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Finger Dislocations

By Danielle Campagne, MD , Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of San Francisco - Fresno

Finger dislocations occur when the bones of the fingers move out of their normal position.

Most finger dislocations occur at the middle joint. But they may occur at other finger joints. They usually occur when the finger is bent backward, as may occur when a basketball or baseball strikes the tip of an outstretched finger. But they may occur when the finger is bent sideways or forward. The ligaments that hold the finger bones together may be torn. If a finger bone is pulled away from tendons attached to it, a piece of bone may be broken off and stay attached to the tendon (called an avulsion fracture).


Usually, the finger looks crooked. It is painful and swollen.


  • X-rays

If people suspect that their finger is dislocated, they should see a doctor right away.

X-rays are taken from several angles.


  • Manipulation or surgery to put the bones back in place

  • A splint

To treat most dislocations, doctors inject an anesthetic into the base of the affected finger, and the finger bones are put back in place (called reduction).

Sometimes reduction is done without surgery (closed reduction). However, surgery is often required—for example, when

  • Doctors cannot straighten the finger manually.

  • The joint remains unstable after it has been straightened manually.

  • People also have a large fracture.

After the joint is put back in place, doctors also gently move the finger in different directions to determine how badly the ligaments are damaged. Usually, a splint is applied and is typically worn for about 3 weeks.