“It’s just a finger!”
“How can it be so hard to get better?”
“Why is it so tough to regain my motion?”
These are some of the questions asked of our hand therapists when treating finger injuries like dislocations, tendon, or ligament injuries and/or fractures. To the layperson, these seem like such relatively simple injuries. Often, people are astonished these injuries result in a recovery that can last weeks or sometimes months. Hence, “It is just a finger, right?”
The anatomy of the finger is very complicated. Fingers are much more than a tool at the end of our hands. Fingers are used to communicate with the world, assist with a wave to a loved one or aid in the squeeze of a hand. Not only are finger injuries functionally limiting, they are often very painful. Fingers are filled with many nerve endings, allowing us the complex ability of heightened sensation. Determining hot versus cold, reading braille, or even allowing the finger the ability to detect the painful presence of the tiniest sliver.
There are 27 bones in the human hand which includes the eight carpal bones that connect the fingers and thumb to the rest of the arm. In addition to the bones, the finger has multiple ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves that all work together to perform detailed and delicate movements of the hand. What seems like a silly injury to a finger can upset the delicate balance of multiple structures involved in the hand. In several instances, surgery may not be required for finger injuries. What is often not understood in the care of these perceived “simple” injuries is the length of time required for the re-balancing of these intricate soft tissue situations. Long term splinting, exercises and correct instruction from a hand therapist may be required to assist with restoring function. When surgery is required, the situation becomes even more problematic when considering the addition of scar, edema and the possibility of using some type of hardware to help with a correction.
The next time you simply “jam” your finger doing something silly, don’t delay your treatment! As is the case with nearly every injury, early detection and treatment are best.
For further questions, do not hesitate in contacting the hand therapy department at OrthoNebraska at (402) 609-1750.