Help me rehab a finger injury as effectively as possible
May 8, 2012 6:52 AM   Subscribe

I recently injured my index and middle fingers on one hand. How can I rehab this injury most effectively and quickly?

The top of the knuckles is where I feel the injury most. It only hurts a little bit when I bend the fingers back, but is excruciating when any downward pressure is exerted on the top of the knuckles. This has basically killed my grip strength.

I have a martial arts competition in 3.5 weeks, for which I need these fingers. How can I best rehab them? Ice? Heat? I've been taping the two fingers together, but maybe I should attach them to the ring finger, which isn't injured? I just need them to be as strong as possible by May 30.

I know you are not my doctor and this is not medical advice. But whatever knowledge you could bring to bear would be much appreciated.
posted by jeffmshaw to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you describe the nature of the injury (bruise, strain, cut, bump, twist, etc.)?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:55 AM on May 8, 2012

No bruises, and minimal if any swelling.

It's difficult to say for sure what the nature of the injury was, since I didn't notice it at the time (adrenaline), but if I had to guess, it would be a twist.

In the martial art I practice, there's a lot of grip fighting. Best guess is that I grabbed a guy's gi, my fingers got tangled in the gi, and he pulled it away -- so it might be a straight pull or a twist. Thanks for the reply!
posted by jeffmshaw at 7:07 AM on May 8, 2012

I think any kind of excruciating pain in your fingers right now indicates that you shouldn't be making any competition plans in 3.5 weeks. Sorry, but your fingers are trying to tell you something.

At a guess, I'd say something's torn or there's perhaps a stress fracture. Either way, you ought to be resting, and getting more specialised treatment.

I'm a climber and I'm always wary of finger problems, so I sympathise, and I also understand the unwillingness to rest.
posted by daveje at 7:53 AM on May 8, 2012

I do appreciate the wise advice -- sincerely -- but I'm just gonna be real: if they're attached to my body, I'm competing. It's the Worlds, and I am stupid.
posted by jeffmshaw at 8:07 AM on May 8, 2012

I've been taping the two fingers together, but maybe I should attach them to the ring finger, which isn't injured?

Having broken all of my fingers over the years, "buddy taping" is the only thing that seems to make a difference. Taping the two together should help, but having the ring finger to stabilize them would be better (in my experience, no medical reasoning included). Also try to think about how you sleep to make sure you're not putting weight on them (as best you can).

Again, this is just my experience, but if it hurts most in the knuckle, you've probably cracked a piece of bone loose there. Immobilizing them is going to help reduce the pain, but 3 weeks isn't going to heal it all up. If possible, get them x-ray'd to find out where the break is, because not treating it/ re-injuring it could result in a lifetime subscription to arthritis.
posted by yerfatma at 8:19 AM on May 8, 2012

Have an x-ray and discuss your plans with the doctor.
posted by lathrop at 8:33 AM on May 8, 2012

As someone with a recent finger injury I can attest that there are lot more types of finger injuries than I would have ever imagined!

At first I thought I was just banged up and just needed some time, but I decided to go to the doctor. As it turns out, good decision! I had a Boutonniere Deformity and if I had tried longer to tough it out or tape it up or whatever I wouldn't have much use of that finger today. Instead I have almost full use.

I doubt you have the same thing but the point is there are lots of things that don't just get better in three weeks or in some cases ever. So, get it checked out.

but I'm just gonna be real: if they're attached to my body, I'm competing. It's the Worlds, and I am stupid.

I get what you are saying here, but you might be trading off competing in a few weeks in exchange for never having good grip strength again, ever. What is that going to do for your competitive level? At least get checked out so you know what the stakes are.

I am not a doctor, martial artist, and all the usual disclaimers, etc.
posted by mikepop at 8:56 AM on May 8, 2012

Hand anatomy diagram- Where exactly is your pain? Mikepop is correct that there are more finger injuries than most would appreciate. If you are competing on the international level you are obvioulsly very serious. This close to a big competition you want that evaluated by a hand specialist, not a general orthopaedist or general plastic surgeon. Go here to find someone local to you (sorry, assuming you are in the US).

Ignoring it and hoping it away doesn't work. I've dealt with professional athletes in my practice and the ones that are just going to gut it out and not listen to me are the ones that end up sidelined or with worse problems in the future. Depending on your injury, there may be some short-term solutions that allow you to compete and get definitive treatment later. Good luck (I am a hand surgeon but not yours. Go get it evaluated).
posted by karlos at 9:40 AM on May 8, 2012

Get some Volteren Gel and rub it on those fingers several times a day. (Not a doctor, just a fellow sufferer.)
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:40 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The pain's on the top side of the proximal phalanges of my index and middle fingers. Specifically, it's worst at either end of the knuckle joints of those phalanges. I doubt it's a bone thing, but what do I know? Not much.

I will get it checked out by a professional, although continued recommendations for palliatives like the Volteren Gel are much appreciated. Thanks for the thoughts, everyone.
posted by jeffmshaw at 10:40 AM on May 8, 2012

Many rock climbers (myself included) recommend cold water immersion treatments for finger injuries (which are typically pulley injuries for climbers). Not sure if this is applicable to you, but you can read more at Dave MacLeod's Blog (scroll down looking for "Ice Therapy" in the pulley injuries article).
posted by doctord at 8:18 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jeff: the reason I asked what kind of injury was more a question about "what did you do to injure it"; because "I strained a muscle in it" is going to call for different treatment than "I dropped an anvil on it".

It sounds like you pulled and twisted something; as I recently learned all too well (fifth metatarsal in the foot, me), it's possible for a twist-and-pull to result in a bone injury through avulsion. Since you're having really bad pain when you touch the knuckle, I'm wondering whether that may be something to inquire into as a possibility. And if that's the case, a competition may be out...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:51 AM on May 9, 2012

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