- Reference Number: HEY-250/2014
- Departments: Orthopaedics, Physiotherapy
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This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about 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 caring for you.
What is a soft tissue injury?
The term soft tissue refers to muscles, ligaments and tendons that surround and support our joints. Injuries to the soft tissue surrounding the fingers joints are usually caused by a forceful stretch or direct blow, for example; when playing ball sports.
What are the symptoms?
A soft tissue injury to one or more of the fingers may result in:
- Heat, redness or bruising.
- Stiffness and loss of function.
To manage your pain it is advised 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 (General Practitioner) or a pharmacist.
What should I do in the first 72 hours after the injury?
The most important initial treatment is aimed at controlling the pain and swelling by following the principles of RICE:
R – Rest
Complete rest is not advisable but it is important that you prevent putting the finger under strain in the early stages of healing. Ensure you continue to move the other fingers and wrist as normal as it is common to quickly become stiff in these joints.
I – Ice
There are many different ways in which ice can be applied. Whichever method you choose it is important that you wrap it in a damp towel to prevent burning the skin. Ice should be applied for 20 to 30 minutes every two hours.
Only use an ice pack on areas that have normal skin sensation i.e. where you can feel hot and cold.
Do not apply over an open wound.
Do not apply an ice pack to an area that has poor circulation.
During ice application check the skin every five minutes and discontinue its use if:
- the area becomes white, blue or blotchy.
- the area becomes excessively painful, numb or tingles.
C – Compression
If you have been a compression bandage to wear it is important this is removed if you develop any signs of poor circulation, pins and needles or numbness. In addition it should be removed when you go to bed at night.
E – Elevation
If you have swelling in your fingers sit on a chair and place your elbow on cushions so that it is level or slightly higher than your shoulder. In this position point your hand towards the ceiling then open and close your hand as this will help to reduce any swelling further.
Consuming alcohol, massaging the injured area and applying heat can all be detrimental in the early stages of healing and therefore should be avoided.
Rehabilitation and recovery
If you follow this basic advice your injury should take around six weeks to heal. However, everyone recovers from injuries at different rates and it is dependant on the severity of the injury and the presence of any other medical problems. It is possible that you may be back to normal in two weeks, however it is also possible you may suffer symptoms for up to three months.
After 72 hours it is very important you try to start using your hand and fingers normally again when doing everyday tasks like washing, dressing and eating.
The exercises below will help you to regain full function, flexibility and strength and you should try to practice them on each injured finger 10 times, 4 times per day.
You may experience more discomfort when you start the exercises. However, this is normal and does not mean you should stop. If your symptoms remain worse for more than two hours after the exercises then you should decrease the number of each exercise that you do and build up again slowly.
1. Hold your finger with your other hand just below the top joint, preventing the other joints from moving.
Now bend the top joint of your finger down as far as you can and feel it stretching.
Hold 10 seconds and then straighten.
2. Hold your finger with the other hand just below the middle joint, preventing the bottom joint from moving.
Bend the middle joint of your finger down as far as you can and feel it stretching.
Hold 10 seconds and then straighten.
3. Support your elbow on a table with your wrist straight and fingers pointing towards the ceiling.
Bend your fingers across the knuckles and middle joints only. Keep your fingertips straight and trying to stretch them towards your wrist.
Stretch for 10 seconds and then straighten your fingers again.
4. Support your elbow on a table with your wrist straight and fingers pointing towards the ceiling.
Bend the top two joints of your fingers down as far as you can into a hook grip and feel them stretching.
Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, and then straighten.
5. Support your elbow on a table with your wrist straight and fingers pointing towards the ceiling.
Bend your fingers into your palm as tightly as you can and feel them stretching. Hold the stretch 10 seconds.
Now stretch your fingers as wide as you can and feel them stretching. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds.
When can I return to normal activities?
If your job involves activities using your hand and fingers regularly you must ensure that you practice similar tasks so that you build your strength and function up gradually.
If you participate in an active hobby then it is advised that you do not return to this until you have full range of movement, strength and you can use your hand normally without experiencing pain or swelling.
If you play a sport involving use of your hand, practice sports specific activities like throwing and catching to prepare and build this up gradually before returning to full training sessions and competition.
When to seek further help
If 10 days following your injury you are unable to use the hand and it remains painful and swollen, despite following the above advice, please contact the physiotherapy team.
Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact: Physiotherapy team: (01482) 608939.
Additionally if, after doing the exercises regularly and following the advice for three weeks, you notice that you are still unable to straighten your finger out fully please contact the number above.
If there is no answer, please leave a message stating clearly your full name, address and telephone number and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
General Advice and Consent
Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.
Consent to treatment
Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.
The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:
- you must be able to give your consent
- you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
- you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person
Information about you
We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.
We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.
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.