Causes and symptoms
Playing a sport is the number one cause of dislocated fingers, but any sudden twist to a finger may cause the joint to become dislocated. If you feel sudden, intense pain and your finger or thumb is in an unnatural position such as backwards, to the side or toward the palm then you are at risk for a dislocation.
Seeking medical treatment as soon as possible is the key to healing a dislocated finger. While instinct might tell you to pull on the joint yourself, this may do further damage to the joint as well as ligaments and tendons. Wrap the hand in a towel, apply ice and head for your doctor's office or the nearest emergency room. A health care provider will take x-rays and look for damage to the joint and tendons, then apply a local anesthesia before she relocates the finger. The doctor will then splint the finger according to the injury; sometimes a straight splint is required, sometimes a curved splint. Pain medication, ice and elevation will be prescribed for outpatient follow-up.
Expect to have the dislocated finger immobilized in a splint for at least a month. If there is damage to ligaments and tendons surgery may be required and a longer period of rest prescribed. The main object is to give the joint enough time to heal and allow the ligaments that hold the joint in place to regain their strength and elasticity. Once the initial healing period is complete the doctor will assign specific exercises to build finger strength gradually so that the finger won't be prone to future dislocation.
Self treatment or non-treatment of a dislocated finger can cause permanent damage such as joint stiffness, an unstable joint and long term restricted movement of the affected finger. The joint may be affected by arthritis after several years.