What should I do about my swollen pinky?
May 7, 2007 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Swollen pinky after having it caught in someone's sleeve when attempting to punch said someone. Will it go away on its own?

To put things in context, this took place during a martial arts session, not in a bar. I stupidly didn't clench my fist tightly enough when throwing a punch and somehow the pinky of my right hand got caught in my opponent's sleeve or something. It hurt at that point, and felt like something got wrenched in a not-good way. It wasn't hurting bad enough then, so I continued with the rest of the session and later applied an icepack to the finger for a couple of minutes.

The finger doesn't really hurt anymore, but it is slightly swollen compared to the left pinky. There are also these purple-ish bruise-looking blotches along the inside length of the finger and on one of the finger joints. The swelling means that I can't bend the finger completely, but other than that it's just a nuisance. Because the swelling seems to be the only thing inhibiting the finger's full range of movement, I don't think I've broken it. I hope I haven't, that is.

It's been 2 days since the incident, and neither the swelling nor the bruising seems to have abated. Having watched too many medical dramas, I'm wondering if I need to see a doctor about it, or whether it'll disappear on its own, given more time. Being a poor student, I would also like to avoid going to the doctor only to be told that it'll go away on it's own and being prescribed some ibuprofen or something.

So any advice would be appreciated.
posted by nihraguk to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
from my own experience, bruising & swelling on my finger after trauma = fracture. YMMV.
posted by gnutron at 2:43 PM on May 7, 2007

From my experience, sprains hurt more than fractures. And yeah, you probably should go to the doctor and see if it needs to be immobilized.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:47 PM on May 7, 2007

I've broken a toe, with very similar symptoms. I never saw a doctor for it, I figure it must have been broken because it hurt a little for about 6 weeks. I just taped the toe with cloth first aid tape and went about my usual activities. I had some continuing occasional pain in the toe with a slightly limited range of upward motion for about a year. This was about 4 years ago now, and at this point I can't remember which toe it was. I figure I probably had some sort of hairline fracture, but I really have no idea.

If you don't have any insurance, I would keep an eye out for signs of infection and head to the emergency room or doc-in-a-box if that occurs. If you have insurance, just go to the doc already.
posted by yohko at 2:54 PM on May 7, 2007

I'm wondering... whether it'll disappear on its own, given more time.

Yes, it will go away in time, but said time may be months. I sprained my index finger and even with iceing and immobilizing it took a couple months to go away. I'm sure that if I'd seen a doctor at the time I could have halved that healing time and not have residual sensitivity today.

Ice. Immobilize. See a doctor if even remotely possible.
posted by lekvar at 2:57 PM on May 7, 2007

i am not a doctor. but whenever i hurt myself like that, the school/university nurses would just have me wear a splint for a week or two and everythin would work fine. x-rays cost a lot of money for those without means....

I say splint it, and see where you're at in a week. if pain increases, see a doctor. but since i'm not a doctor... my opinion might be useless.
posted by ZackTM at 3:02 PM on May 7, 2007

That roughly matches my symptoms when I broke my finger while I was out of the country. I had it looked at a couple months later after I got back to the US and I had to wear a splint for over two months because I had waited so long. I had even tried to splint it myself after it happened. But because of the way it was broken, every time I let it bend when took it out of the splint to change it I was negating the effects of my splinting. I would see a doctor and get it x-rayed to determine the proper course of action. I went to student health, which was free, but I had to pay about $200 total for two x-rays.
posted by stopgap at 3:07 PM on May 7, 2007

I've had a similar experience (hosed up pinky), with symptoms similar to what you describe, and it was a fracture in the finger joint. A really tiny one, but it doesn't take much.

The longer you wait to have it X-rayed and confirmed as either broken or just whammied on, the less likely that it will heal with 100% function if it's actually fractured. I ended up being referred to a finger specialist, and did physical therapy stuff to my finger to increase range of motion and such. It took about 4 months to heal up (although it still gets sore sometimes even now) to about 90% strength and range of motion.

Finger doc also said that fingers are difficult to repair surgically, and that sort of thing is usually a 50/50 shot, and that the correct treatment (immobilization vs. stretching to increase range of motion, for example) depends upon what's wrong with it. The worst case for a fracture is that they have to fuse it, which basically means that your finger never bends again (it's locked in one position forever).
posted by doorsnake at 3:08 PM on May 7, 2007

Similar symptoms when a friend picked me up and dropped me on my pinky finger in middle school (in an apparent re-dramatization of the penultimate moment of Wrestlemania 3). My finger was broken. Hairline fracture. Had a cast for about 6 weeks. IANAD, obviously, but my guess is that they're probably to x-ray it if you go in, and x-rays ain't cheap. But then again, you can't buy a new pinky.
posted by fishfucker at 3:31 PM on May 7, 2007

I broke my finger in a similar way when I was a kid. My dad was sure I was exaggerating, because I didn't seem to be in that much pain. My mom took one look and brought me into the hospital. It turns out the finger was not only broken, but needed to be reset for me to be able to close my hand properly.

As a student, you probably have a health center on campus. If not, there are urgent care centers which shouldn't be too expensive. I strongly recommend having a doctor look at / XRay your hand. A broken finger may not hurt much now, but if it sets badly can take a lot more work to fix.
posted by lorimt at 3:36 PM on May 7, 2007

Thanks for all the informative answers, guys. Looks like I'll be trying to squeeze in a visit to the student health center tomorrow. I really hope that it isn't broken and won't require splints and all that stuff, because I'd really like to grade for my next belt (in jiu jitsu) before the summer. Only because I'll be leaving the country after that and probably won't get another chance to do so. :(
posted by nihraguk at 3:44 PM on May 7, 2007

I believe this type of fracture is known as "boxer's break" for obvious reasons...get an X-Ray.
posted by rcavett at 6:18 PM on May 8, 2007

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