When I hold up my hand, I give myself the finger
August 17, 2014 10:53 AM   Subscribe

A few weeks ago, I smashed my hand and wound up with a ruptured finger tendon, or "mallet finger." this means my middle left hand finger cannot straighten and I cannot control it above the top joint. It looks like a bent straw when my other fingers are straight and I obviously can't type normally.

The treatment for this is to wear a splint for 5 weeks, but the hand surgeon said that if you don't wear it *every second* 24/7 you are back to square one and the five weeks *starts over* each time you take it off even for a minute. Basically, every time the finger flops back down unsupported, the healing is broken and you're starting fresh.

This is maddening. The splint is not a cast. It keeps coming off. I've used surgical tape, velcro and athletic stretchy stuff but -- when you wash your hands, grab your wayward dog by the collar, change a lightbulb, wash your hair or even sleep, it sometimes slips off. A thin rubber glove won't fit over it.

ALso, I can't type with the splint on. I admit to taking it off in frustration so I can type -- without using the middle finger, but also without this cumbersome splint causing constant typos.

I am at the point of wondering whether it would be so bad to just live with mallet finger for the second half of my life. Yes, it's cosmetically and practically not good, but I can't see this splint really working ever, and I need to type RIGHT NOW.

But will it get worse if I don't do the splint? Is there a danger to just taking the darn splint off and accepting having a bum finger is now my lot in life? Sometimes it gets swollen and I wonder if the rupture could get worse.

** Do you have permanent mallet finger? Did you have this injury and get it to heal with the splint? If you do have a mallet finger, is it impacting your life significantly?**
posted by third rail to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had that splint. Yours doesn't fit, go back and get another one that fits better. I skied in mine and it didn't come.off.
posted by fshgrl at 10:59 AM on August 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

Have you tried Cobain tape? It's a self sticking medical tape. Also, yes, try a different sized splint.
posted by kellyblah at 11:14 AM on August 17, 2014

Husband had a sort of similar finger tendon issue, but he had to keep getting a progressively straighter variety of casts and splints to slowly straighten out his finger. Some fit better than others, but they were changing them out regularly so he just sucked it up if he got a bad fitting one. (With you, I would be asking for a better splint.)

He was using self adhering wrap tape like this, available at any drug store, to secure the ones that did not fit as well, by wrapping it around his finger and the base of the splint or cast.

I hear you on the typing issue, having just had to deal with 2 broken fingers on my right/dominant hand. In the short run it was a pain to not be able to use my fingers/hand, but it is pretty much healed now, and with physical therapy, my hand is pretty much functional again. I limped along typing with my left hand and using my index finger on my injured right hand for sorta modified hunt and peck typing. Have you considered using voice recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking?

In the great scheme of things, we are talking about 5 weeks out of your life (my ordeal lasted longer). To me it would be worth it for a functional finger, but you have to decide for yourself.
posted by gudrun at 11:16 AM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

The 3rd splint I used was made from an aluminum lath with a foam lining. The hand surgeon had a drawer-ful of the sticks and would cut off 7 pieces for me to tape on to my finger serially. The high number was so each splint could dry thoroughly before being used again. My finger is entirely useable but might have healed better if I had had that type of splint from day one.
posted by Cranberry at 11:17 AM on August 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've had this injury and it healed really well with the splint. It was a bit of a hassle for the six weeks it was on, but the tendon healed perfectly, and I can still hyperextend that joint so I'm glad I persevered. I had been warned that even with perfect adherence there would likely still be a residual defecit, so I was pleasantly surprised with the result.
The splint I had was like this and I found it stayed on reasonable well with simple tape. My emergency department had many different sizes of the splint, so it may be that you need one a bit smaller.
One other thing I found useful, was to use a lollipop stick or similar narrow straight object, to keep the finger straight when I had to take the splint off to wash properly.
posted by ppl at 11:23 AM on August 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

I had a mallet finger. Wore the splint for 5 Weeks, had no trouble keeping it on as the finger had cuts which needed bandaging plus tape. Also needed PT when the splint came off as the first splint put on at the ER was wrong. Finger looks and behaves pretty,normally.
posted by coldhotel at 12:43 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also try to only use one finger on your left hand to type.
Somehow it seems less confusing than trying to substitute with three fingers on that hand.
posted by calgirl at 12:59 PM on August 17, 2014

My slightly mad scientist friend had this issue and went on a "make the perfect typing splint" tear. Documentation of his adventures.
posted by feckless at 1:48 PM on August 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a mallet finger, but it is my pinkie. I never saw a doctor at all for mine so I can't speak to treatment. The complications—slightly diminished sensation in the fingertip and a swan neck deformity in the second joint that is slowly getting worse—I can live with, but they would be much, much more annoying were it any other finger.

In fact, the only thing it has really affected in my life is my typing (I generally don't use that finger to type, because the swan neck deformity makes the second joint "lock" uncomfortably). I can't imagine not typing with my middle finger for the rest of my life vs five weeks. Figure out how to keep the splint on, and wear it.
posted by cosmic osmo at 5:45 PM on August 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thank you all. I marked everyone best answer because everyone gave a helpful angle on this. Going back for better splint.
posted by third rail at 5:34 PM on August 18, 2014

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