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Broken finger or thumb

Get medical advice as soon as possible if you think you've broken a finger or thumb. It may need treatment to heal properly.

A broken bone is also known as a fracture.

Check if you've broken a finger or thumb

If you’ve broken a finger or thumb it's likely to be:

  • painful
  • swollen
  • bruised
  • difficult to move

It may also change colour or feel numb.

It can be hard to tell if a finger is broken, dislocated or badly sprained. You'll probably need an X-ray.

Urgent advice: Get help from NHS 111 if:

You've injured your finger or thumb and it's:

  • painful, swollen and bruised
  • stiff or difficult to move

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

You could also go to your nearest urgent treatment centre.

Immediate action required: Go to A&E if:

You have had an injury and the finger or thumb:

  • is pointing at an odd angle
  • looks blue or feels numb
  • is cut and you can see bone through it
  • is cut and there's bone poking out of it

If you cannot get to A&E by yourself, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

While you're waiting to see a doctor

If you think you’ve broken your finger or thumb, there are some things you can do while you’re waiting to see a doctor.

You should:

  • try not to move the finger or thumb – it may help to tape it to the finger next to it
  • lift your hand up to reduce swelling
  • apply an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a tea towel for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours to reduce swelling
  • if there's a cut, cover it with a clean dressing
  • take paracetamol to help ease the pain – when you see the doctor they may suggest different or stronger painkillers if you need them
  • remove any rings from the affected hand

Treatments for a broken finger or thumb

A doctor or nurse might:

  • try to straighten your finger – they'll give you an injection of local anaesthetic to numb the pain
  • put your finger in a splint or cast, or strap it to another finger to keep it in position
  • give you a tetanus injection or antibiotics if there's a cut, to prevent infection

You may need surgery for complicated breaks – for example, if it's broken in lots of places or the nerves are damaged.

You may be invited back for a follow-up appointment to check how your finger or thumb is healing.

Recovering from a broken finger or thumb

A broken finger or thumb usually heals within 6 to 8 weeks, but it can take longer.

It may be 3 to 4 months before full strength returns to your hand.

Once it's healed, use your finger or thumb as normal. Moving it will stop it getting stiff.

Your doctor may be able to give you some gentle hand exercises.

Ask your doctor when you can return to contact sports or other activities that put a lot of strain on your fingers.

Things you can do to help your recovery

There are some things you can do to ease pain and speed up healing of a broken finger or thumb.

Do

  • take paracetamol to relieve pain – your doctor may recommend different or stronger painkillers if needed

  • keep your hand up to reduce swelling – rest it on a cushion or a pillow

  • gently hold an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a tea towel on the finger or thumb for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours

Don’t

  • try not to use the affected hand so it can heal properly

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you're worried the break is not healing properly
  • the pain and swelling have not started to ease after a few days
  • it hurts to use the finger or thumb once the cast or strapping is off

Page last reviewed: 23 March 2022
Next review due: 23 March 2025