A broken knuckle can be very painful. The problem will also be more complicated if you have a job that relies on hand skills. Sometimes it's hard to tell if a knuckle is really broken or just a bruise. Although a seriously broken knuckle requires medical treatment, minor bruises or fractures may heal on their own. Learn how to identify a broken knuckle so you can seek the treatment you need.
Part 1 of 3: Assessing the Current Situation
Step 1. Feel a popping sensation
People with knuckle fractures often report a popping or jerking sensation in the hand as soon as the fracture occurs. The jerking sensation can be caused by a bone that is completely broken or a piece of bone shifting from its original position. If you think this is happening, it's best to stop all activity and have your hands checked.
A popping sensation does not always occur when the knuckle is broken. Whether or not you will experience a popping sensation will depend on how severe the fracture is
Step 2. Identify the cause of the injury
A broken knuckle is often referred to as a "boxer's fracture" because it often occurs when a person punches a hard surface. When the injury occurred, were you punching a wall or other immovable surface? Maybe you're in a fist fight. If you did hit something solid, you're more likely to have broken your knuckle.
- There are other possibilities that can cause a broken knuckle, but they are not common. You can break your knuckle if you fall, work with machines or do activities that put your hand at risk.
- Some doctors now use the term "brawler's fracture" for a knuckle fracture instead of a "boxer's fracture" because boxers prevent knuckle fractures by wearing protective gear. You're more likely to break your knuckle if you hit something with your bare hands.
Step 3. Feel the pain right away
A broken knuckle will be accompanied by intense pain that is immediately felt. Right after the injury, you will experience a sharp bout of pain in your hand followed by an intense throbbing sensation. The pain you experience can make your hand lose strength and force you to stop what you're doing, but it also depends on your body's tolerance for pain.
If the knuckle is only lightly fractured, the pain may not be as severe. However, you should still stop using your hands because you can make the injury to your knuckle worse
Step 4. Take the temperature of the hand
When the knuckle is broken, blood will begin to flow into the fracture area, causing the hand to feel hot. Check the temperature of the injured hand and then the other hand. If the injured hand feels warmer than the other hand, you may have fractured your knuckle.
Part 2 of 3: Visually Checking Knuckles
Step 1. Check for swelling
If it is broken, the knuckle will start to swell after about 10 minutes. The swelling will center around the broken knuckle and may spread to the rest of the hand. Swelling from a broken knuckle may be severe. You may find it difficult to move your hand if the swelling is severe enough.
- If your knuckle begins to swell, you may also experience a tingling sensation or numbness.
- Take aspirin, ibuprofen or other over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce swelling and manage pain.
- Doctors may not be able to take action if the swelling is too large. Compressing the injured knuckle early can help reduce swelling. Wrap the ice pack in a paper towel and stick it to the injured knuckle or use a bag of frozen vegetables. Compress the knuckles for about 20 minutes at a time, then allow the skin to return to its normal temperature before compressing again.
Step 2. Watch for bruising
Bruises from a broken knuckle will appear more quickly than normal bruises. As blood rushes to the injured area, the area will begin to change color in a matter of minutes. Bruising will also make the injured area very tender. In fact, a broken knuckle will be painful to the touch.
- There are cases of fractures without bruising, but they are rare.
- Make sure you elevate your hands to reduce bruising. Keeping your hands higher than your heart will cause blood to flow away from the injured area.
Step 3. Notice if any of the knuckles sink in
A surefire way to tell if a knuckle is broken is to see if one knuckle is sinking under the other. If possible, clench your fists and pay attention to your knuckles. The knuckle will stand out. If you can't see one knuckle, it means the knuckle is broken.
Fractures can affect the position or angle of the knuckle, causing it to buckle
Step 4. Notice if there are any torn areas of skin
If the bone is sticking through the skin, it means you have an open fracture and need surgery to repair it. Make sure you wash the entire area with an antiseptic soap. Open wounds around the broken bone are at risk of infection and will make the injury more difficult to treat.
- You may find it painful to wash your sore knuckle, but it's important to do it anyway.
- Make sure you dry the wound thoroughly as moisture will make it easier for bacteria to grow. You can also cover the wound with a clean bandage to prevent infection.
- Clean loose debris from injury. If you find something stuck in your knuckle, let it go. The doctor will treat him at the hospital.
Part 3 of 3: Testing Mobility
Step 1. Bend your fingers
Try to bend the injured finger to check for dislocation or failure of rotation of the knuckle. If your knuckle is dislocated, you may not be able to bend it at all because the bone will move in a way that won't allow you to use your finger. If the bone is twisted, you may not be able to bend the finger, and the finger will point toward the thumb. Rotation failure means the bone is twisted in such a way that the finger will bend in a different direction than a normal finger.
- If the bone is dislocated or fails to rotate, you should ask your doctor to reposition it.
- A knuckle that has failed rotation or is dislocated often takes longer to heal than a broken knuckle.
Step 2. Make a fist
If your knuckle is broken, it will be very difficult for you to make a fist. You can test the severity of the injury by trying to make a fist. The swelling in the hand may be too large or too painful for you to move your finger if the knuckle is broken. You may be able to clench all of your fingers, except for the one with the knuckle fracture. If you can clench your finger, even though the knuckle is broken, the injured finger may not be in alignment with the other fingers.
Do not push yourself. If you try too hard to fight the pain to make a fist, you could make the injury worse or make the sprained knuckle worse
Step 3. Grab something
A broken knuckle will drastically reduce finger strength. The brain will numb the muscles around a severe injury to prevent further damage. If you can't grip something tightly, it's possible that your brain is trying to protect a broken knuckle.
If your knuckle is lightly fractured, you may still have some strength to grip something. If you suspect a knuckle fracture, don't panic. Gripping something too hard can actually make the fracture worse
Step 4. Try moving your wrist
The knuckle is at the top of the metacarpal bones. The lower parts of the metacarpal bones are connected to the carpus or wrist bone. Because the two bones are connected, a broken knuckle can affect wrist mobility. Move your wrist from left to right and up and down. If you feel a sharp pain running through your entire hand, you most likely have a severe knuckle fracture.
Step 5. Seek treatment
If you suspect a broken knuckle, see a doctor or come to the ER as soon as possible for treatment. You may need to wear a splint or brace for several weeks until your knuckle heals. A cast is often not needed for broken hands and fingers.
- To prevent the knuckle from shifting, you must use a splint attached to another finger.
- See a doctor as soon as possible if you think you have broken your knuckle. The doctor can perform an X-ray examination to prove whether your suspicions are correct.
- Do not forget to cover or bandage open wounds with a bandage to prevent the entry of bacteria.
- If external bleeding occurs, wash the wound with cold water.
- Never use a broken knuckle for work as you can turn a minor fracture into a serious fracture.
- Avoid punching hard objects to prevent broken knuckle injuries. If you like boxing or martial arts, wear gear to protect your hands.
- Sometimes a broken knuckle requires surgery. If surgery is needed, the knuckle may take longer to heal.
- If you have a serious fracture that requires a cast, it may take 4-6 weeks to heal. Be prepared to take time off if your work relies on hand gestures.