Mallet Finger – Symptoms and Management

  • Reference Number: HEY-602/2018
  • Departments: Orthopaedics

Introduction

This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about the symptoms and management of your injury.  Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet.  It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and your doctor, but may act as a starting point for discussion.    If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team.

What is a mallet finger?

A mallet finger is where the tip of your finger becomes bent towards your palm and you are unable to straighten it, you may experience swelling and pain as a result of this.

Mallet finger is usually caused by an injury to the end of the finger which causes it to bend further than normal. This results in a tear of the tendon (a structure that connects muscle to bone to allow movement) that would usually straighten the end of the finger.

Mallet finger

Reproduced with the kind permission of Patient.co.uk

Sometimes a mallet finger will not be due to a tear in the tendon; it may be due to a small piece of bone that is attached to the tendon being pulled off the finger. The effect of this will be the same, as the tendon is unable to straighten the end of the finger.

How is it treated?

A splint is usually fitted; this will keep the tip of your finger straight. It must be worn 24 hours a day for up to 8 weeks. This allows the ends of the tendon / bone to stay together and heal. If you do not follow these instructions your ability to straighten the end of your finger may not return to normal.

You will be contacted and given an appointment with a member of the Hand Therapy Team within 3 working days.  If you do not hear from them within this time please contact the Physiotherapy Team on (01482) 674880 and the appointment can be arranged for you.

Your splint should only restrict movement at the top joint of your finger not at the middle joint.  It is important that you continue to move the middle joint but do not remove the splint. You should try to move the middle joint of your finger 10 times for 3 to 4 times per day, but do not remove the splint.

The splint can be removed to enable you to wash your finger, however you must ensure your finger remains straight at all times.  To remove the splint lay your hand palm down on a flat surface and slip the splint off. Wash and dry the finger thoroughly whilst the hand remains on the flat surface and then slide the splint back on.

When the swelling reduces and your splint becomes too large for your finger contact your Physiotherapist.

Pain relief

To manage your pain, we advise that you regularly take simple pain relief which can be bought over the counter. If you have allergies or conditions which prevent the use of pain-relieving or anti-inflammatory medication, please seek advice from your GP or a Pharmacist.

Is there anything I should avoid?

Do not:

  • Try bending the end of your finger to test it has healed
  • Wear rings on the affected finger. If the finger is swollen it may affect your circulation and interfere with the healing process
  • Massage the injured area or apply heat as this can be damaging to the healing process.
  • Consume alcohol
  • Smoke as this may also delay healing

Outcome

Some patients may be left with a slight bend in the finger, however this will not usually affect the function of the finger and no further medical input is required.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.