injury. Stopping smoking during the healing phase of your fracture will help ensure optimal recovery from this injury.

For advice on smoking cessation and local support available, please refer to the following website: or discuss with your GP practice.

Return to Driving

You can return to driving when you feel confident in operating the car safely and you can safely perform an emergency stop, have good grip strength and are not in significant hand pain. It is not advised to drive if you are unable to grip the steering wheel, have significant pain or have a splint, tape or straps on your hand. Please refer to the DVLA website regarding fitness to drive or your insurance company for more details.

Concerns/Telephone number

If you have pain which is continuous and not improving, you are unable to use your hand or you have any concerns about your injury, please get in touch with the Orthopaedic Department at the Queen Elizabeth hospital on 0191 445 8500 or the Queen Elizabeth physiotherapy department on 0191 445 2320.

How do I make a comment about my visit?

We aim to provide the best possible service and staff will be happy to answer any of the questions you may have.

If you have any suggestions or comments about your visit, please either speak to a member of staff or contact the patient advice and liaison service (PALS) on 0191 445 6129 (09.00 – 17.00, Monday to Friday).

You can also email PALS at [email protected]

Alternatively, you may wish to complain by contacting our complaints department:

Chief Executive,

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust,

Trust Headquarters,

Queen Elizabeth Hospital,

Sheriff Hill,



The PALS team will listen to your concerns, suggestions or queries and is often able to help solve problems on your behalf.

Data Protection

Any personal information is kept confidential.  There may be occasions where your information needs to be shared with other care professionals to ensure you receive the best care possible.

In order to assist us to improve the services available, your information may be used for clinical audit, research, teaching and anonymised for National NHS Reviews and Statistics. 

Further information is available via Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust website (Privacy – QE Gateshead) or by contacting the Data Protection Officer by telephone on 0191 445 8418 or by email [email protected].

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