Fingers General

Broken Knuckle vs. Fractured Knuckle

Knuckles are joints essential to the function of our fingers and hands.  They are the point where the phalanx bone of a finger meets with the metacarpal bone of the hand.  Each hand has five knuckle joints and twice as many knuckle bones.  It is rare that knuckles break or fracture, but not impossible.  They become vulnerable when the hand is clenched, and the fist is used to hit a hard surface.  If you are concerned, you may be dealing with a broken or fractured knuckle.

What Can Cause a Broken or Fractured Knuckle?

Impact on a hard surface is the main reason a knuckle may be fractured or broken.  With fractures, it is most common that the knuckle closest to the little finger is injured.  Breaks and fractures rarely happen in multiples.  However, the greater the trauma, the greater the chance of multiple injuries.  Examples of situations that can lead to broken or fractured knuckles are:

  • Fighting
  • Work accidents
  • Auto accidents
  • Sport injuries

What are Symptoms of a Fractured or Broken Knuckle?

If you have broken or fractured your knuckle, there will be a great deal of discomfort.  Your ability to perform daily activities will be affected.  If you have the following symptoms, it is likely you have a fractured or broken a knuckle:

  • Numbness
  • Pain following trauma
  • Trouble forming a fist
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling that affects the use of your hand
  • Bruising

Diagnosing a Broken or Fractured Knuckle

Broken knuckles are easily identified because of the excruciating pain you will immediately feel following the injury.  When we diagnose broken or fractured knuckles, we check for visual signs consistent with trauma.  Pressure touch will result in severe pain if the injury is present.  We may also use an X-ray or CT scan to pinpoint the exact location and severity of a fracture.

How are These Injuries Treated?

The treatment of a fracture or break of the knuckle depends on whether the knuckle has been displaced.  A non-displaced injury can sometimes be treated conservatively.  However, a displaced injury that has separated or fractured a segment of the bone will require surgery.

It is always best to try to avoid injury to the knuckles.  Avoid striking objects with your closed fist or breaking your fall with outstretched arms.  If you feel you may have broken or fractured your knuckle, make an appointment at Arora Hand Surgery in Warren, Macomb, West Bloomfield, or Howell. Contact us today to book your consultation.