How to Tell the Difference Between a Jammed Finger and a Broken Finger

Fingers may be small, but when they’re injured, the pain can be intense. To add insult to injury, small daily actions from holding a fork or spoon to being able to take care of personal hygiene, become a huge burden.

While some injuries may be minor and heal on their own, others require prompt medical attention to avoid complications, such as deformity or stiffness. But do you know the difference between a jammed and a broken finger?

Jammed Finger or Broken Finger?

While both injuries are painful, they entail trauma to different parts of the finger. A jammed finger occurs when a person injures one of the finger joints. It’s what usually happens when you shut a door or a drawer on your hand.

On the other hand, a broken or fractured finger occurs when the finger bone actually cracks. The type of injury can range from a hairline fracture to broken bone that pierces the skin.

Jammed Finger vs. Broken Finger Symptoms

If it’s a jammed finger: When a person jams a finger, he or she will experience pain, redness, and the finger will feel weak. Depending on the force of trauma, the finger may also swell and lose some of its range of motion.

If it’s a broken or fractured finger: If the finger is fractured, the swelling will last for days. In addition, it may extend to parts of the hand surrounding the finger. The area will also bruise, giving the finger a bluish or purple hue. The finger may also look slightly deformed or out of place. In addition, you won’t be able to move a broken finger (or only be able to move it lightly).

Jammed Finger vs. Broken Finger Treatment & Healing Time

For a jammed finger: If you’ve jammed your finger, ice it for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, then immobilize it without the ice. If the pain is too uncomfortable or disruptive, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as Ibuprofen. The finger should heal within one or two weeks.

For a broken finger: If you have a broken finger, an orthopedic doctor will immobilize it with a cast. How long you’ll have to wear it depends on the damage, and it’s possible that the doctor includes the fingers next to the broken one in the cast to provide it with extra support. If the injury was severe enough and the bone pierced the skin, you’ll need closely monitored follow-up treatment to prevent infection.

What Happens If You Leave a Broken Finger Untreated?

Failing to get medical treatment for a broken finger can result in several complications, including permanent stiffness, damage to capillaries, or hand deformity. Along with long-term complications, having a broken finger is debilitating. It can quickly cause day-to-day tasks to become painful and difficult, while the opportunity for a worsened injury is also more prominent upon not taking proper precautions.

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