What are hand fractures?

A hand fracture should be treated with urgency, as if it isn't, the bones may heal with improper alignment. This can negatively impact on your ability to perform everyday actions - from buttoning a shirt to writing.

Symptoms of hand fractures

The common signs of a hand fracture are swelling; severe pain which worsens when you are moving your hand or gripping something; a weakened grip; tenderness; an obvious deformity like a crooked finger; bruising; inability or stiffness when moving your thumb and fingers; a decreased range of motion; and numbness in the fingers or hand.

If you suspect you have a hand fracture, remove any rings or jewellery, elevate the hand, cover any wounds and obtain further medical advice from an emergency department, minor injuries unit or your general practitioner.

Treatment options for hand fractures

A hand fracture is usually diagnosed via a physical examination of the hand, and an x-ray. Simple painkillers (such as paracetamol and ibuprofen) are likely to be advised. Antibiotics are only needed for open fractures which involve a skin wound in order to prevent infection.

In some cases, the bone may need to be put back into the correct position (a reduction) by your doctor. This is done by gently manipulating the bones with local or general anaesthetic, depending on the severity of swelling and pain. Immobilisation can be hugely important to the healing process. A cast or splint can help to restrict the movement of the broken bone, and keeping your hand above the level of your heart, can reduce both pain and swelling.

Surgical options for hand fractures can involve the use of pins or plates and screws to hold the bones in place during the healing process.

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