Sometimes the x-ray doesn’t tell the whole story

Often, when clients get their x-ray results that show there is no fracture following a finger dislocation or hyperextension injury, their relief can be short lived. 

Finger dislocations/hyperextension injuries in the middle joint of your finger (PIPjoint) occur commonly in ball sports such as football, basketball and netball. Sometimes when the finger bends backwards it doesn’t dislocate and sometimes it does. Often the finger joint is immediately painful, sore and swollen and the first step is to take an X-ray. Upon hearing the good news that their finger is not broken, clients often return to sport and life, assuming their finger will get better over time. Sometimes this is the case, but sometimes it is not. 

Often the injured finger continues to be painful, swollen and gets progressively more stiff over time. This indicates that there has been a soft tissue injury which would benefit greatly from treatment.  

Georgia treats a dislocated finger.

Treatment for PIPjoint injuries

Starting treatment as soon as possible after your injury will likely shorten your recovery time. The middle joint in the finger is prone to getting stuck in a bent position, and the longer you wait, the more hand therapy will be required. In this case a stitch in time definitely saves nine!

Your Hand Therapist will be able to assess if your joint is stable (unlikely to re-dislocate with a small bump or knock) or if it is unstable which would require a splint for protection. If your finger is very unstable you might benefit from seeing a Hand Surgeon. Stable finger joints may also need a splint to settle your pain and swelling before starting some exercises to restore motion. The key with these injuries is to seek treatment straight away before the stiffness sets in and don’t ignore your symptoms — even if the X-ray looks good!