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:

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:

Treatments for a broken finger or thumb

A doctor or nurse might:

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

Things you can do to help your recovery

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.

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