I don’t usually write about personal issues, but since I do like to document the unusual things that happen to me (and since Facebook isn’t really good for that sort of thing in the long term), I thought I would make an exception and write a post documenting the stupidest, most ridiculous injury I’ve had in my thirty-odd years. Those of you who came only for the nature stories and photos may want to skip this post; however, I hope it will help others who find themselves suffering from the same stupid injury.
I wish I could claim that this injury was received while birdwatching – perhaps the result of an over-eager chickadee snatching a sunflower seed from my hand – in order to tie it in with the subject of this blog. The closest it comes to being bird-related is that I was getting ready to go to an OFNC Birds Committee meeting after dinner one evening when it occurred. At. 6:20 pm on February 24th, I was putting on my boots and tucking my pants inside when my finger jammed and I felt a large “pop” – rather like when you crack your knuckles, but magnified. It didn’t hurt, but when I pulled my hand out of boot I noticed that the tip of the middle finger on my left hand was bent down at a 45-degree angle. When I tried to straighten it, the finger was completely unresponsive. I could push it back up into a straight position with my other hand, but when I let go it immediately drooped again.
It didn’t seem to be an emergency, so I drove over to a walk-in clinic hoping it was just dislocated and that it could be popped back into place. The doctor took one look at it and told me to go to the hospital ER to get it X-rayed. By this time I was beginning to feel a small ache deep in the joint.
I arrived at about 7:30. I’d never been to the ER before, and was impressed by how quickly I was triaged, signed in, and sent to the X-ray waiting area. That’s when the wait began. About an hour and a half later a friendly X-ray technician brought me in, and told me he’d had the exact thing happen to him on his pinky finger. He said that the injury had resulted in the tendon becoming separated from the bone and that he needed surgery to fix it. I said, “So it’s not going to be as simple to fix as if it were just dislocated.” He said yes.
I wasn’t surprised when the ER doctor showed me the X-ray about an hour later and told me that I had indeed torn the extensor tendon (the one that runs along the top of the finger and allows the finger to extend straight out) from the bone, an injury known as “mallet finger”. Mallet finger is a relatively common injury, particularly in sports when a basketball or baseball forcefully strikes the end of an extended finger. Other names for this injury include “Baseball Finger” and “Drop Finger”. I’ve since learned that people can even get this injury simply by tucking in the sheets while making the bed! Sometimes a piece of bone may tear off with the tendon, but fortunately the X-rays showed that this wasn’t the case. I just needed to have a splint put on and then I could go home.
It took another hour for someone to put the splint on. By that time it was 11:00 and I was feeling my exhaustion more than the ache in my finger. I was told that a hand surgeon would call me in about a week to set up a follow-up appointment, at which time he would examine me to see whether the tendon had healed on its own, or whether surgery would be required to reattach it. I thought this meant my appointment would be in about a week, but after doing some internet research the following day I learned that the splint needed to be worn continuously for 6-8 weeks! Under no circumstances could I take it off and let the finger droop, as the healing tendon may tear again if that happens.
I was given what is known as a Stack (or Stax) splint. I wasn’t given any care instructions, and didn’t ask since I thought I would only be wearing it for a week. As it is plastic, with an opening for the fingertip and tiny holes on both sides, I thought it would be okay to let it get wet while in the shower, washing my hands, etc. It turns out that letting it get wet is NOT a good idea, as then it gets damp and sticky inside, particularly where the skin presses against the inside of the splint. Also, by the third day, it was beginning to smell like feet that had been encased in sneakers for too long. I wasn’t sure how to clean the splint and wasn’t about to risk taking it off, so I eventually came up with my own method of cleaning it: I cut up a J-cloth into tiny strips, dipped the strips in some rubbing alcohol, then fed the strips between the splint and my finger with the help of a nail file or letter opener, trying to bring the alcohol into as much contact with my finger and the splint as much as possible. I did this every two or three days, and while it didn’t entirely help with the stickiness, it helped the smell! I dealt with the stickiness by cutting up a stiff paper towel into a thin strip and inserting it between the finger and splint as well, leaving it there day and night and changing it daily. After learning that lesson I obtained some disposable gloves to wear while in the shower and washing dishes.
I was sick of wearing the splint by the second day, so having to leave it on for an entire 8 weeks seemed unbearable. I felt miserable the entire first week since even the most ordinary tasks had become a challenge for me, and everything took longer than usual. Although I tried to be careful, I ended up hitting my finger against the occasional door frame more than once while reaching for the knob because my finger tends to stick straight out. I also pulled the splint off less than 24 hours of wearing it. I was using that hand to slide a folder into a filing cabinet, and when I pulled my hand out the splint was no longer on it. I am fortunate I did this on Day 1 of the splint rather than Day 21, for if splint comes off and the finger droops, the clock turns back all the way back to Day 1 again.
Other minor inconveniences included difficulty pulling things out of a pocket or a purse with the splinted hand, cutting food, and picking up items from the floor. One day on the bus I dropped a glove on the floor, and as I was sitting beside the window with a seat in front of me and someone beside me, I couldn’t pick it up with my injured hand and had to wait for my seatmate to get up so I could reach across with my good hand.
Since it happened in February, I also had to contend with finding proper winter gloves that fit over the splint. My regular gloves are too tight, so I bought a pair of ski mitts which were really thick and really warm (the best I could do as it was so late in the season). Unfortunately I am not a “mitt” person and then had difficulty carrying things and opening doors while wearing it. Then I found my fiancé’s open-fingered gloves, which were a godsend. As they were too large for me, I only used the left-hand glove for my injured hand, which allowed me to pull it on and off without worrying about the splint coming off with it. The exposed fingertips meant I could actually open doors and hold things, such as my keys, and use my iPhone.
Typing is the worst part of wearing the splint, as it’s my “D” key finger that has the splint. My typing has gotten better over the past 7 weeks, as my index finger has compensated for my useless middle finger, but any time I have a several letters from the “D” and “F” columns all together – i.e. “freedom”, “delete” – my fingers tangle up together and I have to stop and type with only one finger.
Today marks the 51st straight day of wearing the splint…or 7 weeks and 2 days. The joint still gets that deep, painful ache every now and then, but for the past 10 days or so I also have felt a light, maddening discomfort in that finger similar to when one sits in the same position for a very long time, such as on a long car or plane ride. This is accompanied by the urge to stretch and flex my fingers. Hopefully this means it has healed and is ready to bend and flex properly. I see the hand surgeon for my follow-up appointment in six days, so at that time the splint will come off to see whether my finger can extend straight out on its own…or whether it will droop again. If it still droops, I might have to wear the splint for another 3 or 4 weeks.
From everything I’ve read on-line, even if it has healed, I will still need to wear the splint for a couple more weeks at night and during any activities that may put the finger at risk. If fully healed, I can expect the finger to be stiff, and will likely need to do exercises to regain strength and range of motion. In many cases, the finger may have a slight, permanent droop, called an “extensor lag”, though apparently this does not usually affect the function of the finger.
Though I am now used to the splint and to having limited function in my left hand, I am both eagerly and nervously awaiting next week’s appointment and seeing the results of the 8 weeks’ treatment. I will report back later to let you all know the outcome!
Update Five Years Later….
January 20, 2019
Wow, I can’t believe this post has become my most popular post ever…even more so than my controversial posts about owl baiting! So many people have commented here with their own stories of this ridiculously devastating injury, showing that there is a real lack of good, centralized information or concrete solutions on this subject. I suspect that’s because it seems insignificant to non-sufferers when it is anything but – losing the mobility of a single finger affects the function of the whole hand, which in turn affects basic functions such as getting dressed, taking a shower, and opening doors. Those of us who depend on our hands for earning a living – such as typists, musicians, and sports players – may not be able to fulfill our job requirements the two months our fingers are in a splint, plus the additional four months it takes to regain the mobility lost in the split second it took to rupture the tendon. I thank you all for coming here and sharing your difficulties, your solutions to common problems, and supporting each other as we learn to cope with life in a splint!
I am posting this update here as the updates I made in the comments are now lost in the sea of 300+ other comments. Also, people have been asking about the exercises I did as the link no longer works. So here is a quick timeline about what happened after the splint came off:
April – May 2014
I was so excited to see the hand surgeon and get my splint off, but once it did I was crushed when I saw my finger. It was a bit swollen and lumpy, the skin was peeling, my fingertip drooped a bit, and it was very sensitive. The doctor bent it forcefully a couple of times and said it was healed. He also told me that this is a six-month injury, meaning it would take six months to return to normal, and wearing the splint takes only two of the months. He advised me to baby it for two weeks and only wear the splint at night. When I asked if the finger needed protection he just said something like, “It’s got to get used to the world again sometime”. I felt so depressed about the state of my finger then that I couldn’t write about the experience for a couple of months.
I did nothing with the finger for two weeks (though I still wore the splint at night). It seemed pretty much useless anyway, sticking straight out all the time. There was a lump on top of the DIP and my fingertip constantly felt tingly and super-sensitive where it had touched the splint, like it was falling asleep. It hurt whenever I accidentally bent it or bashed it, such as forgetting about it when reaching for a door handle.
I only kept the splint on for at night for two weeks – I would have kept using it at night if I had felt it needed it, but by then it didn’t hurt as much when I accidentally bashed it or bent it.
After two weeks I started the exercises found here. I’m not sure if I needed to give it time for the swelling to go down first, but once I started the exercises it looked a lot better.
The exercises should be done 2-3 times per day, for 5 minutes. The most important exercises are called blocking exercises. The fingers of the other hand are used to block the other finger joint, and the last joint is then bent for a count of 10, and then straightened for a count of 10. The bending exercises regain flexion lost from being in a splint, and the straightening exercises are to strengthen the tendon that was injured.
May and June 2014
I started the exercises around May 7th with maybe a 10° lag, but it improved significantly after about three or four weeks of exercises. It felt weird bending the finger the first couple of days, producing a sort of discomfort that wasn’t quite pain, but enough to make me question whether I was doing it right. I just kept doing the exercises until that feeling went away.
I didn’t go to physio as I was able to regain some flexibility on my own doing the blocking exercises described here. I also had to regain mobility in the other joint, the PIP closest to the hand, as the surgical tape had prevented that joint from moving fully and I didn’t realize I needed to spend some effort trying to bend it (TIP: make sure you can bend your PIP while the DIP is splinted, and do it frequently!). To regain some flexibility I would bend the joint as far as I could, and hold it there for a full 60-120 seconds. At first I used my other hand to bend it; then I would repeat the exercise by actively try to bend it and hold it on its own. I did this with each joint separately, blocking the middle joint with my other hand to bend the fingertip.
It took about 5 weeks after starting the exercises before I could bend my finger to about 80°. The tendon was still stiff at that point, but I just kept doing the blocking exercises a couple of times a day (on the bus going to work, going home, while watching TV etc.) until it improved. It felt really strange and uncomfortable at first, but it started feeling much better as the weeks progressed.
By June the tendon had healed, but was still a bit stiff; I could type with it and almost make a fist, though there was a gap big enough to slide a highlighter through since my fingertip didn’t come anywhere close to touching the base of the finger. I couldn’t quite form a 90° angle with the last joint; it was maybe about 80°. I still had a 5° droop at the tip and a slight bulge on top of the DIP joint – this 5° extensor lag seems to be common to everyone who gets this injury, no matter if they don’t ever let the fingertip droop while wearing the splint. The super-sensitive feeling at the finger-tip was just about gone.
Almost six months since the injury, the finger was still not 100%. The lag seemed reduced, but I still couldn’t make a complete fist, and it still hurt at times. Still, this did not affect the function of it; I had the complete use of that finger. The joint closest to my hand was the one that hurt.
My finger had no lag now, though I still couldn’t curl that finger into a complete fist. The gap gradually diminished, though. The residual pain on top of both knuckles was almost gone – however the tendon felt sore when I pushed down on it.
My finger looked completely normal 11 months after the injury, and worked just fine. However, it still hurt along the top between both joints when I tried to make a complete fist; and I still couldn’t get the end of the finger to touch the base when I tried to make a fist – there was still a small gap. This did not limit the function of the finger in any way, or prevent me from doing everyday things. While the finger was not quite 100%, it was not enough for me to be concerned or need to see a doctor.
By May my hand finally felt 100%. By the end of the year it was like it never happened. I think I was one of the lucky ones, although when my doctor said it was a “six-month injury” he should have said a “twelve-month injury”, since it did take that long to get back to normal, and I would have managed my expectations accordingly. Then again, most of my problems later were due to my PIP joint becoming stiff, and not taking care to flex it while my DIP joint was in the splint.
I wish you a complete recovery of the use of your finger.
Thanks Fenja. Only 5 more days until I find out!
I am experiencing the same injury – I hope you have been bending your knuckle joint while your finger was splinted – I did not and now my joint is very very stiff – I went to the dr and he said that the therapist should have told me to exercise that joint with the splint on so this did not happen. Too late – now I have to try and get it to bend more by heating up my finger as hot as possible and pushing down on it hard to try and eventually get it to bend more. This is the stupidest injury I have ever had and very frustrating – you don’t realize how much of an inconvenience it is until it happens. The mallet injury healed great – now I have to deal with a stiff finger that may not get much better – this is much more of a problem than the mallet injury.
Hi Kelly. I wasn’t told to bend my PIP joint, either, and had the same problem. I got my DIP joint working faster than the PIP joint with the exercises, but by pushing down on it and holding it for 30-60 seconds throughout the day I was able to get it functioning again. It took months, however. Just keep working on it, and hopefully you can get it back to normal yourself without physio.
Hi Gillian, Do you have another link for those exercises after the splint is off. The current link shows file not found. I have had my splint off for almost three months and although the finger looks good I still have stiffness when I wake up in the morning and I can’t make a complete fist yet. The end joint doesn’t curl back toward the finger like the others do. Has your finger made a full recovery> Does it bend as well as the others now? Just curious if this is something I have to live with or if if with time it will get better on it’s own. My Doctor never said anything about therapy or exercises. Just to starting using it normally. And although I pretty much can do everything with it now, I do find the finger sticks out while the others are bending in a relaxed state. I can’t believe the inconvenience this small injury causes. Thank you for all the help.
That’s too bad the link is no longer active. I was able to see a cached version using the Wayback Machine archive site. The exercises are as follows (and yes I was able to regain the full use of my finger doing them a couple of times a day while sitting on the bus, watching TV, etc.):
During this 4 week period, and often for 1-2 months afterwards, exercises should be done to regain motion of the affected joint.
The exercises should be done 2-3 times per day, for 5 minutes. The most important exercises are called blocking exercises. The fingers of the other hand are used to block the other finger joint, and the last joint is then bent for a count of 10, and then straightened for a count of 10. The bending exercises regain flexion lost from being in a splint, and the straightening exercises are to strengthen the tendon that was injured.
Thank you for your reply – would this link be the correct blocking and strengthening exerecises?
So happy for you that your mallet fingers had a great recovery.
Click to access Tendon_gliding_exercises..pdf
I too have the same..very frustrating. Can’t bend my finger properly.and hurts to exercise.. And doc said could develop to a trigger finger..good Lord been dealing with this since Sept 2015
So that was 2014 & this is 2016. I have same injury. Does your fingertip point upwards a bit like normal? thanks
I just injured my right ring finger on June 13, 2020 catching a frisbee. Diagnosed with mallet finger. I’m a dental hygienist and this is my most important finger for scaling, its called the fulcrum finger. It gives me strength and stability while working.
Was told by emergency doctor to be off for 56 days. When I saw the physiotherapist a week later she made me a custom splint but couldn’t give me a recommendation if I could go back to work??
I understand the importance of keeping my finger straight but I’m wondering if I’m working and applying pressure consistently on this finger if it will affect my healing time. Perhaps, I should take the weeks recommended by the doctor to ensure proper healing so in the future my career is not effected. Thoughts?
Obviously we can’t give you medical advice, as we are not doctors, but I think most of us have been able to work while in a splint. You will find ways to adapt to doing things with only four fingers, and working around the splint. I note that the most important factor is keeping the injured finger straight, in a splint; I don’t think applying light pressure will affect the healing, as I accidentally bashed my finger several times quite hard while I got used to it sticking straight out all the time.
It might be worth getting a recommendation to see a hand surgeon, rather than an ER doctor, as they know more about mallet finger than most doctors.
Since it is important to your livelihood I agree with Gillian that it would be a good idea to consult with a hand specialist and discuss your occupational needs. Perhaps bring one of your tools to show the doctor what it is you are concerned about. There are also different types of splints and if this one does not work well, perhaps another would. In my case the hand doctor gave me good advice, but the P.A. had all the skills at splinting.
As the previous reply said, a lot of us continue with many activities while splinted and I hope you will be able to as well. Also do not neglect the first few weeks after the splint comes off. The finger might feel stiff and weak, and a bit swollen even. At that point you may find it easier to work with the splint on part-time!
Your injury sounds similar to mine: i was playing ultimate frisbee and ended up with mallet finger on my right ring finger. That was in February of this year, over four months ago.
Suffice it to say, it’s been totally unexpected how difficult the healing process is with this injury. I have been despondent at times, thinking there may be some permanence to it. I’m still not sure about that, but Gillian’s update from one year after her injury gives me some hope. I have a long way to go but will try to remain compliant with the PT exercises.
Gillian thank you so much for this blog post. Your post and all the replies have been the best/most info i’ve found on the internet about this “stupid injury” (as you so well put it).
This is now my seventh month from the surgery, it’s finally starting to feel somewhat normal. I’m not sure if it’s a good advice for everybody, but doing the exercises always ended up making it worse, I suggest the less you bother it, The better. Also understand that even though they say it’s three months, that might be for a younger person that heals very quickly, I am 67 years old, and mine has taken this long. But I suspect it won’t be perfect ever again.
I am on month 6 now, After reading all of the posts, I decided to keep the splint on continuously and only take it off to change the splint. From what I can tell, my finger will never be the same. It seems to have a permanent droop to it. honestly, I am afraid to take the splint off, in fear of bending and re-injuring the finger
I believe the splints need to be hyper extended, in order to have least amount of drooping. It’s one of those injuries that we all can’t come to grip with it, no punt intended! It’s one of those things, just follow the protocol as much as possible, but use your own common sense as well, it’s a tough balance. I found an excellent therapist on line, she was very helpful and knowledgeable!
Good luck, Ari
This is now my seventh month from the injury, it’s finally starting to feel somewhat normal. I’m not sure if it’s a good advice for everybody, but doing the exercises always ended up making it worse, I suggest the less you bother it, The better. Also understand that even though they say it’s three months, that might be for a younger person that heals very quickly, I am 67 years old, and mine has taken this long. But I suspect it won’t be perfect ever again.
Ari — my hand doc was definitely of the “do less” philosophy and also believed in using natural motions rather than exercises for the rehab period after the splint came off.
I agree, the more I started doing exercise, the more pain I had. It’s better to just let it heal naturally and do a natural exercises. It needs to heal just let it heal!
Christian — it is a bit unclear from your post, but if you are still splinting full-time 6 months after the injury you need to see a medical professional.
Glad I’m not the only who does manages stupid injuries! I can’t believe it takes so long to heal. Hope you’re back to normal now.
Thanks Jason. I get stupid injuries all the time; last year it was a stress fracture in my foot from doing aerobics at home! I’ll be posting an update a little later, but the splint is off and my middle finger is still useless. Won’t be functioning normally for another couple of months, and even then I won’t regain full range of motion. I highly recommend avoiding this stupid injury!
I did the same thing two weeks ago!!! It’s so frustrating! I have an active job, a boisterous dog and a piano and flute I can’t play!!! I felt the pop you describe whilst pulling myself up front sitting on the floor! Good to hear your take on life in the splint…. I couldn’t agree more!!!! I’m not relishing the thought of winter in it. Terrified of falling and damaging it all over again…..
Hi Sarah, with winter I found gloves were a problem. I wore a ski mitt on the splinted hand and a glove on the other. The mitt was thick enough that I wasn’t worried about falling and damaging it (and I fall on the @&^#?!!## ice about once each winter). Yeah, it is frustrating not to be able to do the things you love, and to have to find new ways of doing the things you need to do, but after about two weeks you’ll find you’re coping better. Good luck with the healing process!
Hi, How is your finger now? I did the same in February this year and after the splint came off at the end of April I can hardly bend the middle joint of the finger which is very stiff and Im having physio twice a week.
Yes, I’m overdue for an update (both for my nature posts and about my finger!)
The tendon has healed, but it is still a bit stiff; I can now type with it and almost make a fist, though there is a gap big enough to slide a highlighter through since my fingertip doesn’t come anywhere close to touching the base of the finger. I can’t quite form a 90° angle with the last joint; it’s maybe about 80°.
When I got the splint off on April 23rd, I took the doctor’s advice and babied it for two weeks, not doing any exercises or attempting to use it for anything (April 23 – May 7) . It seemed pretty much useless anyway, sticking straight out all the time. I only kept the splint on for at night for two weeks – I would have kept using it at night if I had felt it needed it, but by then it didn’t hurt as much when I accidentally bashed it or bent it.
I didn’t think the last joint would ever bend beyond 5°, but it improved significantly after about two weeks of exercises (by mid-May). I didn’t go to physio as I was able to regain some flexibility on my own doing the blocking exercises described here. I also had to regain mobility in the other joint, the one closest to the hand, as the surgical tape had prevented that joint from moving fully and I didn’t realize I needed to spend some effort trying to bend it. To regain some flexibility I would bend the joint as far as I could, and hold it there for a full 60-120 seconds. At first I used my other hand to bend it; then I would repeat the exercise by actively try to bend it and hold it on its own. I did this with each joint separately, blocking the middle joint with my other hand to bend the fingertip.
The surgeon told me it normally takes about 6 months to heal completely from the time of injury, so that means the stiffness should be gone and I should be able to make a complete fist by the end of August. I do have a permanent droop at the fingertip (the 5° extensor lag that seems to be common to everyone who gets this injury, no matter if they don’t ever let the fingertip droop while wearing the splint) and there is a slight bulge on top of the end joint, so it still doesn’t look normal. My fingertip was also super-sensitive when the splint came off, which was a bit annoying, but that’s just about gone. I think that took about a month to go away.
I am surprised you are still having so much trouble with your middle joint when it sounds like you got your split off the same time I did. Did your physio give you any exercises like the ones I described above? If your tendon is fully healed, I don’t see why you couldn’t try them. They did make my finger feel funny at first, but that quickly went away, I guess because the tendon was getting stronger and used to moving again.
Anyway, thanks for writing, and let me know how it goes. It’s nice to meet a fellow sufferer and compare notes; I found a lot of message boards in my research, but hardly any current posts or personal blogs on the subject.
All the best,
I apologize for not being an avid reader of your blog but I really do appreciate your blog and all the great things you’ve written about, including your splinted finger. I scoured the internet for an article that detailed someone else’s experience to compare to my own and I was only able to locate yours. I had my splint on for about 7 weeks and I finally took it off. The first thing I tried to do was bend my ring finger and make a fist and I was unable to get anywhere close to bending it more than 15 degrees. My finger feels extremely stiff and feels as if it’ll snap if i put a great deal of pressure on it so I’m hesitant to do that. It’s been off for about 5 days now and it hasn’t gotten any better. How long did it take you to get back to 80 degree functionality after taking the splint off.
Any reply would be extremely appreciate as I am freaking out currently.
No need for apologies! This blog post is here for people looking for information, and to comment if they want. I wrote it because I couldn’t find any website that gives any informative, detailed personal experience with this injury and I figured others would benefit from my writing about it. Now it’s up to 100 comments and still going strong!
It took about 5 weeks after starting the exercises before I could bend my finger to about 80°. The tendon was still stiff at that point, but I just kept doing the blocking exercises a couple of times a day (on the bus going to work, going home, while watching TV etc.) until it improved. Yes, it felt really strange and uncomfortable at first, but it started feeling much better as the weeks progressed.
I was told to wait two weeks before attempting exercises, though. Perhaps give it another week of babying it before you start them. I’m not sure why I was told to wait two weeks; perhaps it was to let the tissues completely heal and the swelling go down (I had a bump on top of the joint for a few months after). My finger did hurt whenever I accidentally bashed it (opening doors, for example), but after two weeks it didn’t hurt so much which is when I realized I could probably stop wearing the splint at night.
Anyway I hope that helps – let me know how it goes!
I have a mallet finger on my right ring finger as a result of….wait for it…wrestling with my son. I too went to minor care where they took xrays.The xrays showed no fracture,but the doctor suspected a torn ligament and recommended an ortho.After visiting the ortho,he looked at my xrays,but not my finger at all,and said I had a fracture and put me in a splint like yours for 4 weeks.Never mentioned ligaments at all.It happened so fast.I went back after 4 weeks and he re-xrayed to report my fracture had healed.I was allowed to take the splint off, but he gave no instruction to wear it at night or no precautions.My finger hurt soooo bad that first day.It has been going on 2 weeks and not only does my finger droop still, but it is red on top of the joint and burns when I bend it. I’mstill not covincdit is not ligaments. How long did it take for your pain to go away?Any redness?
Hi Gillian. I read your post with great interest. I have the same injury…left hand…middle finger and the same splint as you had. I have only had it on for four days and its starting to smell so I was looking for ideas of how to wash it ( being terrified to take it off because it seems near impossible to keep it straight without it and knowing me I’m bound to screw the process up!) So I think I will try your alcohol gel/j cloth inspiring idea and see how it goes! I have to wear the splint for 6 weeks…the injury occurred while I was rubbing mud off the carpet. Madness!! I loved your account…just what I needed to find. The bird blogs aren’t quite so interesting to me …although living in Shetland I have been gaining a little bit of knowledge about the feathered population here!
I’m glad you found my blog post helpful; I wrote it because I couldn’t figure out a good way to keep my finger clean and no other blogs touched on this subject. Like you, I figured I would bend the finger as soon as I tried to remove or put the splint back on. I was able to keep it clean just by using a thick cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol, and it wasn’t that bad when I finally got the splint removed.
Wow, that sounds even worse than me jamming my finger in my boot! It’s amazing how every day activities can be so dangerous. The good news is, you will eventually get used to the splint. It took me about 2 weeks before I learned how to function with it. The remaining 4 weeks weren’t fun, but I managed to survive. At least you don’t have to worry about dealing with winter gloves!
It’s now been almost six months since the injury, and it’s still not 100%. The lag seems reduced, but I still can’t make a complete fist, and it still hurts at times. Still, this has not affected the function of it; I have the complete use of that finger. The joint closest to my hand is the one that hurts, so I would advise you to keep flexing that joint when changing the tape, if you can’t flex it with it on as I couldn’t.
Best of luck with your mallet finger!
I got a mallet injury to right middle finger (I am right handed) around August 22, 2014. Went to ER three days later and was unlucky to run into a physician who after x Ray put a splint that required taping on both sides of DIP joint to immobilize it but he did not tape it. He also told me to remove the splint while showering – little did he know. So after researching net I realized I was mistreated.
On August 31 spoke to an orthopedic doctor on phone who told me to tape a paper clip on dorsal side of DIP. Saw him on September 2 and he could do no better than telling me to keep the paper clip splint on for 6 weeks then see him.
Went to a hand surgeon of reputable teaching hospital on September 10 who changed to Stax splint that became unbearable after a week by causing skin irritation as it did not fit perfectly. He gave. few dorsal and volar aluminium splints and asked that I keep switching but none fitted well. All this for $ 2000.00 bill.
When I took splint off after eight weeks from beginning I realized that I have substantial extensor lag. Went to a hand therapist and asked him to make a volar custom splint. This one fits much better and Keeps the DIP straight. I will find out after another six weeks if lag goes away.
That is my story.
Wow, that’s awful Anil. I’m glad you did some research and realized the first doc didn’t splint you correctly. I can’t believe he said you could take it off in the shower!
I hope your custom splint helps. One thing I noticed, I had a slight lag after mine came off, but once I started exercising and using it the lag is not so noticeable. And do try to keep your PIP joint mobile, I STILL have some discomfort there when I try to make a fist (it’s much better than it was two months ago, but there is still a small gap).
This is why I believe it’s important for REAL people to tell their stories, instead just relying on websites that seem to regurgitate the same basic info that don’t go into any real depth.
Feel free to post again after your 6 weeks are up!
After five weeks of additional custom splinting, the extension lag did not improve.
Did you go for therapy or not after splint removal?
I find therapists are very aggressive. In my case they try to do too much during a visit, really massage DIP JOINT very hard with instruments resulting in pain.
I have gone to therapist once then stopped for this reason. Has been nine days since that visit and the pain is gone and mobility of PIP joint has been slowly getting better. Have another appointment today – wondering whether to go or cancel once again. By the way the guy is a certified hand therapist.
No, I didn’t need to see a physiotherapist after my splint came off. As I mentioned in one of the comments above, I just started doing the blocking exercises described on this website and got good results on my own. My finger seems to have no lag now, though I still can’t curl that finger into a complete fist yet. The gap is gradually diminishing, though. The residual pain on top of both knuckles is almost gone – the tendon felt sore if I pushed down on it.
Did you go to the appointment? If so, what happened? I hope he gave you some exercises to help the finger. It sounds like his first treatment was quite painful, more than would be expected for a physio session (I have gone to a physiotherapist on and off for neck and back issues, and know it’s not always pleasant, but they usually ask me if the pain is too much when working on tender areas).
Good luck, and I hope your finger improves!
This has been extremely helpful. I too am going through this process with one of my fingers. Thanks for sharing.
I’m glad you found this helpful, Betty. Good luck with your mallet finger!
Hi I’ve just done this to myself argh! Just wanted to say that I’ve been given a splint waaaaay too big from a and e and not at physio to get it checked until 29th dec. So we’ve ordered a smaller one on line and tonight my Husband has just trimmed down in length the big one. well what an amazing difference as I can now bend my knuckle. That is what has been irritating me the most and also the most painful as my joint seizes up. So I do recommend cutting it just beyond the knuckle so you can move it!
I never even thought of cutting the splint down so I could bent my middle joint. What a great idea!
Did they not try the splint on you first to see if it would fit? A doctor brought a whole kit full of them to me to see which one fit best. Hopefully your new one will fit better!
I got my mallet finger by drying the carpet with a towel, left it for five days, then had some pain. I went to the urgent care centre and they put a splint on and was told by the nurse l would have a slight lag because of the delay. I had an x ray, then was sent to the fracture clinic and was seen by a orthopaedic doctor, whom did not seem to interest. I am still wearing the splint after 11 weeks, and am now weaning myself out of the splint (my finger at the moment seems pretty straight, but not done much exercise) and seeing my GP tomorrow, who I have just found out he used to be a orthopaedic surgeon, hopefully he will help me with an exercise program, due to lack of correspondence from the hospital.
Good luck with your GP. Eleven weeks in the splint seems a long time, so hopefully that will counter the fact that you left your injury for five days before getting medical help! From what I’ve read, leaving it for a few days is not as big a problem as waiting a few weeks (or longer), after the healing is well underway.
Feel free to report back after a couple of weeks to let us know how you are doing!
Went to the Doctors, and said my finger is very good and pretty straight. He advised me to exercise making a fist with a soft ball in warm water, and blocking exercises, and daily increase the time out of the splint. I have noticed it is quite swollen, I do intent to hold my finger downwards when it’s out of the splint without realising, but it also straightens on it’s own. I have a hospital appointment Tues, so hopefully more info. I think I just worry it may lag 😦 How is your finger? It is fully healed?
Just keep doing the exercises your doctor prescribed and you should see an improvement. I didn’t have a problem with swelling, though – I wonder if that’s common? Would icing the finger after the exercises help?
My finger looks completely normal now, and works just fine. However, it still hurts along the top between both joints when I try to make a complete fist; and I still can’t get the end of the finger to touch the base when I try to make a fist – there is still a small gap. This does not limit the function of the finger in any way, or prevent me from doing everyday things. So while the finger is not quite 100%, it’s not enough for me to be concerned or need to see a doctor. I’m hoping the pain goes away eventually.
Good luck with your appointment Tuesday!
I am from india. My story is big. I have many questions to ask but let me short it.
I broke my left pinky finger middle joint ( but end joint was alright) in 2011
After middle joint was treated by surgery. The middle joint was so rigid . So , I was given local anesthesia and they bent my finger by surgeons. While bending the joint they broke my pinky finger and made it MALLET FINGER.
I was left untreated for 3 years.
(In 2014 December 7 )
Only Before a month came to a conclusion , made surgery for mallet finger and the tendon was reconnected by surgery wires (made finger straight pin was inserted about 6 weeks) now pin is removed. But my doc has given me another splint to wear about 3 months(only in night ) but when i remove splint in the morning finger is straight for some hours . After that still my finger is not completely straight & still it is bent . But I could somehow lift up my finger & see improvements after surgery.
Will it become straight in the future as time goes on? Or will it be bent fully my life time ?
Made a mistake
it was 2010
. not 2011
As I am not a doctor, I am unable to say whether it will become straight or if it will stay bent. How is it now? Has there been any improvement?
Glad I found your blog. I suffered a mallet finger injury last Sunday (March 1, 2015) and when I went to the Urgent Care doctor, he seemed to not know a lot about how to treat it. He gave me an aluminum splint with blue soft foam on the inside part that contacts the skin. But the advice he gave me seemed odd. He said I didn’t need to wear the splint all the time, that I could take it off while showering, and that I only REALLY needed to wear it at night. The internet is such a great resource! Now I have some tips on wearing it, cleaning it, etc. Fortunately no bone was broken or anything, at least, the doctor didn’t tell me if any bone was broken. (I did get X-rays).
I have to say, I am not looking forward to keeping this thing on for eight weeks, but, I want it to heal right.
Anyway, just wanted to share my appreciation for the time you took to talk about it!
I am really glad that so many people are finding this post useful even after a year!
That seems to be a running theme from the commenters here – that when they’ve gone for treatment, the doctor didn’t seem to know how the mallet finger should be cared for after the splint was put on. I’m glad you didn’t take him at his word but did some research yourself.
It was a long eight weeks for me, but the first two weeks were the hardest as my left hand needed to learn to adjust doing everyday things with one finger in a splint. By the time I was down to my couple of weeks I could type decently and do pretty much anything I needed to. I’m sure you’ll find ways to cope so it doesn’t bother you as much after the first couple of weeks.
Good luck with your splint, and feel free to keep me posted!
Thanks Gillian. 🙂 I’ll check back in a few weeks and let you know how I am doing. So far, I am eight days into it and it is indeed challenging. It’s amazing how much of an impact a so-called “minor” injury has on your life!
FYI I forgot to mention that you said right there in your blog, “people can even get this injury simply by tucking in the sheets while making the bed”. THAT’S HOW I DID IT!
Ha! I bet you never knew how dangerous making the bed could be! I got mine tucking my pants into my boots. Kind of hard to explain to people, isn’t it? 🙂
Hi My mallet finger occured whilst changing and getting middle finger right hand caught in my clothes,worn splint for 6 weeks,went to hospital and had the splint removed but my finger still not straight and swollen ,looks also purple and sore,but doctor said it can take up to 3 months to improve and given me excercises to try and help the stiffness,feeling dispondent!!
I was very disappointed when my splint came off, too. I couldn’t even write about it at the time, that’s how crushed I felt. It was a bit swollen and lumpy, my fingertip drooped a bit, and it was very sensitive. I did nothing with the finger for two weeks (though I still wore the splint at night) then started the exercises. I’m not sure if I needed to give it time for the swelling to go down first, but once I started the exercises it looked a lot better.
I was told it was a six-month injury, meaning it would take six months to return to normal, and wearing the splint takes only two of the months. It’s a long process, but if it heals right and you regain your ability to bend the finger, you will never know you had the injury.
Best of luck!
Hi thanks feel happier now,will my finger always have a droop or does it look or get better when the swelling goes down?
Hi Julie, it may look better once the swelling goes down, but I wouldn’t expect a lot at first. In my case, it took a few months for the droop to go away. I remember being surprised, because I though it was permanent. I see from my comments above that I still had a bit of a droop on June 11th, though by August it was reduced.
As noted above, my splint came off on April 23rd. I took the doctor’s advice and babied it for two weeks, keeping the splint on at night, and not doing any exercises or attempting to use it for anything (April 23 – May 7). It was useless anyway, sticking straight out all the time. I only kept the splint on for at night for two weeks – I would have kept using it at night if I had felt it needed it, but by then it didn’t hurt as much when I accidentally bashed it or bent it.
It took about two weeks of exercises for it to bend more than 5°; I was able to regain flexibility doing the blocking exercises described at the end of this page. The bigger problem was that I also had to regain mobility in the other joint, the one closest to the hand, as the surgical tape had prevented that joint from moving fully and I didn’t realize I needed to spend some effort trying to bend it. To regain some flexibility I would bend the joint as far as I could, and hold it there for a full 60-120 seconds. At first I used my other hand to bend it; then I would repeat the exercise by actively try to bend it and hold it on its own. I did this with each joint separately, blocking the middle joint with my other hand to bend the fingertip. I did these a couple of times a day, usually when taking the bus to work or watching TV.
But anyway, my finger looked normal again by the time the six months were up, though I had problems making a tight fist – mostly because of my stiff proximal joint rather than the distal joint that had torn. Hopefully you don’t have the same problem!
Gillian, I really do hope that you know how encouraging it is to hear from someone who has been through the whole process of this injury.
– Sean (15 days down, 41 days to go of 24/7 splint wearing)
Thanks Sean. That does mean a lot! The whole reason I wrote this is because when I got my mallet finger I couldn’t find very many blogs with personal experiences, and the ones I did find didn’t have any practical advice. So I thought I would make my own experience available to anyone searching for tips on coping with mallet finger.
PS – love the countdown. I believe I had a similar one going at the time!
I am glad, Gillian. You’ve been a huge encouragement and it’s only fair you knew that.
That said, now I am 16 days in and I am starting to notice a lot of tingling in my fingertip and aching and “pin prick” sensations in the DIP joint that’s injured. Did you experience the same thing?
– Sean (16 days down, 40 to go)
No, I don’t recall feeling any “pin pricks” in the injured joint. It did ache deeply off and on for the first couple of weeks, though. Not badly enough to take an Advil or anything, but enough to remind me of the injury.
As for the fingertip, is it pressing against the splint? Mine was, and it started getting a weird sort of numb but hypersensitive sensation that lingered a month after the splint came off….almost like it had fallen asleep but without much “tingling”. I tried holding the splint away from the fingertip to give it some relief, but I could only do that a few minutes out of a 24 hour day so it didn’t help much.
How is the other joint doing (the PIP)? Can you flex that normally? It came as a shock when the splint came off and I found that it had stiffened right up, too, because I couldn’t move it with the tape covering it. It took about as long to regain mobility in that joint as it did the injured one!
Sorry to leave you high and dry! It’s been a busy week.
So, after posting on Tuesday about my aching and so forth, the pain got a lot worse and I went back to the same Urgent Care clinic that saw me the first day. I am going to be honest, I think it was all because I had my splint tightened down too much. I have one of those aluminum baseball splints with the blue foam. The section that curls up over the top of my finger at PIP joint was too tight and it was making matters worse. Once I loosened it a bit, I had relief. So, I sat in the Urgent Care clinic for three hours waiting to be seen and that whole time I was improving. By the time I saw the doctor (actually, a nurse practitioner), I felt much better.
The practical upshot of my 2nd visit is that I finally got an actual referral to a hand specialist. I have an appointment on Monday to be evaluated. The guy I am seeing is actually very highly regarded, so I will listen carefully to what he says. I have a CD with my original X-Rays from the first visit. I finally got a chance to look at them myself, and apparently I have very nice bones! No fractures at all.
I expect that PROBABLY the hand specialist will just confirm that I am doing the right thing by splinting 24/7. I will have five weeks of 24/7 splinting to go by the time I have my appointment. But then again, who knows, maybe he will see something that I don’t know about and recommend surgery. Hard to say. Ha!
Question for you: Did you have like a swollen area or “bump” directly above your injured DIP joint? That’s one thing that concerns me is that I figured that it would have reduced by now. It’s two days shy of three weeks since the injury. I should warn you, though, that I am a worry-wart. I don’t like being injured, and I always assume that anything that’s not “right” is because of the worst case cause. I know, that irritates people, but I always have such anxiety about medical issues. I am glad I am not sick or injured often!
And in reply to the question you asked, the kind of splint I am wearing does not allow me to move by PIP joint. I do believe that the hand specialist is going to recommend I switch to a STAX splint.
Anyway, here I am rambling on. I pray you have a wonderful weekend, Gillian. Thanks for letting me commiserate.
– Sean (19 Days Down, 37 to go)
I’m glad to hear you will be seeing the specialist on Monday, though I suspect you’re right – since you’re finger isn’t fractured, wearing a splint should help the injury to heal without additional treatment. Hopefully you will get a Stax splint like the one I had. I couldn’t imagine having one of those aluminum splints for six weeks….that was what I thought I was going to get, but was pleasantly surprised to see the Stax splint (until I realized you couldn’t get it wet).
Yes, I did have a bump on top of the injured joint. It was still there a few weeks after the splint was removed and I thought it was permanent. Eventually it went away, though I’m not sure what it was or whether the exercises helped, or if it was just still swollen. Don’t fret too much about how your finger looks once the splint comes off – it will take time for it to look normal again. The splint is just the beginning of the healing process, unfortunately.
Good luck on Monday!
PS – it’s 0°C and snowing here. It might change to rain later (hopefully not freezing rain) but won’t clear up till dinner time. Not sure if I will be able to get out to do any spring birding today. Tomorrow will be sunny but the high is only -8°C. Another lousy weekend for birding!
Thanks Gillian! Sorry for the lousy birding weather. 😦
I’ll update you again after I’ve seen the Specialist on Monday! 😀
Sorry it took me a minute, but I did see the hand specialist yesterday. I found out that he’s actually one of the more renowned hand surgeons around! He deals with professional athletes a lot. Not bad!
So first off, his medical assistant took some fresh X-Rays. Then the doctor came and saw me and he asked me how the injury happened. Then he looked at my baseball splint and asked if I had been able to move my PIP joint at all. He was very displeased to hear that my PIP joint was immobilized for three weeks. So he took my splint away, and asked me to try to flex both my PIP joint AND my DIP joint (in turn, individually). That scared me because I was like “Noooooo don’t throw my three weeks of healing down the drain!!!” But he was not happy with my motion in my PIP joint. I noticed that my DIP joint was initially straight, and it took effort to flex it. When I did flex it, it didn’t go EXACTLY back to straight afterwards, but it wasn’t that bad for lag.
So then he told his assistant to get me set up with a new splint and have me back to see him in two weeks.
She tried to set me up with a Stack splint, but my finger was a little too swollen. The closest size Stack splint was just a little too tight, and the next biggest one was way too big. So they sent me down to their physical therapy department and a CUSTOM splint made for me. That was pretty nice.
So, I have this custom splint now. It holds my DIP joint in a better angle, and it leaves my PIP joint free to flex. I admit at first, it was VERY stiff, but I have been working on it all day yesterday and today, and I admit that although it’s tough to bend, it’s easier than it was. I look forward to the day I can have my DIP joint bending too. I want to be able to use my right hand again!
So my next appointment is in two weeks! I do wonder, and he didn’t say, whether I get to count my first three weeks of splint time, or if I start the clock all over now. I am afraid to ask. I am sure he’ll tell me next appointment what my expected road map is.
– Sean (23 days down, don’t know how many more to go!)
I am not a doctor, but I think the fact that your finger didn’t immediately droop and go back to the way it was before the splint got put on means it’s healing well and you don’t need to reset the clock to zero. The fact that you could also flex it is excellent. It wouldn’t surprise me if the doctor added a bit more time to your clock to be safe, but I don’t think it will be the full three weeks.
I’m glad he changed the splint so that you can bend your PIP joint. Imagine trying to have to work on both of the joints at the end of the 6 weeks? Yep, that’s what I had to do!
Well, it’s finally feeling like spring now, and the birds are coming back! I am really looking forward to going out birding this weekend. It’s been a loooong winter. Which reminds me I need to finish a couple of nature posts before my next outing!
I’m so glad you started this conversation, and that I found it! While I love the outdoors, all wildlife, and find birds most interesting, I cannot really call myself a birder. But I digress…
I just got out of 8 weeks in a Stax splint for my pinkie mallet, and now 1 week wearing splint only while sleeping at night. I have about 15 degrees or more residual lag, I am hopeful it becomes a little less. I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on the potential for more straightening
It’s okay that you’re not a birder….it would be weird if only birders with mallet finger found my blog! 😀 I wrote this post for everyone dealing with this injury because I found so little online in the way of personal experiences. It’s actually one of my top-viewed posts which is interesting considering how few people have heard about this injury until they actually get one.
Sorry to hear about your pinkie. Have you started any exercises yet to regain its flexibility? My lag decreased after I’d been doing the exercises for a while, but it was only about 5 degrees. I would see how it looks in about a month. It’s a slow process, even after the split comes off, and I was still frustrated with it until about last fall (my injury occurred in February 2014). All I can recommend is patience, and once you start doing the exercises, do them faithfully. If the lag don’t improve as your mobility increases, perhaps talk to your doctor.
Feel free to report back on whether your finger improves!
Hi i never realised how easy it was to get a mallet finger,never knew it even exsisted,such a simple thing to do,but very inconvenient!! Middle finger right hand,wore a splint for 6 weeks,been out of splint now for about a month,finger still red and swollen and bending at the tip,not sure if i seen any improvement,trouble is in my line of work i use my hands alot and by the end of the day my finger looks worse then ever,also if i hit my finger it hurts,like its bruised,not sure whether to put the splint on for work,coped ok when i was wearing splint ,but it would be nice to see my finger look and feel better with out it,may go back to Doctors see what they say ….
Yes, it really is such a stupid injury, isn’t it? I never realized our fingers could be so fragile until I injured mine.
It sounds like you may be rushing things a bit. After the splint came off, my doctor (a hand surgeon) told me to baby it for two weeks before using it or starting any exercises. So for the first two weeks it just stuck straight out, and hurt when I inevitably bashed it against door knobs, etc. I also wore the splint at night during that time. I didn’t try to bend it until after the two weeks were up. By then it no longer hurt when I hit it against something, though it hurt when I bent it during the exercises. Regaining mobility, and getting it to look normal, took a few months. Mine wasn’t really swollen though, I had a bump on top of the knuckle and it drooped a bit. Both of these eventually went away.
If you are having a lot of pain, it wouldn’t hurt to see the doctor and see what they say.
Good luck and keep us posted!
Gillian… my finger sounds exactly like yours! I had bony mallet though. I just took my splint off and I’m babying it, but I knocked it!! Ugh. Thank you for saying it got better! It’s seems like I am ruined for life. I’m an artist of all mediums and I am so scared. Needs my finger!
In October, 2014, I was cleaning a spot off the floor with a washcloth and heard my finger pop. That is how my mallet finger happened. Middle finger, right hand. Wore stax splint 8 weeks. Then to therapy to get motion back in hand and finger. Seemed fine at first, then I kept asking therapist why finger looked so bent, and he kept saying it will work itself out and be okay. Did not happen. 4th week of therapy he sent me to a hand, shoulder, elbow specialist, and I was obviously told the splint was going back on. They made a custom fitted splint (sounds like the one mentioned above) out of some kind of thermoplastic material. So much better than the stax splint because it was only underneath my finger and fingertip. A disposable glove fit right over it when I needed to keep it dry. Wore it 7 weeks. Now I go to therapy to regain motion in PIP joint along with the DIP joint. My 4th finger is tight too, so I have all kinds of work to do with my hand each day. I have not been able to close my hand properly since the injury… almost 6 months ago. I wish I would have kept a journal each day or so because the entire experience has taken its toll emotionally. I have utmost respect for my hand therapist. She does think my recovery will be okay, but said it will be four to five months because I was splinted 15 weeks total. She even made me a thing to hold my finger down in a stretched position 20 minutes at a time. I still wear the splint at night for another week or so. The swelling goes out of my fingers if I wrap them at night. Craziest injury I have ever had! Jennifer
Hi. I had kept up with this thread last fall and came across it again yesterday. All of the different stories are helpful! I should clarify that my PIP joint could easily bend with the splint on, it just stiffened due to lack of being able to properly use the top joint of my middle finger. I even did exercises with it lots each day during the second splinting. When you cannot curl your middle finger to pick things up or hold things right, fingers 3, 4, and 5 are affected more than I imagined possible! Thanks for starting this up. It really helped me know I was not the only one having a difficult time with this injury when I read it last fall.
I’d forgotten that my other fingers were affected by having the middle finger in a splint, though it wasn’t all that bad….more of an annoyance than a problem.
It is an incredibly frustrating injury. We don’t realize how much we rely on all of our fingers until this happens. I remember complaining about it to my boss during the second or third week, and although I was having a really hard time coping at that time, my complaints sounded slightly ridiculous to my own ears. You can’t understand how much this stupid injury affects you until you’ve had it.
Thanks for sharing your story, and feel free to post any tips you discover along the way! Also, please let us know whether the additional splinting is working for you – it is very encouraging to hear about things like this!
Interesting. After splinting 8 weeks, doc says just wear it at night and start working on rang of motion. That was 2 weeks ago, and DIP extension lag (bend at rest) was getting worse, so I’ve started wearing the splint again more than just at night in hopes it will stay straighter. Have not heard back from doc if this is a good idea. This whole thing is such a pain, but glad to know there’s others.
On a another note, the birds are out and the snow is almost gone here in Buffalo. NY. I got that goin’ for me…
So sorry to hear the lag has gotten worse. I don’t think it would hurt to keep the splint on longer until you hear one way or another from your doctor.
Our snow is melting quickly (we had two days in a row where the temperatures reached double digits – it was 16C yesterday!) but then we got snow overnight and now we are back down to -2C. But the birds are returning – I saw my first Tree Swallows and Killdeer yesterday! There is a cold north wind blowing so I might go out birding later when it warms up.
It is awful to have to wear a splint in winter when you need to cope with winter gloves and all. I still have my huge ski mitts which are incredibly warm – and I used them a lot this past winter because it was so ridiculously cold; my normal gloves were just too thin!
Hello again, Gillian!
I hope that you’re doing well and that spring time is revealing itself and that it’s been bringing some beautiful birds for you to see. As for Phoenix, Arizona, where I live, we’ve had temperatures up into the low 90’s already so far. Summer comes early here.
I had my follow up appointment with the hand surgeon today. I didn’t see the actual hand surgeon himself today, but rather his Physician’s Assistant. He definitely seemed to REALLY know what he was talking about. He reiterated that he knew that I had been splinting full time for three weeks before I came in to see the doctor the first time two weeks ago, and that I have therefore been splinting for five weeks now. He had me take off my splint and looked at my finger. He seemed happy that my finger was sticking out straight on its own without the splint. He said that was a good sign. He was happy with the condition of my skin. He was happy that my custom splint provides a small amount of hyper-extension. I guess that’s key to optimum healing for mallet finger injuries. He did NOT ask me to try to bend the DIP joint. He was happy that I have recovered decent motion in my PIP joint. He was very sympathetic to me also and sympathized that I . I suffer from various anxieties, and I definitely have clinical anxiety. I was so embarrassed over the fact that I almost started actually crying while I was asking him questions. LOL! He really set me at ease though.
Overall he said everything is looking good and I need to come back in two weeks (which by then will make seven total weeks) and then if my progress is as good as he expects it will be, they will begin weaning me off the splint. The weaning period would be three weeks. Each week I would wear the splint all night and MOST of the day, but each week I would wear it a little less each day. At the end of the three weeks I would be splint-free. I guess every doctor has a different approach. When I saw the hand surgeon the first time three weeks ago, he DID say “it’s a ten week process” and I guess this clinic pushes a seven week full time / three week part time plan for mallet fingers.
Gillian, I am glad I have someone like you to share my experience with, since I know you understand what a pain this is. Everyone else around me can’t believe that such a simple injury takes so long to heal, or that it has to be such a disruption to my daily life. It’s even worse for someone who lives alone. I can see a married person not having quite AS bad a time, since they have someone to help with all the daily stuff. Anyway. I appreciate you for letting me vent on your blog.
Take care, Gillian. I’ll update again in two weeks!
– Sean (36 days down, 35 to go)
I am glad things are going well. I hope the next three weeks fly by – I am sure they will for me as the birds are returning en masse and a lot of new species are arriving every day! (Wish I could go birding in Phoenix, though – lots of different hummingbird species whereas here we only have one!)
I’m glad my experiences have helped others. Yes, it is a stupid injury, but it affects so many things that we do, from tying shoelaces to opening doors to typing and washing our hair. Feel free to vent any time – I’m hoping that your next update brings even better news!
I was wondering, when you were nearing the time that your splint was supposed to come off, did you experience this symptom? Over the last couple of days I have noticed that my affected DIP joint has tried to “flex” on it’s own when I am using my injured hand. It’s in a splint, and I don’t THINK it’s actually been able to move to enough of a degree to be worrisome (I feel the splint tighten immediately), but it kind of freaks me out because I don’t want anything to go wrong. It’s kind of like a quick little spasm and then it’s done.
Did you have that experience too?
I started getting weird sensations in that finger in the final week or ten days. You know that feeling when you’re sitting on the bus or a plane, cramped between two people and can’t move? You’re fine at first, but after about half an hour you just NEED to twitch? My finger felt like that. It was a maddening feeling. I think my finger tried to flex on its own, but like you, wasn’t too worried as the splint prevented it. I figured at the time that it meant my finger was healing naturally and everything was working together the way it should (nerves, muscles, tendon).
I also wouldn’t worry about it too much because when my splint came off, the DIP was very stiff and had a hard time bending on its own – it wouldn’t bend more than a couple of degrees at first. So even if it is bending in the splint, you would have to really work at it to bend it more than a degree or two.
It sounds as though you are really in the home stretch now! 🙂
Hi again, Gillian.
Had my most recent appointment this morning. I’ve been splinting continuously for seven weeks now. Doc was happy with the general condition of my finger. He was happy that I could flex my PIP joint pretty freely, even though there’s still some residual swelling. I was a little surprised that he didn’t have me try to flex my DIP joint, but he was still very happy with how straight and stiff my DIP joint is. He said from everything he sees, he thinks I am healed up well. It’s just that a freshly healed extensor tendon is still kind of like a rubber band, and we have to do more splinting to condition the tendon to be more like a rope than a rubber band.
He said the fact that I began splinting on day one of the injury is a very good thing, and even so, he’s seen people heal up in eight weeks or less after waiting a month to go to the Doctor!
He moved me from the custom splint that I had been in for the last four weeks to a more conventional Stax splint. So far, I think the Stax splint is much more comfortable. But, I think it’s hard to really judge until I’ve been wearing it for a couple days.
So, for at least the next week, I have to keep splinting for 23.5 hours a day. I am under orders to remove the splint every morning to take my shower and clean up, then put it back on as soon as I am all dried off. No more showering with a bag on my hand!
My next appointment is next Wednesday, and then I guess if everything still looks good I will be allowed to go around “splintless” for several hours a day for a couple weeks.
What a slow process, but I am getting there.
Thanks again for the sympathetic ear, Gillian!
It sounds as though you’re making progress! How does it feel removing the splint for a little bit each day? Are you still having those weird spasms?
I was really nervous to remove the splint the first day, which was Tuesday, but in reality it was not at all bad! The finger sticks straight out on its own, and I can’t really bend it much at all. If I try to curl the fingers on my affected hand, I can get MAYBE about 5 or 10 degrees of flexion out of my affected joint. The good thing is that when I straighten out my hand again, the affected joint straightens out too. 🙂
I am not that worried about the limited range of motion yet because for one, you yourself said it took awhile to regain range of motion after being splinted for two months, and for two, my doctor doesn’t want me trying to aggressively flex yet anyway. His instructions were “take your shower, do your business, but don’t MESS WITH the injured joint yet”.
I am not really getting those spasms anymore either. And it was SO GOOD to run hot soapy water over my poor finger after being encased in a splint for so long. To be able to shower up without a bag on my hand. So nice. It’s amazing the little things we tend to take for granted in life, isn’t it?
My next follow up appointment is Wednesday morning, so I imagine I’ll update you again! I suspect the next step is to begin leaving off the splint for several hours each morning for a week, based on what the doctor said a few appointments ago.
Gillian, at which point did you begin deliberately flexing your fingers a lot and doing blocking exercises? Did that all begin once you were no longer wearing the splint at night, or did you begin that before then?
Thank you so much again!
Yes, I was nervous too when the splint came off too. The doctor didn’t give me a weaning period, either; he took it off, saw that my finger was straight, bent the joints then said just to wear the splint at night for a couple of weeks, and don’t do ANYTHING with it for two weeks. When I asked if the finger needed protection he just said something like, “It’s got to get used to the world again sometime”. I felt so depressed about the state of my finger then that I couldn’t write about the experience for a couple of months. I thought I would be happier to have the splint off, but my finger was just as useless which was VERY discouraging.
I only kept the splint on for at night for two weeks – I would have kept using it at night if I had felt it needed it, but by then it didn’t hurt as much when I accidentally bashed it or bent it. After two weeks I started doing flexing/blocking exercises. So, the splint came off, for two weeks I babied the finger and did absolutely nothing with it while wearing the splint only at night, then started doing the exercises to regain mobility.
The exercise part went slowly, too. Don’t worry if it takes a while to get anywhere – the first couple of days it felt weird bending it, producing a sort of discomfort that wasn’t quite pain, but enough to make me question whether I was doing it right. Keep doing the exercises until that feeling goes away, then you will start to see some progress.
It is amazing how much we take our fingers for granted. Just follow the doctor’s advice, and hopefully you will be able to bend your mallet finger again soon, too!
Gillian, Like so many others have said, thanks so much for this great blog. Mallet finger is something most of us know and knew nothing about! So again, thanks!
So I just finished 10 weeks of splinting with an aluminum foam split. I was very conscientious, about wearing the splint at all times- only taking it off to clean my finger and to out on a new splint. I did have assistance in putting the tape on and kept my hand flat on the table at all times. This will prevent an accidental droop- because we all know if you have an accidental droop, they want you to start the clock over!
I got my splint off at week 10. Its now about week 12 and had a couple of questions. The Dr. seemed please with my results, but the DIP is still quite bent. I dont know if I expected it to be fully straight after 10 weeks, but there is an obvious bend.
The middle joint (knuckle) I think its called the PIP joint is very very stiff, (which makes sense as it hasnt moved in 10 weeks!) and my skin on the top of the finger is very sensitive, red, and my finger is swollen.
From what I’ve read, all of these things are indeed common, (and annoying!) and can take up to 3 months or longer to go away.
I am wondering if my DIP (the bend) will get better or is this as good as it gets? I have been splinting at night as told for a few weeks, In fact I am splinting additionally during the day too. Do you think this is helpful? Or a waste of time?
I just hope the droop gets better but i cant imagine it getting better if the tendon never healed properly to begin with…. or so it seems,,,,
Any comments welcome!
Thanks for reading and commenting! As I’m not a doctor, I can’t say whether additional splinting during the day will help. I think the nighttime splinting is just to protect the finger while you are asleep rather than to promote healing. By this time it should be as healed as much as it can possibly can. Leaving it off would probably help with the sensitivity, the swelling and redness, too.
I, too, had a slight droop in my DIP at first, but I think that went away because of the exercises I did to strengthen it and regain flexion. This is a long process (as you have heard), and I wouldn’t worry about the droop in the joint until after you can start bending it on your own again and see what range of motion you have. Basically if the doctor is happy with your progress, just keep following his instructions. Start the exercises when he gives you the green light, and keep doing them – just like wearing a splint, each day you don’t do them is a day you lose progress.
I hope that helps; feel free to write again and give us an update!
My finger still has a droop after 6 weeks wore the oval 8 it’s also swollen and stiff. Was very difficult to do day to day work as I use my hands alot. Straining and pulling also lifting. For the most part the splint was left on for 6 weeks that’s what my Dr said not 8 to 12 weeks like I’m seeing here and didn’t give me any instructions what to do after it came off so I’m winging it. It was a royal pain in the button wearing it as it didn’t fit property and my finger was swollen up alot making the oval 8 tight. The knuckle is stiff and the joint where the tendon tore is Red and puffed up. I’m not planning to see a Dr again as it will probably always have a droop. Any thoughts would be helpful
Sounds like your experience has been truly awful. As I’m not a doctor I can’t give you medical advice, but I’m wondering if it would help to stop using the finger, and baby it for a week or two. This will give the skin time to heal and the swelling go down. Once the swelling is gone, try some exercises to help you with the stiffness and mobility/flexion. The blocking exercises described here were the only ones that I did, and I have the complete use of my finger now. I didn’t need to return to the doctor or see a physiotherapist because they worked for me.
I truly sympathize with your situation; I hope this helps!
Hi Gillian, it’s nice to see people with the same issues. I’ll try and not use it but it won’t be easy as my job and after hrs work doesn’t let me do this. I’ll take you advice for a few weeks and baby it use my other hand as much as possible. Today when I woke it was a bit stiff but the funny thing I have the urge to stretch and when I do I can feel the tendon stretch it’s been itchy the past few weeks so maybe it’s healing. I can make a complete fist and it doesn’t hurt. I’ll tell you how it happened I was cleaning the shoot of my snowblower in March not running of course lol and I hit my finger on something solid didn’t notice it until I took the glove off. Crazy how things happen!! Thanks so much for your advice and hope your finger is getting better. Keep in touch with any updates
Yes, it’s a stupid injury isn’t it? 🙂 I think it’s a good thing that you’re getting that itchy urge to stretch; it sounds as though it’s healing. I had the same thing while the splint was still on.
My finger is completely healed, and works fine. I can’t believe I was going through this a year ago – seems so long ago. But yes, if you let the swelling go down and then try the exercises the stiffness should go away (though it does take a while).
Hi I’m not sure what blocking excersises are as I can’t open the click here you sent me. Tried to find them on YouTube but it’s not letting me view for some reason.
Good blog about Mallet finger, ridiculous injury that is so annoying. Injured mine playing football. I’m 3 weeks in to wearing the splint on my ring finger and just one question. I can do most tasks, just takes longer than normal. But any tips for washing dishes, pots and pans? Finding this to be the most awkward daily job!
It depends on which hand you injured. I injured my left hand, which is the one I typically use to hold the pot while scrubbing it with my right hand. I just put a plastic glove over it to keep it from getting wet. I take it you injured your dominant hand….can you scrub the inside with your uninjured hand? It will probably be awkward at first, unless you have a dishwasher or significant other to help you out!
That was the worst part, learning how to adapt to having the splint. Everything just took so much longer. Hopefully you’ll get used to it soon!
Great blog on the mallet finger. Bizarre injury in many ways. Most friends, including some nursing practitioners have never heard of it. I have been involved in what many people describe as adventure sports for over 2 decades (hang gliding, mountain biking, rock climbing etc) but never managed a mallet finger (MF) until 7 weeks ago. I did it gardening!! I found it very difficult to accept that such a passive activity caused MF.
I live in Bali, Indonesia. As soon as I did it i thought dislocation until I did some googling & self diagnosed then made a split & applied. Fortunately I was about to go to Singapore where I had it x-rayed & confirmed as MF. The nurses made a somewhat clumsy aluminum splint which was certainly solid. I asked the Dr where I may buy something a bit more slick. He suggested an ice cream stick. I used the alloy splint most of the time but when needing dexterity of the injured finger, used the IC stick.
At week 5 I noticed power to flex the DIP & hesitantly removed the splint, confirmed flex & then gradually reduced time in splint. (I do not have confidence in Drs here so I have not consulted with medicos except initially in Singapore. Now week 7, swelling subsiding, up to 8 degrees of droop. The droop seems to progress from zero to 8 degrees during the day. Anyway, as you say, it is a 6 month injury so I am confident of getting the finger close to post injury condition.
Anyway, thanks a lot for the blog & contributions from others.
Thanks for sharing your story, Angus. I hope your finger continues to improve. Feel free to let us know if it does, and what you did to help it return to normal.
I wrote to you back in January, l am still having physio, as l was not happy with the lag, pain & how swollen my finger was. 2 mths ago my lag was 10 degree. Still disappointing, saw my physio last week & the lag is now 4 degree, very happy 😀, the pain is still bad especially in the mornings & slightly swollen. My physio now thinks it could be osteoarthritis, as my consultant said my finger tips as mild arthritis. I followed an exercise programme, then 8 wks later with exercise putty. Advised last wk to stop all exercises to see if it eases the pain, back to physio in 6wks! Exercises certainly helped reduce my lag, but it does take time.
Sounds awful, first to deal with the mallet finger, then to find out you may have osteoarthritis. I’m glad the lag has decreased significantly, though! What kind of exercises helped decrease the lag?
What kind of physio helped your lag?
Sorry for such a long wait between updates.
Last Wednesday I got the all-clear from my hand specialist to move to night only splinting!
The DIP joint is stiff. I can bend it about 30 degrees, but I don’t see any lag at all in the DIP joint when I hold my finger straight!
If all is well next Wednesday, I get to quit wearing the splint entirely.
Thanks for listening!
Sean, it sounds like you’ve made some great progress, good to hear. All should go well from here. Taking that thing off is such a relief
That’s great news Sean! Yes, it completely normal for your DIP to be very stiff. Hopefully your PIP didn’t get stiff too. It’s not fun trying to get BOTH back to normal. Do you start the exercises soon?
Wow! I’m so glad I found this page. Mine happened from a 77lb box ( table and chair set ) slipping while trying to stand it up to lean it against the wall. It landed on my hand. Still no idea what really happened it happened so fast. The hospital taped a foam splint to top of my finger ( right hand ring finger ) and it doesn’t stay in place. It’s not long enough and the tape doesn’t keep my finger straight. I’m hoping to find a stax splint some where in Canada for something more stable and Oval 8. I also found something called PIP Flexion-Extension Finger Ring. Not sure if that will work but will show my Dr. The Hospital told me I can’t get my finger wet and me being a woman with long hair there is no way I can go 4-6 weeks not washing myself little long my hair. I tried taping Saran Wrap around my finger, a bag on hand, a glove. Nothing worked. The glove pulled the splint right off. Everything I tried ended up with water getting in and you know you can’t get foam wet. Eww, it will smell. I’m having fun and it’s only week one. I have to keep retaping it. So hoping to get something better then what they put in me. I have numbness in hand also.
What kind of gloves are you using to keep your hand dry? I had what looked like surgical gloves (not dish-washing gloves) and didn’t have a problem with it coming off. I used a hair elastic around the wrist to keep it secure while washing my hair (I have long hair too). Is the glove too tight? If so, perhaps a larger size would help.
I hope you are able to get a better splint. It will be a long 6-8 weeks if it doesn’t fit properly!
Great article Gillian! I injured my left middle finger on 5/6/15 while digging around base of tree with gloved hand. I heard a pop and thought it was dislocated! Being a Police Officer, this has made me the brunt of many jokes on the department. I was put in stack splint 1hr after injury and wore it 24/7 for five weeks. I am currently in the weaning off phase and have maybe 10-15 deg bend with straight finger when stretched out. I used Nexcare absolute waterproof tape and just wrapped the 1inch wide tape around area just below middle joint/knuckle. I would change tape every few days and washed the finger with splint on. I used my wife’s blow dryer to get dry again! I recommended trimming the length of the splint so you can use the knuckle! Great tip from another MFer on this blog!😃 Cheers for all the pointers!
Thanks for the kind words! I’m glad that the worst is behind you now and that the weaning stage has begun. Hopefully the 10-15 degree lag will improve in time. Please let us know how that goes, and if you have any other pointers as your finger improves, feel free to share!
I bought the next size rubber glove cut the index finger, and used it on my injured finger and sealed it with tape, then used a surgical glove (which is thinner), and this kept my finger dry during showering, then peeled the finger glove off afterwards (just a tip for others). I now only have a 4 degree lag 😀
That’s great Sandie! You said they suggested that you stop the physio to see if the pain goes away. Did you stop, and is the pain better?
Hi Gillian and all fellow posters… I’ve been watching this thread from the UK with some interest as I have the dreaded ‘mallet’ on my index finger. In short, I’ve had the injury splinted for 7 weeks (the splint is due for removal this week). During that time, I have behaved myself and It’s healed dead straight (yay!). However, my question is: Is it common for the end joint to become completely rigid? It’s not a case of it being sore and just hurting when I attempt to (very) gently bend it… it feels like I’d need to snap it in half to get it moving again. As a hobby (and much to the annoyance of my wife and daughter) I attempt to play the guitar, which is impossible with half a rigid finger. The prospect of the finger remaining like that is making me miserable. Any thoughts, anyone?
Hi Ollie! Welcome to the worst club of all time, the mallet finger club! 🙂 I’m glad to hear you’re at the end of the splinting process. However, my doctor told me that it is a six-month injury, and the splinting only takes up two of those months. Yes, it is common for the DIP joint to be stiff when the splint comes off. In fact both joints were stiff because I wasn’t told to keep bending the PIP joint while it was splinted (the one closest to the hand). I hope you don’t have this problem – it means more work if you do. My doctor told me to baby the finger for the first two weeks, and keep the splint on at night.
So for the first two weeks my finger stuck straight out as if it were still in a splint. It got bashed around a bit, and I bent it accidentally a few times. At the end of those two weeks I started my exercises to get it moving again – pushing down and holding it while keeping the other joint straight, for 30-60 seconds at a time with many repeats a day. Progress was slow at first, because it did feel weird, but I kept it up each day and I did make progress. So realistically I wouldn’t expect much progress over the next month, but after that you should see an improvement. My finger is now completely normal, so if I were still playing the piano I would have no problems with it. Good luck and keep us posted!
Thanks for the reassurance, Gillian. I have free, but sore, movement of the PIP joint, although the end joint of the finger feels like it’s fused completely. I rang the hospital to ask them about it. They said: ‘don’t bend it’. Helpful. You’ve given me some hope for a recovery at least Gillian, so thanks for that!
Hi Ollie, I think the purpose of waiting a few weeks before starting the exercises is to wait for any swelling to go down, and for the skin to heal and redness to go away (my finger certainly did not look pretty when it came out of the splint). I also had a tingly, over-sensitive sensation in my fingertip that took weeks to go away.
So they didn’t give you any other instructions? How long are you not supposed to bend it?
Ollie, I can tell you from my perspective (splinted like crazy, but did not end up straight at all), that I think you are probably in good shape. I am a couple months post-splint, and I think I’d rather be working on range-of-motion than hoping it will be able to straighten more on its own someday…
So if you’re not working on range-of-motion now, what are you doing to treat your finger? How bad is the lag?
Hi Mark… thanks for the reply. I’m guessing that I may have been lucky so far, then? I was rather ‘expecting’ the finger to be straightened, but judging by your experience, that’s clearly not always the case. So I’m guessing that (at this stage) I should be grateful. I wish you well!
As for the hospital Gillian, I called the hand injury unit (last week) who are treating me – to ask if the end joint should be that rigid. They merely said ‘don’t bend it’. I acknowledged this and thanked the lady for the advice but I asked her the same question three times and received the same answer, which was a little frustrating. Hence my posting on here – to see if others have experienced this. I’m about 8 weeks in now and my finger isn’t too ‘angry’. It only really hurts if i knock it against something. Before reapplying the splint, I wrap some paper tissue around the finger after cleaning it. The tissue cushions the finger against the splint and has helped a lot with the discomfort and also keeps it dry, which stops it becoming a bit ‘fragrant’ 😉
I’m seeing the physiotherapist on Friday, when I hope to find out how things stand.
I can see that we have rather hijacked ‘The Pathless Wood’, but I am very grateful to be able to read and share experiences of this small but frustrating injury.
Once it stops hurting when you knock the finger against stuff you’ll know you can start range-of-motion exercises, Ollie, and stop using the splint at night. And no worries about taking over my blog – my nature posts aren’t getting much feedback these days, and I put this post up because it was so hard to find any real-life information on how to deal with mallet finger when I got mine!
Hi all! j
Just for the sake of anyone following the thread, who may have the same mallet problems and are wondering how these things pan out, I thought I’d let you know that I’ve had the splint off my left index finger for about two and half weeks now.
My finger was completely rigid and useless for about a week after the splint came off. I started gently trying to exercise it to liven it back up. And I have to say it worked! Well, to a degree anyway.
Because the finger didn’t have much movement in the end (dip) joint, I was finding that the tendon was very sore across the top of the finger, as it was undoubtedly being put under pressure when I tried to move the finger.
Now – (2-3 weeks later), I can bend the finger partly – and pretty much make a fist. I’m back on the guitar and I that’s not going too bad – although it’s sore and still clumsy. Along with the guitar, I use a stress ball at work (that exercise works for me anyway, Holly!) and I’m finding that it’s hurting less and getting stronger.
Having said that… imagine holding your hand flat and then trying to touch the top of your palm with your index finger (only bending just that finger, not the hand at all, that is!). I’m not even close to doing that and it really does still hurt quite a lot!
So if anyone’s looking for time frames, I’m about three months in…
Hopefully that info is of some vague use to somebody. I know I was panicking quite a lot at first!
Yes, that was how my finger was after I got the splint off – rigid and useless. But it sounds like you are making progress with the exercises. I think I was doing the exercises for a month before I started to make real progress with little or no discomfort, however, I didn’t have a stress ball. I just kept doing bending exercises a couple of times each day for about 2 months before I could really bend the joint without any problems.
I have only my experience to draw from, but I think you are in a good position having achieved “straightness” – but I cannot tell you for sure. Thank you for the well wishes.
I am now just living with it the way it is with about 15-20 degrees residual lag
I’ve found comfort in this blog post. Although my injury is not a mallet finger per se, I feel what you’ve experienced. This is by far the most ridiculous injury I have had to date. It conflicts with my typing at work, doing day-to-day chores at home for my family and is just an all around nuisance! My finger looks flat and lifeless. I try to loosen the splint to breathe and give it a less “squished” appearance, but then it has too much give and pain sets in *sigh*
I see the surgeon next week, with what I’m hoping will be good news (no surgery and a few more weeks with this silly contraption on my hand!). Wish me luck! (Luckily I have a lot of time off this summer!)
Good luck, Christine! Let me know how it goes (or how it went) with the surgeon.
Wearing a splint is hard to get used to, but you will eventually. Things will get easier, and you will find ways to compensate for the splinted finger. If you have any tips of your own, feel free to share them!
I have a mallet finger too! It’s something I have never even heard of before. I was scrubbing a stain off of the carpet and my finger got caught somehow. There was no pain or discomfort at all but I knew I had a problem when I saw my finger bent down at the tip. I quickly went on line & googled it to try and find out what to do. I decided to splint it myself with a couple pieces of a popsicle stick, a little piece of telfa pad for padding and some gentle paper tape for sensitive skin. I do change the splint every couple days but I am very NOT to bend my finger! It will be 8 weeks in just one more week but I’m hesitant about taking off the splint….I’m afraid that my finger will still be bent. Even with the splint on it still looks a little bent and I’m worried that splinting it might not have worked at all. I would just like to have my finger back the way it was.
Does anyone know of what kind of exercises you should do afterwards?
That’s the second time I’ve heard of someone getting mallet finger from scrubbing the carpet. It’s stupid how simple things can cause such a frustrating injury!
When you take the splint off, your finger should stick straight out and seem difficult to bend. It may have a bit of a droop at the tip. However, you may not want to start exercises right away as my surgeon told me to wait two weeks before commencing exercises. I was able to regain flexibility on my own doing the blocking exercises described here. I would bend the joint as far as I could, and hold it there for a full 60-120 seconds. At first I used my other hand to bend it; then I would repeat the exercise by actively try to bend it and hold it on its own. I did this with each joint separately, blocking the middle joint with my other hand to bend the fingertip.
Hope this helps!
Thank you Angus. I think it would have been a lot less trouble if it was just a clean break! It seems like a lot to go through just for a little bend in the finger. I am removing the splint this weekend and will look on line for exercises to do to ‘try’ and get my finger back to normal again and functioning like a ‘real’ finger! I’ll update my results.
Hi, There My name is Roopesh Patel. I had sufferering from the same condition as mentioned above. In my case the doctor had given me the mallet fingre and told me to wear it for six weeks. In the morning and evening he prescribed me a gel to apply on the fingre. Also I was advised to eat more protein and calcium rich food so that the tendon which got ruptured when I was hit by wall gets healed qucikly . I am in the last week of the course and 95 percent got healed. I am also able to type with that fingre. I would advise if possible to take a leave from your job so that you can pay more attention towards the injury by taking care of it.
That’s great that your finger has almost healed 100%! What kind of gel did your doctor prescribe, and do you think that helped significantly with the healing?
Just thought I would update my mallet situation since it is now 4 months since ground zero for my RH middle finger. As a summary – self diagnosed & reconfirmed with Dr in Singapore. Splinted for 6 weeks then just night splinting for 2 weeks. Self administered physio techniques sourced from the internet. Lag has been gradually reducing over the weeks. Initially it was 10 degrees, now perhaps only 3 degrees. Actually, after sleep there is almost zero lag then by the time night comes, 4 degrees. Swelling has reduced significantly but still noticeable. A ridge developed across finger nail, presumably in response to splinting but is now growing out. Almost full function has resumed along with full flexibility albeit with the slight lag. Good to have experience progress with this dammed injury. Only other mallet sufferers could possibly understand. Try explaining it to anyone else & they think you are obsessive or worse! Thanks for generating all the information Gillian & contributors.
Thanks for the update Angus. I think it’s important to hear from people who may be further down the road than we are at that point, as it gives a recovery timeframe and serves to give some hope when it seems like it’s never going to be ok.
It’s good to hear that your results were good! It gives me some hope for my mallet finger. This weekend will be 8 weeks with my (homemade) splint on. I have been very careful when changing the splint and have not let it droop. I’m still a little worried as to what will happen when I do finally remove the splint……I’m still a little scared to remove it. I still have some swelling in that area to the point that I have no wrinkles or creases in the joint…..hopefully that will get better and with any luck…….my finger will be somewhat normal again.
Reading your post gives me hope……thanks!
No worries Holly. I recall someone writing that mallet finger is a 6 month injury. I believe that because at the 4 month mark, whilst much improved & function, I still have mild swelling & lag as I have described. The 6 month comment, I feel, is a realistic expectation for a recover to close to as good as it will get. Good luck with it & be patient with the recovery process. Cheers. Angus.
Yes, my finger looked the same way when the splint came off, plus I had a slight bump on top of the injured joint. I was so disheartened I couldn’t bear to photograph it.
The joint was extremely stiff, and stayed that way for about two months. I think it took me just as long to get my finger to bend normally as it did wearing the splint. The lag did go away after a couple of months (I can’t remember how many), and the finger was able to bend again without stiffness (though there was some residual pain occasionally). So don’t get discouraged if you think you aren’t healing as fast as you should.
The surgeon told me it was a six month injury. Mine occurred on February 23 lat year but by the end of August it still hadn’t healed fully (I couldn’t make a complete fist, and there still was still a slight lag; plus it still hurt when squeezing the PIP). However, I was able to use it just fine. I just kept up with the exercises, and I think it was another three months before I realized that my finger was normal – the bump on top of my finger had gone away and I didn’t have the slight lag I thought was permanent.
Anyway, good luck, and keep us posted!
Holly, I noticed this morning after 7 weeks of splinting that I no longer have a joint crease. I’m now starting to wonder about splinting and tape for my facial lines!!!!! Maybe it’s the answer to looking young forever.
Dorinda…..My finger doesn’t have any more lines in it either……it’s bigger now than it was before too. Can’t even wear the ring that I always wore on that finger….had to go up about 2 sizes! Oh the woes of having a mallet finger! I want my old finger back!
I’m glad to hear you’ve got full flexibility, Angus! Keep up with the exercises; you may find the lag will decrease further. If not, at least it shouldn’t prevent you from doing the normal everyday stuff we take for granted. 🙂
Angus…….Ugh! It sure seems like a very long time to recover from such a little thing as a mallet finger….especially since I had no pain at all when it happened or even during the time it has been splinted. I see now that it should just take some time and more patience to end up with a good result………if I’m lucky! Thanks Angus
My finger in the morning is still painful & quite stiff, (so I think it is osteoarthritis) I have to do the claw exercise to get it moving again. During the day it is a lot better as long as I keep it active. On pain relief tablets & heat at the moment. Don’t think there is no more the hand physio can do now, I have another appointment with them next month. One good thing though it’s still straight 😀
That’s great that it’s still straight – at least you know the mallet finger injury has healed! The osteoarthritis is a different story; I’m so sorry that you are still having problems. I hope your had physio is able to work some magic on it and that you won’t have the pain any more. I’ve had physiotherapy for a few different things and don’t have problems as long as I keep up my exercises!
Hi. I just got a Mallet finger on my left middle finger. I was playing basketball and didn’t even realize that I’d been injured until after the game. There was no pain or discomfort. After a little while there was a little numbness but really it feels pretty normal. I’ve already got my finger in an oval splint and am getting more oval splints soon. I had no swelling either. I’m planning on 8 weeks of splint since I don’t want to go to the doctor and waste money. If I can get the splint to fit perfectly do you think I can continue to play basketball? The injury is on my off-hand. My friend played with his and he made the whole thing sound like an easy ordeal.
I’m not a doctor so I can’t provide medical advice. However, it doesn’t look as though the oval splint gives very much protection. My Stax splint was hard plastic and encased the finger so it wouldn’t come into direct contact with anything that bashed it (I was particularly bad at opening doors, forgetting that my finger was sticking straight out when I tried to grasp the handle).
Personally, I wouldn’t play basketball with only the oval splint. If the basketball smashes into that finger again and causes the joint to bend before it’s done healing, the clock resets and you would have to start your 8 weeks all over again. That would be pretty frustrating if you were already five weeks in!
Gillian, I really appreciate reading about your mallet finger experience. I too have just suffered this silly injury to my pinky finger on the left hand. I play keyboards and guitar so this has really cramped my style. My injury actually tore off a piece of the bone with the tendon so lucky me. I have been wearing a small custom heat formed splint wrapped with that flexible self sticking stretchy tape and after 6 days of wearing it (which already felt like an eternity), of course I ripped it off accidentally getting up off my couch and of course the finger drooped back down so whatever healing may have begun was totally lost. It almost seems impossible to keep a splint on for 8 weeks and I can just see myself having to start the process over and over and over. I may be wearing the stupid thing for years. You are right about this being such an idiotic injury to get. I read where some guy literally super-glued a splint to his mallet finger so it wouldn’t fall off. At first I thought he was nuts but now I’m thinking maybe he’s on to something.
I also had a bone fracture (a tiny piece of the bone that is), but I could always lift my dip joint somehow: the doctors, as I saw several ones, could not agree on what I had exactly, some said it is not a mallet injury because I still retained the control of the dip joint. Anyway, many doctors mention that with a mallet injury associated to a bone fracture, you should splint the finger for about only 3 weeks or so. If the tendon is not damaged, the bone will heal in 4 weeks (as any other bone). Basically there is no consensus as to how long people should wear the splint. I have even read an article that reviewed the research about it, and it was found that many papers about it are based on wrongly processed data. Take this for what it is, an opinion of someone who is NOT a doctor (but I have enough statistical knowledge to understand the data behind a study or research paper).
Jeff, hope you are doing well with your splint now. 7 weeks ago when I did mine,8 weeks seemed like forever. It has actually gone quite quickly but I’m totally bored with it now.
Sometimes think it would be easier just to chop the finger off!
However, I’d better be careful what I wish for.
Thanks for the words of encouragement. I just passed the 8 week mark and my doc told me to wear the splint at night only for 8 more weeks. He said to start doing easy exercises such a squeezing a soft rubber ball and stuff but he also said if I should notice it starting to droop again, I would have to start the 8 weeks full time splinting all over again… even at this late stage. Good grief : ( I didn’t think there would be any chance of this happening again so I feel like just keeping the splint on indefinitely. My finger was straight when he took off the splint but I think it’s because the joint is locked up. I can’t move it at all yet and I’m afraid to even try if it could possible droop again. What a stupid totally inconvenient injury mallet fingers are. It’s nice to have this blog to vent on. Thanks.
… and by the way, I wish you the best on your healing process too!
Thanks for you info which lead others to share their experiences here. And let me share my mallet finger story. I got injured 3 months ago with my middle finger and got surgery done after 2 weeks of injury. I had a plate and screw inside the finger.Now running into 10th week with splinting, doctor advised me to remove the splint and go to hand therapy. I have stiff joints but its not my concern, the healing doesn’t look fine as the last X-ray still shows small gap between the broken tendon and other part of the DIP bone. The doctor said this is normal for 10 weeks Splint healing and asked me to do some exercises and therapy.
#After a day now the straighten finger looks bend now. Is this is normal with mallet finger of 10 weeks splinting ? Are there any chances of it to be again straighten after hand therapy exercises ?
#Is it an good idea to start therapy with 50% fracture healing done for 10 weeks?
Waiting to hear some suggestions and experiences in similar cases.
I did not have a fracture or surgery as initial x-ray was negative. I splinted about 10 weeks, and had had 10-15 degree lag (bend) a few days after splinting. I mostly went about my usual routine, trying not to pay too much attention to the annoying lag. Now, a few months later, the lag is only about 5 degrees and I don’t think about it any more. I suggest following your doc’s advice about therapy. Hang in there.
I really got a kick out of your article. I could totally relate! Four weeks and two days ago (I’m counting), I too managed to mallet my dominant hand middle finger while playing “kickball”, yes the game we played as kids with the big red ball. I’ve played sports my whole life never heard of such an annoying injury. Your description is dead on. I couldn’t help but giggle. The aching, stiffness, moistness, dumb looking splint, dropping items etc etc. I hope your follow up goes well. Thank you for sharing!!!
Thank you very much for describing your experience. I am in day 5 of bed sheet-induced mallet finger. It is indeed the stupidest injury on earth, causing pain and inconvenience entirely out of proportion. Dr didn’t bother to order a splint so I am doing fairly well (I hope) with popsicle sticks. For showering, etc. I recommend “finger cots” (they look exactly like a tiny something else). Size large rolls easily over my splint. I was even able to take kids to the water park with only minor dampness after. Thanks again
I wanted to ask you, I had a mallet bone fracture of my left ring finger back in January, and got splinted for 5 weeks. The dip join was never dropping, so I was told I had a mallet like fracture because of the x ray. After the 5 weeks it took some time to regain the use of the finger, but I still cannot fully bend the dip join back into my palm. I can make a fist, but I cannot bend the dip join more than 45 degrees and fully curl it into my palm. Did you have a similar problem, and if so how long did it take you to fix it? (assuming it can be fixed)….any exercises recommended to fix it? It is now 7 months since the injury, and am despairing it will get better (although it does not cause me any problems with any of my activities, including playing the guitar).
Thanks in advance!
Hi Alex… I think you and I are in the same boat. Mine’s been the same. Several months (almost 5 I think) have passed now and I hoped that I’d be over the worst of it and coming out the other side now. However… The joint feels ‘to the touch’, a bit mis-shapen compared to it’s counterpart on the other hand. Every morning, when I wake up, it has seized back up again and barely bends at all. So… Pretty much from the minute I wake up, I’m teasing it back to life again. I have a stress ball, which does help. I also grip the last joint of the finger and massage it from underneath with my thumb, which also brings it back to life. I also find that playing the guitar and constantly making a fist, helps to improve the dexterity. I’m not convinced that it’ll ever be OK, but fingers crossed. And keep us posted on your recovery please! Cheers…
Yes playing the guitar definitely helps (there is also a post about it in delcamp). I don’t know if I will ever be able to make a fist like before…I mean, I can, but my ring finger would not curl up into the palm like the other fingers…In my case my overall recovery was quick enough i.e. removed the splint after 5 weeks, (and I feel I should have removed it before!) and after 8 weeks I was back on martial arts. I used to be able to hyperextend the dip joint of the finger, now not anymore, but maybe because of this the joint does not droop. I still have some pain, mostly due to the constant exercise regime that I put the finger through, but again nothing that I cannot manage, and I can do pretty much everything (the strength level in the finger is more or less back)….
I have a feeling that the tendon may have just shrunk, or that the bone healed in a slightly different position, making the bending of the joint impossible beyond 45 degrees or so….this seems to be a common problem with mallet finger injuries, but possibly the more so when a bone fracture is involved……Cheers
Love this Blog. I did my finger 7 weeks ago. Feel like telling everyone I did it skydiving but the truth is I did it when I pulled my leggings on! How stupid is that?
Not sure I am looking forward to losing the splint as I am worried I will snap the tendon again and go back to square one.
Has anyone else experienced stiff joints on their good hand after getting mallet finger? I’m wondering if it’s caused by over compensating with the good hand.
Think we should have a Facebook site for mallet finger sufferers.Seems like we could make loads of new friends who understand our problems.
I’ll go with skydiving, who’ll know?
I do not remember my good hand being stiff after getting mallet finger on left little finger. But I’m sure over-compensating with one hand, to do the work that 2 used to do, is possible.
Folks, I jumped on the mallet finger injury bus last week while playing volleyball. While learning about this injury and its healing process using finger splints, I found the Oval-8 splints.
It looks good and easy to wear in comparison to others. Has anyone on this forum has 1st hand experience with that?
@Gillian, you may not have heard this before but thanks a lot for starting this blog with your journey with MF.
Hi PS, I have looked into the oval 8 style splints too but my doc didn’t think it was a very secure and stable way to protect your finger for the long term. I was thinking that if I used one, I would still have to wrap up the finger with the coban self-sticking tape to keep the oval 8 in place but I just ended up staying with a custom formed splint I had been fitted with. I just made it through 8 full weeks of wearing the splint and when the doc said I could finally remove it (and use it only at night for 6 more weeks) my finger tip started to droop again within a couple of hours. I went back to the doc and was told I have to wear the splint again for 6 more weeks non stop. This is so ridiculous and discouraging. I play keyboards and guitar and am a songwriter but I have been unable to play properly all these weeks.
My doc said this splinting technique works in 90% of the cases. I guess I will be one of the 10 per centers.
Best of luck to you. I hope you fare better than I have. : )
Hi Jeff…I kept my finger splinted for 8 weeks straight with popsicle sticks cut to size. I found that it was a little less bulky than the metal type. After 8 weeks it was slightly better but not great. I have kept it splinted every night since then and it’s still not the same as it was before. It feels stiff when I try and bend it and just plain annoying the rest of the time. I still keep it splinted in the daytime too….it just feels better when I do. Hopefully someday I will be able to use it again as a normal functioning finger. I never would have thought that such a silly thing as a mallet finger could cause so much trouble and frustration!
Good luck to you with your finger.
Hi PS, I too tried the oval eight at first but my dr. Said it didn’t hold finger in extended position well. My finger looked like it was slightly bent when wearing it. Also your finger will swell more at times so splint will feel too tight and at times too loose. It’s also difficult to find one that fits just right. I strongly recommend a custom splint. The position of your finger in the splint is key to getting a good result. Oh I also recommend you keep your pip joint moving!!!! Your finger will get stiff really quickly which becomes a big program. Good luck I’m in my tenth week, still swollen!!! Crazy little injury!
@Jeff, Hollysam, debsros,
Thank you for sharing your experience with Oval-8 and in general. I sincerely hope that you get better and get out of this external attachment sooner.
@Jeff, did your doctor give you any explanation of why it didn’t heal in 8 weeks? Did you do anything in those 8 weeks which could have disrupted the healing process, for example, changing the splint etc?
Looks like Stax are the best option for me as it looks secure enough and less bulkier than the metal.
No, the doc didn’t really say much about it except that he did now say it usually takes 12 weeks for these types of injuries to fully heal (I wanted to ask him then why the heck did you tell me to take off the splint in 8 weeks??) but I restrained myself and was a good boy about it.
During those 8 weeks, I was still attempting to play guitar and piano without actually using that finger and maybe that put some extra stresses on the splinted finger plus I have been helping around my parents house fixing things and moving things because my 93 year old dad has Alzheimer’s and my mom is pretty frail. Unfortunately, the demands of life don’t cease while waiting for a stupid mallet finger to heal.
I had a broken arm 2 years ago which never caused me this much trouble.
Be careful and best wishes for a quick healing of your finger : )
Thanks you. It is hard not to do things which you NEED to do or love to do. I tested myself in volleyball (just underhand bumps) with the splint on:) but I am going to avoid that now.
That’s probably the safest bet. I keep whacking that finger on everything I happen to be near. I swear the furniture in my house is out to get me, lol. I think I’ll just wrap myself up in bubble wrap for a couple years until this thing finally heals.
Your healing problem is your age (60s or70s?).
Have fracture in my lil finger, does it pain after putting splint ?
Hi Su, if you have a fracture it will likely hurt for a while regardless of whether there is a splint on it based on my limited experience with fractures (last year I had a stress fracture in my foot – it hurt for weeks).
I suffered a mallett finger injury back in may of this year. I do have a lag middle finger. But will I ever be able to bend at the first joint? I can’t form fist and I’ve been told I may or may not retain its full use. Have you been able to?
Hi Trace, have you been doing any exercises or stretches at all? I am able to make a fist now after doing some “blocking” exercises which you will find mentioned in the comments. It takes time, but if you do them a couple of times a day you should be able to bend your finger again.
I completed my 5th week of the splinting yesterday. To be honest, I couldn’t keep up with the discipline with the splints. I changed the splint almost daily between metallic (with blue foam) , stax and oval-8 because none of those were bearable to my patience level after a day. In early days, my DIP dropped low while changing the splint but now it stays straight but curved.
I removed the splint this morning completely and my finger look like this.
I am planning to get into to part-time splint mode now. Does my finger look like on the right path to the 8-wk recovery before I start the flexibility exercise?
Thanks for your help.
Hi PS, I looked at your picture and I’m sorry to tell you that it does not look healed and it will continue to droop if you don’t follow the splint regimen. I know it’s hard to wear those stupid things long term but you have to.
I had mine splinted for 8 weeks and like you I kept taking it off (while keeping the finger supported the best I could) to change the splint, clean my finger, etc. I didn’t think it would hurt anything doing that but when the 8 weeks were up my doc said I should take the splint off during the daytime and wear it only at night. After a few hours with the splint off, my finger drooped just as yours looks in the picture so I went back to the doc a couple days later and he said I needed to put the splint back on for another month because it didn’t heal yet. He said it should remain straight with no bend at all if it heals properly. He also stressed the splint had to stay on 100% of the time, even when showering and everything. (oops).
So now am just now completing my extra month of wearing the splint and am going to take it off today to see what happens next. I’ve had it splinted for a total of nearly 14 weeks altogether and this is becoming unbearable since I am a guitar and keyboard player and songwriter.
I hate to tell you PS, but I believe you need to get your finger back in the splint too. For how long, I don’t know. You said you only had it in originally for 5 weeks but my doc said it takes 8 weeks minimum and up to 12 weeks maximum for some people so maybe you took it off too early?
I know how much this sucks, believe me but you don’t want your finger permanently bent down 30 of 45 degrees for the test of your life. I know I sure don’t.
Good luck PS.
hi jeff, i’m a guitar player too! hurt my left pinky during basketball. this is my 3.5 week wearing the splint.
Just want to know from you if you could play like before?
Well unfortunately I’m still dealing with complications from this stupid injury that I received on July 31. It was on my left pinky that I received a bony-mallet finger break (I don’t know if that’s how you injured your’s or not, if you just tore your tendon without an attached bone fragment breaking off like mine did, you may fare better and heal quicker than me). I wore the splint 24/7 for 8 weeks, took it off per my doctors request and the within a day, the finger tip started to droop again so the doc said to wear the splint 24/7 for another 4 to 6 weeks (which I did) and to just wear it at night after that for yet another 4 to 6 weeks (which I am still doing now… this never ends). The problem is, is that the joint that was splinted is now as stiff as a board…. it almost feels like the joint is permanently fused together. I have been trying to exercise it and do what the doc said to do to loosen it up but it’s not budging even after almost a month of not wearing the splint during the daytime so I am pretty bummed about it all.
As to your guitar playing question, I am now able to use my pinky finger to play although there are slight limitations especially if you are trying to do pull-offs with that finger ( it simply will not bend at the necessary joint) and it and it’s also hard to position and play certain barre chords too. I seem to have regained enough strength in the finger to fully press down on the strings with it, but it still won’t bend at all which has required me to learn a little different hand placement on the neck for chords that need the pinky. I am going to go back to the doc soon to see what’s up and see what else might be done. I’ve read that these bony mallet breaks can adhere and cause improper adhesions that lock up the joint (oh joy) so that might be my problem. That may require surgery depending on what is actually wrong. I don’t mean to scare you but just giving it to you straight what I have been going through.
I certainly hope your situation is not like mine or does not end up like mine and I wish you the best of luck for a speedy recovery.
Take care and Merry Christmas.
thanks a lot for your thorough explanation, and i hope you would heal soon as well.
Mine is broken ligament during a turn around when i hit the pinky myself with my butt, in a basketball practice. But in no sense was i doing anything dangerous (i was just standing with no offense or defense..)so it was pretty stupid injury, and i was quite surprise about it got so serious.
now even i’m wearing the splint 24/7, i still sometimes play 1 finger funk chord and practice right hand rhythm (and i’m dying to play guitar like before)….
but this is a good experience just let me focus on the right hand though, but thats another story.
again, thanks for replying since what the web and doctor says is quite limited on the subject.
My injury (left index, 8 months ago, trying to catch a football (UK football!) Is still giving me grief. I did everything I was told, splint wise and ended up with the same rigid digit syndrome as Jeff and I was mortified. It did free itself up, over time though (a month or two).
Whilst I was splinted, I refused to stop playing the guitar and actually found that if I stuck to barre chords, I could still ‘have a go’. Which helped me a lot.
My finger still does feel the after effects and it has developed something of a pronounced (arthritic looking?) end knuckle, and its still a bit stiff and takes time to warm up when I stay to play. I can make a first with a bit of discomfort but I can nonetheless do it.
In short, I’ve been where you both are and had the same feelings of despair and almost resignation re: the guitar, so my input here is intended to give you guys some hope that things will eventually turn around. I’ve seen other threads from guys like us and a year is not an uncommon rehab period.
Good luck to both of you (and hi Gillian!)
All the best… Ollie
I am also a guitarist. In my case the affected finger is the ring one in the left hand (bone fracture, the tendon did not severe completely as I always retained the ability to straighten the finger). I play the classical guitar. I am past the 10th month since the injury, and I can play like before. My fingers hyperflex so actually my ring finger is a little bit more stable on the frets. As others have said, it takes time. Also notice that for guitar playing a little drooping does not affect the playing (the fingers in the left hand are anyway pressing downward at an angle). I would like to say again that splinting for such a long time (more than 8 weeks for some) can be dangerous, as you will have severe problems moving the joint afterwards: this is particularly true for the bone fracture mallet fingers. For these, you should not splint longer than 4/5 weeks (I myself did the mistake of keeping it for 5 weeks, and now the finger won’t fully bend still as it used to). My 2 cents Alex
good to know that the future is not so gloomy.
during these few days, i could kind of feel the joint is back, but still in the splint so i cannot do anything adventurous. cannot wait to take the splint off in 2 weeks time so that i could enjoy some real guitar playing during christmas holiday, what a treat!
asked my doc if i can do anything to proof or check the progress, he said we could only wait for 6 weeks and we will see then…
on the other hand, the DIP (middle joint) of pinky which was not injured, had been straightened due to the splint wearing, a bit worry about stiffness when the stiff comes off, any suggestion on this? (i’m wearing the chunky metal one so cannot move the middle joint)
above all, merry christmas.
It is my understanding and experience (I’m in my fourth month) that you should definitely only splint the dip joint. The pip (middle joint) must be able to bend throughout the splinting process or it will become extremely stiff and painful!!!! Im struggling with this now and it really sucks! Good luck!!!!
Yes only the DIP joint should be splinted, or you will have more problems with your finger afterwards, and in fact you should try and move it as much as possible.
I meant, you should move the pip as much as possible:)
thanks for the comments. i immediately went to the doctor yesterday after receiving your comments and asked for a splint that only restrict the DIP. He said that i should keep this one since the ligament is connected…the good nes
worried i am still, yet i think i can only do what he suggested. 2 more weeks to go and hopefully with more guitar playing and exercises it will come back soon.
thanks a lot guys.
The good news is i have switched to another one, so the smell is not offending any more (for now)
through this injury, i really learnt to appreciate my hands. Even without the pinky as i’m now, it’s like a disaster.
by the way, i’ve got to look at the pinky since 4 weeks ago yesterday. it’s not a nice scene, it’s very reddish and the skins are off…
again, 2 more weeks to go.
Is your doctor a specialist, or a GP? It makes a difference….when I first went in to have my finger checked, I was visited by 2 GP doctors in the space of 2 weeks (same medical cabinet) who came up with two opposite diagnosis: they even were on a different page as to what was going to happen to the bone chip (the first one told me it was going to be reabsorbed! which was not correct, as it in fact moved back to the original location, where the healing process started). This does not mean yours does not know what he/she is talking about, and in fact even a specialist could get it wrong when it comes to that. But at the very least, a second opinion cannot possibly hurt:)
My 2 cents.
judging from the doctor’s careless examination and leaving the nurse to clean my hand out of the splint without his own supervision, i suspect his NOT a specialist.
i’m ordering some stax splint to replace this stupid aluminium splint, hell, i’ve been in this thing for a month now. The finger seems straight out, and i’m also considering to buy an oval 8 so i can move the middle joint.
I mean, anyone here who had used Stax and/or oval 8, would be great to hear you guys sharing the experience.
Since i’m in Macao, it’s pretty hard to buy oval 8. i think i have to buy it online, so a bit of personal experience on these things would be great.
The photo in the blog post shows my middle finger in the Stax splint. And yes, when it eventually came off, I was SO disappointed in the appearance of my finger (swollen, with peeling skin) I couldn’t post. I had problems with the fingertip and back of the knuckle touching the plastic, as it felt uncomfortable or tingly or numb, but what helped was cutting pieces of stiff paper towels into small rectangles and putting them inside so at least the skin would be touching that instead. You can also “clean” the finger by cutting up stiff J-cloths into strips, dipping it in rubbing alcohol, and feeding it through the openings of the splint so the skin would come into contact with the alcohol (no more stinky-feet smell!).
My experience has been over a year ago now, and my finger is at about 100% (after reading the comments here I think I’m one of the lucky ones), so if you have questions feel free to ask!
Best of luck,
thanks a lot for the reply. i’m going to see a hand /finger specialist on 29th Dec, really excited about it, though a bit late. these few days i sometimes take the splint off for 1 minute or 2, find it quite alright, but the middle joint is already stiff… anyway thanks for the encouragement and advise.
i’m waiting for the stax splint to arrvie, hope it will be a better friend for the finger.
And yes, talking about the stinky feet smell… never imagine my hand can produce it…
Through this injury, i learn something…
i got myself a stax splint from the internet and replace it with the bulky aluminium splint the doctor gave me. it’s like knowing color from blindness all of a sudden, and i will never see the previous doctor again.
i tried to take off the splint for a few hours during the last few days (5 weeks of aluminium splinting), found the drooping was quite bad, so i think i need to keep the stax on for a few weeks more to come. But after the aluminium splint training, the stax feels very easy to cope with, and i have 3 of them so i can switch should it gets wet or dirty.
For those who use the aluminium splint, i strongly recommend to abandon it, as its not only clumsy, its not effective as you can never tell if the joint is being bent straight. But with the stax, i’m 100% sure it’s well in place. Also, the aluminium splint made my middle joint stiff and caused unnecessary skin problems.
i’m going to see a hand specialist on 29 Dec, another hospital, another doctor. Hopefully he will give some more useful insight on this.
will keep you guys posted. Again, if not for this site, i think i will just follow the doctor’s instruction and will find myself wearing the aluminium splint for 6 weeks on end (with wrapping on the whole hand!!). I dont know how he came up with that idea…
On the other hand, anyone knows if oval 8 splint is available in Asia?
Merry Christmas in advance.
Hi… If I were you PS, I’d get that splint back on and suffer it for as long as you can. You’re going through an important part of your rehab. I’m 8 months in (same finger) and, although the pain has stopped and I don’t have the lag, I still can’t make a fist without discomfort. Good luck. And get that splint back on! 😉
Yes, as Jeff and Ollie have said, your finger should stick straight out when the splint comes off. I wonder if the issue is that you are not giving yourself enough time to get used to the splint? If it is bothering you to the point where you are changing it almost daily, then you probably aren’t giving yourself enough time to get used to it. There is definitely an adjustment period, and while it feels uncomfortable for the first few days, it does become bearable over time.
I would stick with the Stax splint as it is not as bulky as the metallic one, and gives more support than the Oval-8. The skin pressing against the plastic does become uncomfortable, but I was able to alleviate it by pushing a piece of paper towel (the stiffer type) inside between the finger and the splint and changing that daily.
Jeff & Ollie, Thanks for the review of my current situation and the scolding:). I am back in the splints:).
You’re most welcome. Hey we’re all in this together. : ). Keep us posted.
Ha ha! Yes… consider yourself well and truly ‘told off’! 🙂 Let us know how it goes…
I would be careful with splinting for too long a time. First of all, it is never guaranteed that your finger will be straight as it used to be, some lag is to be accounted for. Also, if your mallet finger involved a bone fracture, then the splinting time goes down to 3/4 weeks. Splinting too long can induce adhesions. My 2 cents:)
Almost 7 months ago I fractured my left middle finger and ruptured the tendon. My injury was caused when I had placed wet beaters into the hand set of an electric hand mixer and my hand slipped turning it on and my finger’s were pulled into the metal beaters. I still suffer from the inability to make a closed fist as the joint’s are very stiff. I had to wear the splint longer due to the fracture. I suffer from R.A. and I know that this has complicated the healing and mobility process. Good luck to everyone suffering from this stupid injury..
Ouch – that sounds like the most painful way to get a mallet finger yet! I’m lucky I didn’t have a bone fracture as well, I can only imagine how much worse the healing process would be.
Good luck and feel free to keep us posted!
My injury was 7 months ago too. I have trouble making a fist also….it seems I have to keep my fist tightly closed for awhile until it feels somewhat comfortable. I don’t know if I will have the finger that I had before this happened….all I do know is that I have a daily reminder that my finger is not the same as it once was and it probably never will be. Wishing for my finger to be like it was before. 😦
I just stumbled across this blog and it’s amazing how many people have suffered this bizarre injury. Mine happened a few days ago and I’ve been wearing the metal/foam split 24/7. I’ve been getting these momentary anxiety/claustrophobic flashes where I want to rip off the splint. It passes but it’s weird. My splint fell off and it took me a few seconds to recover — hopefully that’s not enough time to set the clock back to zero.
Thanks all for sharing.
I just stumbled upon this blog. My injury was 6 days ago — trying to catch a tennis ball that went awry. Went to my local CityMD (here in NYC) and xrays were negative. They put me in the metal/blue foam rubber splint. It’s been awkward as you all know — I have even been experiencing momentary flashes of panic/claustrophoia, my finger feeling trapped, etc. It’s bizarre. The splint fell off accidentally yesterday and I panicked — it was off for maybe 5 seconds so I’m hoping the clock doesn’t restart.
I have an appointment to see a hand specialist in a few weeks and I’m hoping I won’t have to wear the splint much beyond that.
Thanks, all, for sharing your stories.
Thanks for sharing. The clock will only reset if your finger drooped while the splint was off, destroying any of the healing that has started to take place. My splint came off within 24 hours of having it on – I was trying to slide a file into or out of the file cabinet at work and the splint got caught on the bellows – and my finger drooped. One day lost isn’t bad, though. Five days isn’t THAT bad either, but it can be very frustrating having to reset the clock at all. It does take at least a week to get used to being in a splint, and to find ways of coping with the reduced mobility.
I hope you are able to move the proximal IP joint – the one closest to the hand. If you can, you should make a point of flexing that as long as you are in the splint, because I found that joint worse than the injured joint to get moving again after two months in the splint.
Let us know how things progress!
it’s been almost 3 months since i had the injury. i was splinted full time for 5 and a half weeks.
then i went back to splint only during sleep and some time during the day. now, whenever i play guitar for a while, it droops quite bad, like nearly as it’s back when it’s first injured.
a bit disappointed at the result. i think i need to splint some more.
Hey Gillian, read that you are like 100% now, how did you treat yours? i dont know what details i missed, or i was just too soon to use the finger whne it’s not healed…
Hi Andy, you mean when you don’t play the finger tip doesn’t droop? My take of this injury is that the finger rarely returns to how it was…however from the functionality perspective it gets back to almost 100% compared to before the injury. May I ask: does the drooping affect negatively your playing?
I followed all instructions for splinting and even added on a week or two for good measure. This was 9 months ago. I can now honestly say now that my ‘mallet finger’ will never ever be the same as it was before this whole thing happened. Just a silly twist of the finger on that one day made my finger a real nuisance and a constant reminder that it will never be the same again. 😥
This is all I did (completely following the doctor’s advice):
1. Splint left on finger full-time for full 8 weeks. I didn’t take it off even to clean it.
2. Next two weeks: splint left on at night. My finger had no problems drooping; it stuck straight out and was almost too stiff to bend. I made no attempt to use it for these two weeks.
3. Starting at week 11 I attempted the blocking exercises to get the joints moving again. Again, I had no problems with drooping. My finger was very stiff at both the PIP and DIP joints and I had to bend them manually at first to get them to loosen up. It took at least three months to make progress, and another two months to get close to normal.
Hope this helps!
Hi Gillian, this is nasrin,I am so thankful to you that I got my all answers from you.I have fractured mallet finger .This is my second week as splinting on.I just can’t take it.How bad it is.It just frustrating to me.But after I read your experience I can still hope for heal. My regular routine work got so hard for me.Thank you for sharing experience.
Sympathies for your fractured mallet finger. The first few weeks are definitely the hardest when it comes to getting used to the splint, so hopefully it will start feeling more “normal” soon as you find ways to cope with it. It is frustrating, but just take each day as it comes. It does get better.
I just found this blog post through Google searching. I got this mallet finger tucking in sheets. Embarrassing to say the least. I waited 11 days to go to the doctor who immediately diagnosed me after an X-ray. I’m now in a custom splint. My finger does have some throbbing pain throughout the day that I’m trying to manage with ibuprofen. I have a long six weeks ahead and I’m hoping to not change out the splint until the six weeks is up when I switch to a night time routine. Any tips on keeping the splint dry when showering? I bought these finger covers, honestly they look like finger condoms, lol.
Hi Derek, I just used a plastic disposable glove like you can find in the drug store with a hair elastic looped around the wrist so the water wouldn’t get in.
Yes, my finger hurt off and on for a bit the first couple of weeks, though it was more of a dull, deep ache than throbbing pain. Fortunately it didn’t last.
Good luck and feel free to let us know how you’re doing!
Hi Derek……I have learned that a mallet finger is a big inconvenience! I kept mine splinted for 8 weeks and still it’s not the same as it was before. I was afraid to change the splint on mine too but with some practice it can be done without bending your finger. Just make sure you hold on to your finger and don’t let it droop.
When showering I also used a rubber glove with a rubber band around the wrist to keep the water out. Then you can shower as usual without having to be extra careful not to get your finger wet.
Good luck with your finger and I hope that you have a good result.
I’m not sure if you are aware but it’ll be more like 9-12 weeks in the splint and a full year before your finger will be fully healed. It sucks trust me. I fractured my middle finger and ruptured the tendon, its been 9 months. I used coban on my splint and showered normally and then changed out the coban afterwards. It allowed my finger to get clean at the same time. My splint’s were custom made to my finger and I was given 2. Good luck on your recovery. My finger looks pretty good considering how bad it looked.
Hi Alex and Gillian,
thanks for the reply. it didnt droop as bad if i dont play, but when i try to play the g chord with pinky on high e string for some time, it got really bad if i kept playing for over 10 mins or so. So bad that it’s like when it first injured.
Now i had splinted for another week or so, taking it off during shower, and here there when it got uncomfortable. When i take off the splint its straight enough, but after a while it will bend like 5 degrees.
As most say here, i think i’m seeing several months for more concrete healing.
New comers, all the best for you and hope you can follow the instructions, otherwise it can be very frustrating and confusing whether it’s been healed or not, like i am now.
I am on this journey now, not quite three weeks. I fell on the ice and my finger looked a little odd, a trip to the clinic and it was splinted within the hour. Nothing broken so hoping this will heal quickly and within the 6 weeks that I was directed to keep the splint on. My two week check up it was mentioned I could remove the splint at 6 weeks and see how it goes. I may go another week just to be sure. My first splint was a little big and concerned I may have ever so slightly bent my finger changing the bandage. I got a smaller splint that fits much better. I never had any swelling or pain other than initially the first few hours. I can relate to other writers that this is quite an inconvenience for what seems to be a small injury, but actually worse than a break. My biggest challenge is typing because I do that full time at my job. Thanks for all the information and advice, it has helped being informed and know what to expect.
Hi Deb, I was told to leave my splint on for 8 weeks, and mine healed fine. I’m not sure what the standard length of time is. If you’re comfortable with the splint by the end of 6 weeks and want to give it one more, I think you would probably benefit.
Yes, typing was a real pain for me too, as it was my “E” finger that was splinted and as you know, that letter is used a lot!
Good luck with the splint, and feel free to keep us posted.
Hello. I am so happy I found this blog. I injured my middle finger on my right hand last week while cleaning a spot on the couch. I am a court reporter and am obviously very concerned. I went to the ER and they diagnosed me with mallet finger. I went to an orthopedic doctor five days later. I have never been treated so bad by a healthcare professional. He looked at my finger and said it was mallet finger and I would need to splint it. I had researched mallet finger by that time and learned that I would need to keep it in a splint 24/7. I expressed concern to him about how I was going to do my job. I type at speeds of up to 280 words a minute in court. I have to record every spoken word in the courtroom. He laughed at me and said, I could type, I just might not be as fast. I said, I do not see how I can type with a splint, it is not the same as typing on a computer keyboard and that I cannot control the speed at which people talk. He said, let me go get the splint and he never returned. The nurse came in with the splint and I again expressed my concern and she said we cannot take you off work. They never gave me any instructions on the care of mallet finger. They never even told me that I couldn’t bend it or it would be like starting over. I was devastated. This is my career which I have enjoyed for over 20 years. I am not looking for a way out of work, I want my finger to heal correctly so that I can finish out my career without any problems. I have an appointment this week with a hand specialist. Reading your stories gives me hope, but I do believe I am going to be out of work for awhile. Can anyone share any stories that involve how this injury has affected your typing? Thanks in advance.
I work for a litigation lawyer, so I have some idea of what this means and sympathize with your situation. My injury was on my left middle finger and yeah, typing was a big adjustment at first – and that was with a regular keyboard. My index finger soon compensated for the middle finger, but it was slower going. However, I left my splint on the full 8 weeks and didn’t even take it off even to clean, and my finger healed perfectly and I’m typing just as fast as usual now.
Interesting what you said about the doctor – like you, I was given no instructions on how to care for it or even how long I needed to keep it on, though at least I got the splint from the ER the same day I injured my finger. I was just told that the hand surgeon would call in a week to set up an appointment – I thought that meant the splint would only be on for a week. I’m glad I googled it and realized just what I was in for. Out of curiosity, what country are you in?
About your job, would your employer allow you to work behind the scenes while your finger heals? Putting together transcripts or other clerical duties? Seems like a better alternative than being out of work for another 7 or 8 weeks.
Anyway, good luck, and please keep us posted.
I’m in the United States.
My mallet finger is the ring finger on my left hand, a bad spot for typing as you know. The first week was interesting, but my pointer and middle finger have quickly made up for the splinted finger. I’m guessing when the splint is off I will have to retrain that finger back to it’s original duties 🙂 I can understand though that you are not quite in the position where you can figure it out as you go but maybe with some practice outside of court you can make it work. I have an oval 8 splint but right now I am using the stax splint since it probably is better for healing, I will keep the oval 8 for the part time splinting after the initial 6 weeks, plus I also have found the meals splint(just google it, there’s a video out there to show you how it works) but did not order that one since I almost half way done. Both the oval 8 and the meals splint allow for more use of the finger. Good Luck and hope you find a solution.
I just discovered this page and am so grateful!!!! It is very helpful to read peoples stories and great advice. Indeed there is very little useful info on the net when it comes to this condition, at least that I have found. I’m happy to read about the stax splint and care for your finger underneath it. I don’t yet have one but they looked like the answer Also it good to learn about the rehap process. I’m glad to know what sort of things to expect in recovery.
I just got mallet finger on my left hand middle finger 4 days ago undressing for the bath of all things! It doesn’t hurt much but is a bit swollen. I’m worried as I play guitar and need full use of that finger for the fretboard. When I went to the doctor (our local GP) he moved it all over the place, including bending it forward as far as it would go and having me try to extend it! I really hope he didn’t damage it further. He didn’t referred me to a specialist or even an x ray. I’m amazed at how little the medical profession knows about this condition. Anyway, I have it splinted and and have an appointment with a different doctor to try to get a referral to a specialist. It really pays to do your own research!!
Coincidently I have been a birder ever since I was a kid doing wildlife rehap with my mom. We live in the BC west coast surrounded by forest and so have lots of woodpeckers and owls and songbirds such as creepers and nuthatches…. As I write our little pet chickadee is hoping around on the keyboard. We found him (could be a she) as a fledgling with a gimpy foot and raised him out. Now he chooses to stay with us even when the doors are left open in summer and the other chickadees are working the trees outside. Very cute!
I’m very happy to have found this page!
Sorry to hear about your mallet finger. I too am a guitar (and keyboard) player and I did it to my left pinky back on August 1st last year to where I actually broke a piece of bone off with the tendon. I am still dealing with the effects of this stupid injury. I was in a splint for 8 weeks and then when I took it off per the doctors recommendation, the finger started drooping again within 24 hours so went back to the doc and he had me splint it again for another 6 weeks. After taking the splint off nearly 3 months ago, I still cannot bend the joint normally at all. By slowly forcing it to bend with my other hand, I can get it down to almost a 45 degree angle and the finger will just stay at that angle until I slowly (and with great pain) force it straight again. It will then stay straight but I still can’t bend the joint on its own. It’s like it’s made out of a stiff piece of wire or something. The doctor told me I may have “plateaued” in my healing and that this may be the best it ever gets. I truly hope yours isn’t, or doesn’t end up as bad as mine but I wanted to let you know what can happen. Good luck to you.
p.s. I can still play the guitar but I have difficulty with some of the barre chords mainly. I’m learning to work around the new handicap…. so there is still hope : )
Jeff, that sounds terrible! Are you still able to play piano at least? Have you been working with a hand specialist? It seems like there should be more that you can do.
About 10 years ago I slipped in the snow, jammed my left baby finger into a stair riser and shattered the end joint. The plastic surgeon told me I would lose all mobility in that joint. Since it was a bit crooked sideways he offered to remove the soft tissue between the two bones and fuse them together, although he said they generally don’t recommend doing that. After thinking about it for several weeks I decided to go ahead with the surgery. Even though he did a good job of setting the angle I greatly regret that choice. There is a lot of stress on what was the middle joint and the end of my finger has lost quite a bit of padding so it is tender. Fortunately I can still use it and for the most part it doesn’t interfere too much with playing guitar. I don’t know how this would be if it was like your finger in that it moved but not fully with your control. Whatever you do wind up doing make sure it’s more of a therapeutic nature and nothing irreversible.
If I learn of anything helpful I’ll post it!
All the best,
My advice would be to get an xray, AND have the xray be looked at by a specialist if possible (go for a sports doctor if you can find one, they sure have seen lots of these injuries). You should definitely mention that you play the guitar. From the little I know, a bone fracture will mean a shorter time with the splint. As far as playing the guitar is concerned, it is not so much the drooping that could be a problem, but the difficulty in straightening the finger after many weeks in the splint, so make sure only the dip is immobilized and that you keep moving the rest of the finger.
I’ve got an appointment with a doc to get a referral for an xray and a hand specialist asap. I’ll make sure to get physical therapy once it’s healed. I’ve got a new splint that allows movement in the middle joint of my finger. Also I discovered a splint called an “oval 8” which looks quite minimal but still does the job. Might serve well as break from the stax splint.
I’m very grateful to everyone on this blog for all the great information. I’m hoping to do my best to take care of it from the start and try to avoid the pitfalls. It’s such a silly injury! Really a reminder of how important it is to be more mindful of what we’re doing with our hands and not just take them for granted!
I have the same injury on my left hand middle finger with a fracture on 19th feb. My ortho referred me to get a custom splint from hand therapist. On my second visit once I got the splint, he referred me to a hand surgeon for second opinion. He suggested surgery which I rejected since another surgeon was of the opinion this would heal with a splint. 2 weeks now. Fingers crossed.
Hi Upen, Lucy (and of course Gillian!)… this is just an update from me, as I’ve been gratefully following and making posts on here since last year. I suffered the dreaded mallet injury on the index finger of my left hand, in April last year. It wasn’t diagnosed for three weeks because I was being a ‘bloke’ and didn’t go to the doctor. Anyway… after x-ray and being splinted for several weeks, I’ve continued my rehabilitation without further treatment.
I work on a keyboard as a graphic designer, so the splinted period was interesting to say the least. But like most things in life, you find that you just ‘get on with it’.
I also attempt to play the guitar, which was the most frustrating thing as my index finger, left hand is the Barre chord holder (sorry, non guitarists!). It was very sore, applying pressure for some months, but it did improve. When following another thread and I was none to pleased to read that the guy said he was still ‘rehabilitating’ after a year(!!!) I thought that it couldn’t be possible that such a ridiculous injury could have that long or far reaching effect. But it really does. We are now in March, 11 months on. I’m not going to pretend that it doesn’t feel a bit tender sometimes (especially in the cold), and it does have something of a pronounced end-knuckle compared with the right hand index, but…
Basically I can bend it to the same degree as the other hand, I work on the keyboard like it never happened, and i can play barre chords and do pull-offs as badly as I ever did (sorry non guitar players!).
So don’t give up hope, guys. It may take quite a while, but you will get there in the end. Good luck.
Hi Ollie, glad to hear things have improved! When the hand surgeon told me this was a “six-month injury” and that the splint only accounts for two of them, I think he should have said it is a year-long injury, for it took me more than six months for it to get back to 100%. I too was concerned about the swollen-looking end knuckle, but that went away eventually, too.
Thanks for the update and encouragement!
Thank you so much for starting this and for keeping up with it after so much time has passed!
I’ve searched the web for almost 2 months and this was the most informative, and only “real life” experiences I’ve found.
I should start by acknowledging that I’m very lucky I’m only dealing with this totally stupid and annoying injury as it could have been much much worse. 2 months ago while working on a car the jack slipped and trapped all 4 fingers on my right hand under the tire of the care (Of course I’m right handed lol) it took me about 5 minutes or so to jack the car back up and get my hand out. I immediate went to ER and got an X-ray
The ER dr suggested i see a hand specialist. because he suspected i had a mallet finger in addition to the crush injury. I saw an Ortho dr a couple days later but he said it wasn’t a mallet finger and that my tendon was fine with no broken bones and put my hand is a half cast for 2 weeks that I could take off to ice every hour or so and shower. I just knew in my gut that the tendon was affected so I made an appointment with a different Ortho who specializes in hands. He was the only dr to find the fracture where the tendon had broken off and put me in a proper splint for 6 weeks. (FYI- I’ve completely recovered from the crush injury except for my ring finger which has the extensor tendon avulsion.) the pain was significant the first month but the last 2 weeks it hardly hurt at all.
I got my splint off yesterday. I was so excited and nervous to finally move my finger. At first it looked great (considering) it had some droop still but not terrible. And it felt good. It was stiff but I could bend it pretty well within only 20 minutes. The dr said wear the splint for 2 more weeks only at night. I was happy. Now, not so much. By the time I got home it was already drooping more and really starting to hurt. It has gotten very red and the knuckle has become swollen. As of tonight I put the splint back on in the late afternoon not only because it is so droopy again but because it is painful without it. I plan to call the dr tomorrow. I’m sorry this is so incredibly long but had anyone had the pain, redness (like a bruise) and swelling happen after the splint came off? I’m not sure if it’s due to the mallet finger or the crush injury.
Oh my gosh, this site, Gillian. Thank you! I was catching a football on vacation and thought I jammed my finger and found out that not only did I have a mallet finger, but also broke sliver of my bone. The Urgent Care told me to keep the splint on for 10 days and it should be healed and to follow up with surgeon to be sure. (I know…awful advice). Well, I trusted them, and didn’t follow up, took it off and probably wrecked all the progress I had made and ran right back into my splint when I noticed how unhealed my finger was. It’s been 2 months now and I finally took off my splint but my knuckle where the droop is looks so flat and deformed and it does still droop slightly — I didn’t see anyone else talking about a bone break at the spot… do you think it looks flattened and weird because of that? Also, typing is still kind of odd. It doesn’t hurt but I feel like I do not have full feeling in motion in the tip of my finger… Just throwing this out there in case anyone else has this problem.
Anyways, It was such a relief to read your site and find all these sisters and brothers in the same boat…haha, and to hear that it still drooped afterwards but is better now on your own finger gave me such relief, because at this point, I will not be having wedding pictures of my hand if I ever get married! Ha! Thank you again for creating this, my friend!
Sorry for the delay in responding – I’ve been out of the country on vacation and haven’t been keeping up with the blog (though I have lots of bird photographs from Mexico that I can’t wait to write about!)
I’m glad that you found this post and all the comments helpful. I’m still sort of shocked that this post is one of my most popular – just goes to show that even two years after I wrote it there is still very little on the internet in the way of personal experiences and practical advice!
I hope your finger heals well despite the bad advice initially given to you. Hopefully your finger starts to look better soon – mine looked lumpy and ugly when the splint came off, but eventually the swelling went away and it looks completely normal. However, I didn’t break the bone, so your situation is different than mine.
I had a break with mine as well. It looks like I don’t have a knuckle anymore. I did the splint and it failed. Had surgery last month and still have 3 more weeks until the pin aka internal splint is removed. I’ll let u know if mine goes back to normal.
I can’t believe how easily this injury can happen. Mine was caused by my 3 year old accidentally jumping on my pinky finger. The bond was fractured, so that had to heal and now I am splinted to fix the tendon. Still hasn’t been a week but I am getting blisters where the air holes are and my finger is getting all pruny and irritated under the splint. I take it off the dry it out carefully making sure not to let it droop. Flat on a paper towel works great.
Early days here. Jammed my right middle finger into the bedframe Saturday while trying to get a fitted sheet’s elastic to get “over” the corner of the mattress. No real pain at first, and I didn’t even notice the droop until I jammed the finger again, into the top of my wallet as I was reaching in my pocket.
ER trip, xrays showing no break. Offered an aluminum splint, but the nurse looped the gauze around so loosely it wasn’t straightening the tip, but only, at best, keeping it from further jostling.
Poked around the internet a bit and figured that just wouldn’t do. Also tried to type. So I improvised with a bit of cut up credit card and electrical tape. But in order to pull the tip up, the tape had to be tight enough to start to cut the blood flow off, the tip was a bit purply and cold to the touch. Clearly unsatisfactory for long term use. But, reading of the dangers of not splinting, I left it on, until today’s appointment with my regular doctor. When I took off the homebrew splint, the strip where the piece of plastic had been in contact with the skin was white, with a bit of red along the edges and stayed that way for at least 20 minutes.
I had obtained “Oval 8” splints from Amazon and when my GP brought out another of those wretched aluminum splints with the blue padding that won’t let me type, irritate the fingers on either side, and also seem to suffer from the if it’s tight enough to support, it’s tight enough to cut off the blood supply problem, I brought out the Oval 8 and got his blessing to try that until my appointment with an orthopedic specialist materializes.
My preferred Dr., recommended because he was the partner of an ortho who treated my fiance with a complicated sprain, won’t have an appointment open for over a week, and his office gave me a list of other names. But, of course, that notification didn’t come in until late afternoon, so I haven’t seen a specialist yet. So, four days out and still no fitting with a proper splint. *update* since I started writing this I now have an appointment for tomorrow. Whee.
Any thoughts on the best splint? My orthopedist may have definite opinions, but I’d like to come in educated. Assuming he doen’t notice any complications that might indicate surgery, it seems like one of the next steps will be splinting, with or without the involvement of a Hand Therapist. Setting aside the unworkable aluminum things with the foam lining and bits on the side that may help hold it in place but mostly just seem designed to annoy the neighboring fingers, there seem to be four options.
1. A Stack/Stax splint that I haven’t tried but which looks like it would interfere with typing and appears likely to trap moisture, with attendant issues of odor and skin degradation.
2. The Oval 8 type that seems to hold the tip more or less straight (but may need tweaking by a professional), doesn’t trap a whole lot of moisture and allows for cleaning, but which a couple of Amazon reviews indicated may put too much pressure on the top of the knuckle, especially if custom fitted to hold the end joint in slight hyperextension. Seems very similar to the much prettier devices offered at silverringsplint.com
3. A custom “thermoplastic” splint, most examples of which look a lot like messier versions of the Oval 8, but which often have a wider point of contact above the knuckle and thus, one would hope, would exert less pressure on any one bit of skin or healing tendon. For an example, see http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1242305-treatment#d10
4. Simple straight bits of wood, metal, or plastic placed along the top of the finger (the “volar” position, it seems), to which the tip is attached by some sort of tape, much like my initial temporary homebrew, but presumably a bit less likely to bend than my credit card, and with skin-friendlier tape, but still seeming to suffer from the need for frequent retaping (and opportunity to bend during the process), and placing pressure on the top of the knuckle if taped tightly enough to hold the tip up. Further each taping will require assistance or a really high chance of letting the finger droop.
Is it really possible that the cheap and unobtrusive “oval 8” splints can do the job? I’ve practiced changing them out, and can now reliably do so without allowing the tip to droop.
Finally, thanks so much for creating and monitoring this forum. There’s a lot of information on the net, but the stories here are very helpful. Certainly brought home to me the urgency of discipline to keep the finger consistently straight.
Grissim in Fla
Alas…….another mallet finger friend! I had the same problem finding a splint that would do the job…….I ended up making my own from popsicle sticks. I even built up the end of it with smaller pieces of the sticks to give it a little more height. I was very careful when changing the splint for cleaning (I always had a spare so I didn’t use the same one all the time). I was made sure I held my finger up with my other hand while I put a new splint on. I kept this up for a full 8 weeks….never went a day without a splint on. When my time was up and I finally took the splint off the finger was much better but still has a slight bend to it. It’s still a little stiff if I make a fist and not quite as functional as it was before this all started but I just learned to live with it as is. Good luck with yours. 🙂
Another mallet finger here. I found your blog because I did a search for “my splint smells”. I am sure you are so very pleased that such a search would lead someone here! 😉
My mallet finger was the result of a 5 month old kitten bite. Kittens are ferocious little beasts and this one was a foster that was not interested in the medication I had to give him. He was scared, I don’t blame him.
I am 12 weeks post bite. I was in a splint and then out of a splint, then back in a splint – 5 weeks of solid splinting now. I have also just finished a 6 week course of IV antibiotics and a PICC line for the bone infection that came as a result of the bite (yes, he bit me that hard). I am fortunate (I think) that I couldn’t have the same splint as you because they needed to be able to see the infection so I am able to remove mine as long as I hold the finger straight which means I can clean my finger and the splint which I do every couple of days bit it still stinks. My husband is tired of me jamming my finger up to his nose and telling him to smell it – but we must find some amusement in these situations.
My injury is to the index finger of my right hand. I too work for a lawyer so learning to type again has been interesting but I have managed. Being right handed, with a right hand injury, it has made many things not so much fun – wiping my own bottom being one of them.
hey first of all Tysm for your blog..I had a mallet finger in jan’2016 and i was googling the much i could to find more information and also to find about splint..My doctor gave me full finger splint covering both PIP and DIP joint but after going through your blog i came to conclusion that it had nothing to do with PIP joint and so was the restriction on that joint.I changed my doctor and splint too as first doctor disagrees to allow PIP joint movement but i had an advice of two more doctors who allowed me to wear somewhat modern splints lol(only DIP).
my splint was removed after 1 month but one thing which still bothers me is the droop which is about 5 to 7 degree though it doesn’t restrict my daily usage.Its now been 5 months since i removed my splint off.
Do you still has a minor droop now and if not how much time it took to completely overcome that droop?
and btw again Thank you for your informational blog..:)
I’ve had mallet finger for 4 weeks now, twice it fell after during the night, at week one and then week 3 today week , but really week one again, I took the splint off to clean it and bent it a little bit, not s total droop, I’m wondering if I’m back to day one again, Eondering if anyone takes there splint off to clean it or not? I’m so disappointed in myself for not being able to do this,
Kathy, I have read before that you do have to start counting your weeks all over again. If you change your splint you have you have to make sure your finger doesn’t bend at all. I made my own splints from popsicle sticks cut to size and taped them on with tape made for bandaging. It’s a long drawn out procedure to keep this up for all of the weeks required but it’s the only way to do it.
I kept my splint on for the full 8 weeks. My finger was straighter when I finally did remove the splint but it’s not as straight as it was before the mallet finger.
Good luck to you and I hope you have good results.
This blog has been so helpful to me – both Gillian’s experiences and those of the other suffers.
At the dog park on May 16, 2016, a metal clip hit the top of my left little finger. I didn’t think anything of it until we were walking to the car and I noticed that my fingertip was bent straight down!
I splinted it immediately and saw my Doc that day where I got the ‘mallet finger’ diagnosis. In my case, the bone did break but it was more of a chip than a snap. I had no pain after the first 10 minutes. I was instructed to keep it in a stax splint. That splint was too large so it was changed when I saw the orthopedic hand surgeon the next week. Like everyone, I was told that if the finger bent, I’d need to start over.
I cleaned the finger (sort of ) by laying the splint flat on a partially wet paper towel sprinkled with a little Gold Bond. Cut the tape, slide the splint off, rub the finger top with the wet part of the towel, dry with the dry part, sprinkle Gold Bond lightly, slide on the clean splint (I had 2 because I swim every day), re-tape, and done!
Pro-tip: buy the non-sticky stretchy tape that sticks to itself – not the adhesive tape!
I was totally compliant for 6 weeks and got the okay to remove the splint during the day. My skin issues cleared up in 24 hours. I was given an Oval 8 splint to use when something was needed but the stax splint was overkill. I used the stax splint when I went to dog obedience last night and took it off when we came home. I’m using the Oval 8 on and off during the day and the stax at night.
I was given a sheet of exercises when I saw my ortho yesterday. Only 2 of the exercise are relevant to mallet finger (sigh).
I have decided to take Gillian’s doctor’s advice and just baby it for 2 weeks and then start blocking exercises. Gillian’s link didn’t work for me but this one has an example of a blocking exercise: http://orthodoc.aaos.org/cedarvalleyhand/malletfinger_presentation.pdf
My middle joint is fine because of the stax splint so it’s just the tip I’ll need to worry about.
Congrats on making it so far! I started out with the aluminum splint. Then on to the stax, because the aluminum splint was too bulky and slipping and sliding all over. The stax was better, but my finger was always sliding down in it. I’m now wearing a molded plastic splint
Using the tape you described. So far this has been the best splint for me. Not great mind you, but better than the others. I messed up three times now and decided I will only change the tape and clean the top of my finger for as long as possible. I get too nervous taking the finger out of the splint. Last time I cleaned it I bent my finger a little.
My other two set backs were with he other splints falling off during the night.
I don’t sleep well in fear that this will happen again. Freaky as all of this is, I keep telling myself how much worse things could be. Good luck with your excercises and thanks for sharing.
I was also completely freaked out when cleaning the finger or when the splint slipped off. Don’t worry anymore. It’s okay if your fingertip is slightly curved when this happens, you haven’t messed it up. The problem is when you bend the tip back to where it was (and I think this would hurt a lot after the first week or so).
I asked my doc about this very thing. Just get the splint back on and you should be fine. It’s banging and forced bending that’s the problem later.
(People who have just developed mallet finger really do need to religiously keep that joint extended, though.)
I hope this eases your mind a little. I was so worried but I didn’t need to be.
I am so thankful I found this thread. I fell out of bed last night and hit my right 4th finger on the nightstand! How embarrassing! I am lucky (I guess) as being a nurse I immediately took ibuprofen, iced it for 20 minutes, splinted it straight and went back to bed. Went to urgent care this morning and in and out in 2 hours – everyone knew what it was and how to treat it. (Highly recommend Sheldon Schumir Urgent Care in Calgary, Alberta!).
Given a Stax splint but they had no children’s and my hands are small so will phone around tomorrow to find one. Also highly recommend a referral to a Physical Therapist who specializes in hand therapy for conformable splint (hoping I can find one this long weekend that can fit me in before we fly off to Chicago for 10 days on Tuesday).
Showering will be the biggest challenge but they gave me lots of large surgical gloves and recommended using a rubber band to secure wrist. I plan on removing and cleaning my finger (while my husband washes and dries the splint) as I have a cut on nail bed and small bone fracture – need to apply polysporin twice a day and make sure bone fragment no poking through.
Dr. showed me to put the tip on my finger on the edge of table, desk or counter while doing this and if have to wash my own splint will do so at the sink. Makes it easier to reapply splint, check it is in proper position and ensure no skin breakdown. Trust me, also makes it easier to retape splint into position yourself.
I would recommend removing to clean and check for pressure points – I know not everyone has the confidence to do this but if you try this tip on a non injured finger, I think you will see how easy it makes stabilizing the finger while using other hand (and a helper if available) to clean splint and cut tape. My husband only had to cut the
tape for me and I am quite useless with my left hand.
Thanks again Gillian and all posters! Misery loves company!
Sherri in Calgary
Get a second splint. You can take one off and put the second one on and then clean the first at your leisure. Had this on my middle finger, left hand a few years ago. I was doing some gardening last week and felt a pop in my ring finger and knew immediately what had happened. I still had my splints so I didn’t bother with the doctor. Even though it seems obvious I probably should have had an x-ray to be sure but with high deductible health insurance, this is worth a small gamble.
Well I have officially joined the “Mallet” club… D-day was July 3, 2016. I was enjoying a few days on Roosevelt Lake with some friends wake-boarding and wake-surfing. While we were packing up the boat and wiping it down I noticed my R middle finger (dominate hand) would not straighten out… me being a cardiac nurse and not an ortho nurse, I decided to have my friend try and relocate my finger joint… needless to say that didn’t work. 😦 I went to the ER and got x-rays (thank god no broken bones) just the tendon. I got in with a hand surgeon two days later and was fitted with a metal splint wrapped in coban, which was absolutely obnoxious and not even keeping the tip of my finger straight. They also gave me two poorly fitted Stax Splints. The next day I immediately started calling around to get into a Certified Hand Specialist for a custom splint… THE BEST money I have ever spent! I am definitely in the denial and why me faze of the 1st of 8 weeks of recommended splinting 24/7. I have tried to take off my splint to clean it twice but my finger moved/bent slightly and freaked me out… Not sure how I am going to proceed with the whole washing of the finger but I guess I will figure it out slowly.
It is like relearning how to walk again… using my left hand for most of the big stuff now which can be a bit challenging… The biggest challenges I face at this point is trying to find a glove that I can pull over the splint to shower… straightening my somewhat wavy hair with a brush (girl problems)… and trying to figure out how I am going to enjoy my next two vacations (Spain and Apache Lake) with limited ability to enjoy the water time…
Feel free to respond with suggestions!
Sorry about your mallet finger. I injured mine on June 5 and unfortunately I am only coming up on 2 full weeks of splinting without any mess ups. Like you I went through the aluminum and stax splint and then got a molded plastic that I wrap with flex tape. The last time I messed up was while cleaning, I am too nervous, so now I just take the tape off and use hand sanitizer or alcohol to clean my finger and around the splint without taking my finger out of the splint, I figure at least I have a partially clean finger and clean tape. I also any to know how or if I can swim, The therapist that fitted me for my splint said I couldn’t wear a plastic glove because the heat could change the shape of the splint. I wish you the best, it hadn’t been the easiest thing to deal with, but could certainly be worse,
I literally woke up during the night last night from a nightmare that my splint fell off. Best of luck with your splinting.
Kathy – sorry this is a little late!
Yes, you can swim – I did the entire time. I did not try to keep the finger dry. I used 2 stax splints. When I was in the water, I taped the splint all the way down to the hand knuckle with stretchy tape. You finger will shrink in the water so you have to make it a little tighter than would comfortable normally. (Check your fingertip color, though, to make sure it’s not too tight.)
After swimming, I changed the splint and tape. It worked just fine.
I’m now swimming without any splint. In fact, I’m doing a lot without a splint. I do use the Oval 8 for anything that seems sketchy and I’m still using the stax splint at night. Curling my finger is coming along very well but I’m working on using the tendon to straighten it out. I think that might take a while but I do see some progress.
Thank you for your reply. I might try that, the stretchy tape seems to be pretty tolerable to water. I’ve never totally immersed the finger in water, but just with daily routines. I’m still not brave enough to take the molded plastic splint completely off, but as I said I do change the tape and gently clean my finger with alcohol or hand sanitizer. Coming up on 3 weeks now Whoot whoot! Glad to hear you’ve come so far, good luck with continued healing, keep us posted, Thanks.
I am in week 11 of having the splint on my mallet finger RH ringfinger. I did so much internet investigation and found a (Dutch as I am Dutch) doctor specialized in this. Contrary to what my own doctor told me (almost nothing) I should cut the plastic stack splint shorter so revealing the PIP joint in order to be able 3x daily exercises to keep it flexible. Because I work with horses I have to clean the splint daily. I have to do this with my hand/finger flat on the table end, take off carefully the sport tape which holds the splint in place, have someone clean and dry the splint, cut a new piece of sport tape to stabilize the splint and clean the finger carefully with as little movement as possible. After two weeks I had no-one to help me around so I could even do all this myself. Especially a wet or sweaty splint made my finger feel very uncomfortable. As of week 10 I take off the splint those parts of the day I use my finger not too much (not when working with my horses, unfortunately I am not able to ride them now). In bed and during heavy work, I still wear the splint. I have to keep wearing it up to 16 weeks, especially at night and during heavy/risky work.
As of week 10 I also exercise 3x daily my (splint free) hand/finger rolling a 1.5 liter bottle, week 11, a 1 liter bottle and week 12 a 0.5 liter bottle.. etc. till I get back full flex. It does feel very tensed in the beginning but it does get better. My fingertip isn’t and will not stay totally straight anymore but a long as it works I am happy. A long process and very unpractical and uncomfortable! But please do yourself a favor and cut off the part of your splint that covers the PIP joint, preventing more problems than the DIP joint injury itself.
I’m from Europe and had got a mallet finger by working in the garage at the beginning of July. I have it at the same finger on the left hand like yours, and I also heard a pop sound and no pain, just the finger drooping. I received a stack splint from my doctor and, like in your case, it was a miserable life with it, because the skin started macerating under the plastic splint, no matter the small aerator holes there. I used a bit of gauze/bandage to wrap the finger before inserting it inside the stax splint. Still not perfect, because I needed to keep the finger dry or else you’d need to change the wrapping again.
The best choice was to get the Oval-8 splints. I looked for the best offer since I’m in EU and have to pay the “lovely” customs taxes and VAT too, besides the international shipping cost. Getting a single Oval-8 splint or a set of three might not have been the best idea, if they didn’t fit well. So I bought the Oval-8 Splint Sizing Set, well worth the higher cost. There is a huge difference between the regular stax splint and Oval-8 ones. With an Oval-8 splint you do not worry about washing your hands, including the hurt finger.
Skin breathes, you can do almost everything you did before the injury (of course being more careful this time), since you can barely observe and feel the Oval-8 splint on your finger. I’m still wearing my Oval 8 splint on my finger and hopefully next month it’ll be off. The finger is straight, it flexes back and forth and no more drooping. I highly recommend these things instead of regular stax splints.
Great to hear about your positive experience with the Oval 8 splints! You don’t worry about accidentally bashing your finger in one? To me they seem like there would be no protection for the injured finger, though the ability to wash your finger is definitely a huge bonus!
I’m not involved in any way with the Oval-8 company but their splints are much better than the big stax ones IMO. I had no problems so far with this splint, you can adjust it to fit best on the finger, no need for tape to hold it like the stax splint. In the package there are 14 Oval-8 splints which you can use for all finger and toes (from the smallest ones that fit a child to huge ones that would fit Hulk). It is small and very versatile. No more sore skin. But if you intend to play basketball or work with tools maybe replace it with the stax in that period. Though I never had to do it.
I made a combo photo of my finger with stax splint and without, hope it helps seeing the difference in size: https://s4.postimg.org/4t1fak5jh/Mallet_finger_deget_ciocan_08.jpg
Hello all fellow maker finger friends! Went for my six week check up last week. Although my tendon has healed, I still have a droop, Doctor said to wear the splint at night only for another month. He surely didn’t sound confident that it would help though. I decided since I was only at six weeks that I would continue to wear it full time
Assuming it couldn’t hurt! I am now at 7 weeks praying it will straighten out at least a little more. Good luck to everyone experiencing this frustrating injury.
Correction malet finger friends! Darn auto correct lol
I had my injury in the middle of May and I now have very good function but the tip still droops a bit. I have been working on extensor tendon blocking exercises and wearing my Oval 8 splint at night or whenever I do something odd.
It’s a process and it’s really a 6 month injury. I still have some swelling on the top of the finger and some very minor pain after some ordinary activities or after the exercises.
I do think you have to do the extensor exercises a lot – like 4 or 5 times a day. I have not been good about that but I’m getting better and I do see improvement. The curling stuff was easy compared to this.
Just keep at it and realize that if you had broken your arm, you’d have a weirdly easier recovery than this little thing. This just takes longer and you have to work at it more.
Good luck Kathy, hope everything to be fine for you
Well I wrecked a beach bike on sand, bent under my left middle finger and I’m in my third week with a Stax splint. And its KILLING ME. The skin on the top of my finger feels so raw! I put gauze on my finger when I cleaned it (yes, I kept it straight – I actually use scissors to lift the finger and slide it on). Any advice on topical pain management would be appreciated.
I just malletted the middle finger of my right hand while rubbing the tip of it against my thumb trying to rub off drying paint. I have a full metal splint right now (I went to a walk in and that’s what they gave me), but am planning on going to a local sports medicine clinic as soon as I can (hopefully tomorrow morning). I had taken my finger out of its splint each night (’cause no one told me not to) so I’m back at day one, but at least now I know and hopefully can get a Stax or Oval 8 splint (apparently you can get the Oval 8’s wet). Not looking forward to the next few months, but thanks for giving me a glimpse at what might be coming. It’s better to know than not.
I am on day 3 of this mallet injury (tendon only–no break but the end of finger was just dangling off after catching a football awkwardly) and already scared I’ll surely not make the full 8 weeks. I have a 2 year old and changing diapers, getting him in and out of carseats and all the other physical demands are proving quite difficult. I also have to type about 6 hours a day for work and having to learn to type without bending the last joint of middle finger. I’m in constant fear now that maybe the joint has moved a little under the wrap without me realizing it or that it is moving a small bit when changing dressings. My question for all of you that have gone through this, HOW STRAIGHT does it have to be? I have been alternating between the little molded cradle + self adhesive wrap the hand doctor made most of the day time the stax splint while showering. My doctor said that was ok to change them out but to keep the finger straight on a table and slide one splint out and the other on without bending it . I have been trying really hard to make sure it’s straight when changing splints but I’m absolutely paranoid there might be some minor movement. It sounds like some people literally left it on without even changing them out for clean dry dressing, etc. When I first went to the doctor I was discouraged but now the more I read other peoples accounts here the more paranoid I’m getting that I’ll surely mess up the healing. I’m definitely not letting it bend back to a droop but how much wiggle can the knuckle have while slipping the new splint under it before you’ve reset your progress? I’ve had plenty of other sports injuries and enduring time, therapy, etc. is not that big a deal. But this injury is so overwhelming feeling like it has to be managed so delicately!
Sorry about your finger. I think it’s pretty important to keep the finger completely straight at least until it starts to heal. I am still recovering from injury since June. I now only wear the splint at night. My finger had s 5%. Lag and is still swollen. I found the molded plastic with the tape to be the best splint, After messing up three times while cleaning my finger, I decided to not take it off anymore. I only to the tape off and cleaned the to of my finger, I wore it the shower. I had fairly long finger nails that should have been setting on the to of the splint, but slid down into the splint and I was too afraid to fix it so left it that way for 6. weeks. At my six week visit to the doctor I was told that the tenfo was healed but I still had a 20% lag. I was told to leave the splint off and only wear at night, Nit happy with the result I left the splint on full time for six more weeks, thankfully I got down to a 5% lag, it’s very frustrsting, try to be patient and keep it as straight as possible. Good luck!
Thanks Kathy. I feel like the molded plastic Stax splint is very uncomfortable and it feels like my 2 years old could easily yank it right off my finger. I can’t imagine wearing it around the clock. I have been using it to shower and then using a molded bottom splint from the hand doctor with a whole bunch of self-adhesive gauze. I uploaded a video of my routine to Youtube which can be seen here . I feel like I am being careful to keep it straight through the process but if you or anyone else sees any definite mistakes I’m making I’d love to find out now instead of when I go back to the doctor.
Wow, looks like you are doing a great job! I wore the fabricated molded plastic splint using the same tape you are, but never added the extra white tape at the end. That’s the splint I wore in the shower as well. Therapist just told me to keep my hand away from the hot water as the heat can change the shape of the splint. After some swelling went down, the splint became too big so I just went back to have them reheat and mold it again to my finger. Keep up the great work you’ll be back to new in no time!
Thanks for the reply Kathy. When you say you messed it up while cleaning your finger, did you know immediately it had bent or only find out later that it hadn’t healed right? I feel like I’m able to keep it straight between changing the splint but maybe I’m underestimating how little movement is too much. I posted a video of my splint changing routine. If you or anyone else wants to tell me if I’m letting it move to much I’d love to find out now rather than when I’ve invested a bunch of time in it!
Yes Alex, I knew right away that the finger bent while cleaning twice, this was in the first few weeks of splinting. At about 4-5 weeks of straight splinting
Without taking the splint off, I decided to try taking it off to clean and fearful that I bent it without being sure at the time, I know now that I did not. This is all such a learning experience. We will be pros if it ever happens again 😱 Watching your video I can see you are doing a great job. My opinion on the oval 8 is that it didn’t work for me because of swelling going up and down, one day it fit the next it didn’t plus I don’t feel it protected my finger like my fabricated molded splint, Good luck, you will be fine,
Alex – you need to keep your finger as straight as possible. Try not bending it, because otherwise you might need to restart splinting as from day one. If you follow my posts above, I highly recommend the Oval 8 splint (there is a way to find the one that fits you best), you’ll barely see it on the finger and you can get it wet and still be able to work fine with it.
One more thing Alex. Do not despair. It is not the end of the world. It is uncomfortable to have this problem as it affects your every day life, but I had this mallet finger at the beginning of July and by mid September I was 90% healed, and now I’m 99%. The finger moves like new. You can barely see a small bump on the finger (mid joint/phalanx), but otherwise it is just like before the injury. And I think by the end of October even that bump will disappear.
I even changed the splints a couple times without using the table to firmly the finger in extension, but was careful not to bend it forward. I also did an exercise as much as I could every day – I pushed the finger back in extension with the splint on – there is a youtube video showing this exercise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vd2AS5eQlI – but I’d advise to use the splint (or Oval 8) anyway. So if you are careful and patient you will heal.
Thanks for the encouraging words @Sergiu. I have ordered an Oval 8 that will be here soon. I uploaded a video of my splint changing routine. I think/hope I am keeping it straight but if you or anyone else on here who has been through this experience can tell me if I am keeping it straight enough for healing purposes I’d really appreciate it!
Try to keep the finger straight and do not force it. With the splint on do the extension of the finger as in that video I posted above, it helps tons – but do not take off the splint afterwards. Personally I kinda hate the stax splints because if you get the finger wet inside the skin starts macerating and even smelling like unwashed feet underneath.
So many other people who have had this. I don’t feel so alone in this anymore. I just got my mallet finger Monday – first time I had broken anything. I was playing hockey, I fell landed on my hand I after a few minutes I noticed the pain in my left middle finger. I removed the glove and sure enough, it was bent in that way.
I went into shock actually for a short time, dizzy and nauseous, but that passed and I took a cab to the hospital ER where they took the X-Rays and told me I had torn the tendon and there was a very small bone fragment (fracture type). The ER doctor didn’t call it “mallet finger” by name – he was a young student doctor and may not have known the term. However, he did the right thing – gently straightened the finger and referred me to a surgeon to evaluate if surgery was required.
I saw the surgeon two days later (Wed) she removed the ER split carefully and asked me to try to lift my finger. When I could not, she immediately diagnosed it as mallet finger. She looked at the X-rays and said the the bone fragment is very small so surgery is not required. She made a new (smaller – but still aluminum) splint and instructed me on how to remove the splint if required for washing. She was very careful when she made her split to ensure it did not cover the PIP joint so I could still bend that joint. Based on the comments here it sounds like she knew very well what she was doing. She also referred me to a hand specialist to get a custom splint made (still waiting for them to call me). I was told I would need to keep the splint on for 6-weeks and book a follow-up appointment that time.
So..I’ve started the mallet finger journey. I’m on day 2 or day 4 depending on if you count the ER split and I have the follow-up appointment booked on Nov 8. I’m really bummed out by the recovery times in this thread – it sounds like I won’t be playing hockey again for a very, very long time (I was hopeful 6 weeks would be the end if it, but now I’m quite convinced I was mistaken). However, I have gained a great deal of knowledge from others shared experiences so I have a better idea of what to expect and how to handle whats coming up. I figured I’d share my experience so far to help others that come across this.
I had the same. If I were you I would ask the doctor about removing thr splint after 4 weeks max, not 6. A fracture heals faster than a tendon and chances are your tendon is attached to the bone bit.
Also consider that it might take more than a year to regain the full flexibility of the finger (this is my experience). Other than that the reduced flexibility or even the slight bending do not affect in any way the every day use of the finger, even when playing the guitar.
I also have boney mallet finger. I am in week 4 post removal of splint. I can bend my injured joint to around 45 degree. What kind of activities did you do afterwards? Did you got involved with sports or let the finger heal completely before returning to do heavy work with your finger?
I figured I’d write an update on the page. Its been 8 weeks now. My finger was splinted for 6, full time. After week 6 I was sent to the physiotherapist by the surgeon, and she had me begin exercises, taking the split off only for the exercises for 1 week.
At the end of week 7, I was re-evaluated, given an additional exercise to do and told to wear the splint only at night for the next 2 weeks. I have noticed, as I have been pushing myself a little more as I do the exercises and use the finger during the day, that in the morning it is quite straight, but by the afternoon I have slight residual extensor lag and the bump on the DIP joint described by the original author.
While the extensor lag is not very much (it has not been measured, so I don’t have a number) I am going to call the therapist tomorrow and see what her advice is. If I have to, I can live with the lag I have, but I’d also like to do everything possible to minimize it before I am resigned to it.
Thanks for the posts and information so far. I’ll write another update in a few more weeks.
Also, some advice for people in Canada if you get this injury. I was given a aluminum splint by the surgeon which was horrible compared to the other options. By the first week it was sweaty, smelly and all bent out of shape anyway. I was surfing on Amazon for alternatives, but many had to be imported from the US, were very expensive (in some cases, cost more to ship & import then to buy) and would take so long that by the time I’d get them, I’d be ready to remove the split.
I went searching for an alternative. Some of the Shoppers Drug marts in the larger cities have the “Home Health Care” specialty store attached to them. Here in Ottawa, there’s 3 or 4 shoppers drug marts with this store. The one nearest me carried the stax splints, and they cost me under $10 each, many, many times cheaper then buying them on Amazon. I was lucky, that the size I needed was among the sizes they had left.
I asked the lady if this was something they all stocked, she said “no, but we sell a lot of them so we stock them here”. So check around, you may find a better alternative then being stuck with an aluminum splint for 6+ weeks.
You and I are at about the same spot too. I got my splint off last week too after about 8 weeks. The physical therapist in my office said to bend the joint as hard as I could 10x a day while blocking the other joints. After 3 days of doing that my finger started dropping again. Maybe about 10 degrees. Did a little reading and it seems like the therapy she gave me was too aggressive. I’ve started wearing the splint full time again until I can see the dr again next week. Going to be pretty mad if I reinjured it. How does that regiment stack up to the exercises you were prescribed?
I was told no physical therapy necessary! Been out of the splint completely for about three weeks, still can’t make a fist and have at least a 5% lag. I don’t think my finger will ever
Work the same again. Can’t even think of putting a ring back on. I’ve said it before, I don’t think the Doctors take this injury seriously!!
Hi Kathy, if you’re only three weeks out of the splint that’s completely normal. When I had my splint taken off by a hand surgeon, he told me that it’s a six-month injury – and only two of the months are spent in a splint. I, too, was told no physical therapy necessary, but that I needed to do exercises to get the finger moving again. And yes, it took at least four more months of doing those exercises before my hand could close in a fist. I had a bit of a lag at first, and a bump on top of the knuckle, but eventually they went away too. My advice would be to just keep doing the blocking exercises throughout your day and eventually – though not tomorrow or next week, unfortunately – you will see progress.
The therapist gave me no guidance on how hard to push it until I explicitly asked. By then it was too late, I was quite aggressive as you were, and I got the same result (lag). After I asked I was told to only do the exercises until I felt a stretch. As for the lag, I was told to put the splint back on when I noticed the lag and take it off again a couple of hours later. But really, it has not helped, within a couple hours of removing the splint the lag is always back and always the same, I can never quite raise the tip of the finger until it is completely straight.
I have still been going most of the day without the splint anyway because, quite frankly, I’d like to move on with my life. I have not been able to play hockey or do any of my usual activities for over two months now. I’ve been just extending the “night” splinting to include the late afternoons/evenings, but again, it does not seem to make any difference in respect to the lag.
I’m sorry to hear about these issues. Some doctors don’t do their job properly, ignoring the fact that this is a serious injury. I think you will need to have the splint on again, like starting from day one. Having a splint on all day and night for months is not comfortable at all (the reason I switched to Oval 8), but is better than having a hand with fingers that don’t work properly for your entire life
Alex is correct.
I’m now 4+ months out and doing blocking exercises (not as often as I should each day). I still have some residual swelling but my finger has 98% pure function in terms of gripping, strength, and flexibility.
I don’t have completely normal extension (yet). A lot of it compared to the initial injury but not all. Part of the visual problem is the swelling. It’s gone down a lot so I’ve switched to smaller and smaller Oval 8 splints for night wear but it isn’t entirely gone yet.
On the plus side, if it never gets better – it’s fine in terms of daily use and I knit and garden so I use my hands constantly. Now, I’m just focusing on the aesthetic problem.
Here’s the dumb part – at this point nobody else notices the slight flex. To me, it’s a crazy-looking thing. To my friends and family, it’s invisible.
Im in my month 4 as well, my last visit 3 weeks ago To the Dr. I was told to wear the splint another 6 weeks at night only. I asked about therapy and exercises and was told none was needed by both the Dr. And the physical therapist who adjusted my splint. My finger will not allow me to make a fist even though the Dr. Said within s few weejs, you will see that finger bending more and more, I can’t believe these little freak accidents we have all had, have such a lengthily recovery. Quite frankly I’m not sure many of these doctors even take this injury serioulsly.
I actually had the pleasure of having this injury twice, once in 2009 and again in 2013. both were sports related. the second one, as soon as it happened i just stared at my hand in disbelief. are you serious, not again?! these two injuries that have stuck with me mentally as much as physically, and so i still occasionally search the net to read about it. it’s mostly the same recycled info. this is by far the best discussion i’ve come across!
my experiences with both cases were pretty similar to each other, and were a bit like Gillian’s. the first time, i thought it was a dislocation. i ended up in a stack splint for six weeks. after that, the doctor gave me clearance for night only, but my finger started to bruise and had a 20 or so degree lag. i decided to splint full time for another three weeks, and it got rid of the lag, but i still can’t fully bend it. for those with a lag after removing the full time splint, i think a little more splinting can help, but be careful not to do too much or you may develop some issues with flexion as i had happen (that’s my non-medical opinion).
the second mallet finger i did six weeks in full splinting, then weaning off. the result is the same, no extension lag but can’t fully make a fist (comes within 5 or 10 degrees). both fingers feel tight at times, and i can “crack” them moreso than i can crack my other knuckles, which feels good but may compound the issue.
one product i wanted to recommend is something called finger cots. they have them at walmart and cvs and there are a few different brands. basically, they’re finger condoms, intended to be used for something unpleasant i’d guess. my wife and i still joke about it sometimes. but i found them to be a lifesaver. there’s one box that had small, medium, and large. they’d fit over my stack splint. medium and large were great for things like meals where you wanted to prevent food from getting in there. the small actually would form a watertight seal so i could shower. i also used paper clips to scratch under the splint when it started to itch. i didn’t trust myself to take the splint off during the six weeks, even with help from someone else, though it would have been heaven.
this is definitely an injury that you think about all the time when you have it. the first couple weeks it’s hard not to be depressed. some of you mentioned daily countdowns. i actually tracked the hours! i made milestones too, such as buying an expensive beer to have once i passed the halfway point. it’s a lonely condition too. it sounds harmless and so you don’t get much sympathy from folks. it’s great to see a forum with other people who get it. good luck and stay strong to those of you currently powering through it!
Mallet finger update… It has been a long arduous summer for me personally… I wanted to update my status because I think it could be helpful for someone else out there… My original injury was on July 3. My first hand surgeon gave me a generic stak splint to start and I had significant difficultly with the fit and stability. After a little pressure I was sent to a CHT to get fitted for 2 custom splints. I carefully used both splints over the next 4 weeks and was re-evaluated by the hand surgeon (skin breakdown and a lot of swelling). He was not happy with the healing process and thought that I would have a better outcome if we put a K-Wire in the DIP joint for 6-7 weeks. I proceeded to have the surgery on July 28 and decided to stick with a 7 week plan for removal. I went into the hand surgeons office on Sept 19 and had the K-Wire removed. I was so nervous and excited to move forward with this pesky injury. Unfortunately he informed me that the finger bent when he took the K-Wire out and that I would have to get back in the custom splint for 8 more weeks. I am 3 weeks into that 8 week time frame and all I can do is pray that this will work this time. I have been a bit concerned about my range of motion overall because my PIP joint is getting tight now. I wish I could post pictures on here to show the progress because I think I have perfected the splints. I wear the cupped splint all day long with Coban wrapped up around my PIP joint (it just helps me relax the PIP joint more and get a few range of motions exercised in). At night I switch out to straight finger splint on top of my finger wrapped with paper tape. I find that using “butterfly closures” with help initially stabilize the splints on and then allows we a bit of flexibility to wrap the Coban without the risk of bending the joint. I went in for a check up today and I do see that the joint is starting to heal. I don’t have the medial rotation of my finger tip anymore and I feel like the DIP joint is not as delicate when I am changing out my splints and cleaning my finger. I wish everyone good healing and hope that my next post will be a bit more positive!
Susan (Middle finger dominate hand… yeah that has been interesting 🙂
I have the same thing on my right hand, I’ve been wearing a splint similar for four weeks. And now my finger is straight cut won’t bend fully. It didn’t hurt in the beginning but now it does and it looks bruised over the joint. Feels like it’s getting worse instead of better. .
Mine was bruised also, that I believe is normal. Just my opinion though about wearing the splint for only 4 weeks, I’m not sure if that is long enough.
The PT told me he’s seen several cases where people took it off too soon and the finger drooped again. Not trying to scare you, but be careful.
Agreed Kathy. from what i understand, at four weeks it could be at a point where it’s healed enough to support itself, but it would likely be very fragile. all the info i’ve gathered has advised leaving it in the splint longer
Yesterday was 3 weeks in the splint and its feels like it has been about 3 years. I am still terrified I’m not doing it right and it’s consuming my thoughts. When I was changing into my Oval 8 for the shower about 10 days ago I think it may have bent for a second so I’m not sure If I’m on day 21 or day 10. I still wish I knew how much bend was too much. I have a box of splints now. Auerbach, Oval 8, Stax and the little aluminum foam thing the hand doctor gave me. I don’t feel like I can keep my knuckle 100% straight for the entire day with any of them. I mean it’s straightish but I’m sure that it flexes up and down slightly throughout the day (although I can’t really see the joint when I wrap the coban tape over my custom splint. I was reading the comments on this other site (see link below) and on Suefoe’s post above (what a nightmare) and it has me terrified! Seems like more than half of the commenters say they had no real healing even after splinting. I’m not even kidding when I say that I’ve probably spent an hour every day reading about this injury. From what I understand, it is scar tissue that forms in between the two sides of the severed tendon to join it together. So it would seem to me that it would still heal slightly bent with more scar tissue if it was held slightly bent. Maybe a little more long term lag but I don’t care so much about that as long as I can use it. Even those of you that still have a lag do you have function/ability to lift it? I have broken my elbow before and just earlier this year I tore an entire fingernail out past the cuticle. Both of those injuries were a walk in the park compared to the mental anxiety of this stupid thing. Waiting for something to heal is annoying but not knowing if something is healing is agonizing.
The uncertainty of the outcome is definitely one of the toughest parts Alex. It sounds like you’re doing everything right though. That’s all you can do for now. Are you using all of those splints? The aluminum thing concerned me, it just didn’t feel snug and secure. How does your Oval 8 fit? I bought a whole ring of them on Amazon, lol. I was actually in between sizes. I ended up wrapping some tape around it, to make the inside area a little smaller. It made for a good fit, and I thought a little more comfortable as well.
For those of you who are now out of the splint and can’t bend the finger now, the blocking exercises found here helped me. It took a long time (at least three months!) before I was able to make a complete fist, but my finger is now 100% normal now, and these were exercises that helped. (Sorry about the link, the website appears to be gone now so I retrieved it from the Wayback Machine – picture links are broken). So don’t give up if you are a month or two out of the splint and are still having problems. My hand surgeon told me that it is a six-month injury, and only two of them are spent in the splint.
Good luck fellow sufferers!
A word of advice from somebody who had this injury almost 2 years ago. Do not expect to be back to 100% with your finger, this is the exception rather than the rule. The time with the splint varies with the type of injury (with a fracture it is more around 3-4 weeks), and as many have said you are better off with a specialist. Notice that a fracture like injury will likely result in a straight finger, but you will have problems making a fist like you used to (it depends on how the bone will heal, and whether the tendon will shrink or not, this is my injury actually).
Some have described this as a 12 months injury: I think in some cases if not most it can go up to 2 years, at the end of which you might or might not be back to 100%. What you need to measure (more than just looking at the lagging angle) is whether you are back to doing all the things you were doing before or not: if you are, I’d say you are already out of the woods. My 2 cents
Thanks for the blog, it’s been an interesting read. My story is that I was trying to catch a nerf football on the beach. It was in the water, also had water in it which made it rock hard. It glanced off the water into my outstretched right middle finger. There was a little pain, but I heard no pop and just looked like it was dislocated. After attempts to reduce it (put it back in place) with no avail, went to urgent care. They X-rayed and it showed no fracture or dislocation. Put me in a long finger splint and recommended I see an ortho. Being December 17th, I called the next monday for an appt but couldn’t get in until Jan 9th. Since then I’ve been using various splints and k-tape (kinesiology tape) to keep the DIP joint straight. Problem is that I need to change the tape daily and try to wash my finger to avoid skin irritation. I try to not let it droop so who knows the condition it will be in when I get to see the Dr. The most current issue is that I’m an amateur bass player and being left handed my right hand does all the fretting. Good news, is that I’m a bass player. I don’t need to bend that DIP joint on my right hand all that much, but having it straight causes some sloppiness. If I was a guitar player forming chords, I’d be in trouble. Hopefully, I can avoid the stax splint as that doesn’t seem like it would allow me to play all that freely. My job as a programmer requires typing but I don’t see that as much of a problem as doing what I love, playing my bass guitar. I guess patience is a virtue..
Hi everyone same thing happen to me Oct. 31, 2016. I was playing around with my niece and few seconds later I happen to look down at my hand in NO pain at all, my pinky finger on the land hand was bend downward without the ability to bend it back upward. I was scared to death. I went to the ER, and the DOC told me it was clearly a contution which I knew wasn’t true I tried to explain that to her but she insists on telling me I had one. So I went for a second opinion on Nov.1 and sure enough the doctor looked at my finger within 20 minutes I was there she told me I had a mallet finger, me looking terrified never heard of that. So she told me I ruptured a tendon and I need to be seen by a orthopedic hand DOC ASAP. So they wrapped me in a splint and told me to set an appt. with the Ortho doc. A week later I’m in the ortho appt. they took xtrays and the ortho doc explained to me what I ruptured and what to expect. After all the instructions she told me I needed a specially made splint that would cost me a lot. So here I am paying out of pocket for appointments and the splint. So here I am now I had to wear the splint for 60 days. My last apt. was on Dec22. 16. My ortho Doc did another xtray and said she was thrilled about how my finger had healed and she wanted me to wear the 1 week off for 1 hour. Then 2weeks off for 2 weeks, 3 weeks off for three hours, which I’m in now, and four weeks for fours hours. And the rest was up to me if I wanted to continue seeing her. I’m still not 100 sure if I’m ready yet. Because my finger swells bad after having the splint off within the time period. I will keep you all updated. Thanks for listening.
Hello all, I am 13 weeks out of initial injury– it occurred while cleaning a tray for a yard sale … ( all this for a $1.00 tray for sale ..UGH ).. went to Urgent care got x-ray and a splint–and a diagnosis no break only rupture of tendon ( mallet finger )– pointer finger– right hand– went to hand surgeon .. got another splint .. both were simple aluminum and foam– I tried several positions and tapes — and kept it straight or in slight extension for a full 8 weeks– top of finger was very sore and red .. had to use extreme care to wash and use lotion for skin daily– after 8 weeks .. still very sore and stiff– wore splint at night and partially during day for another 3 weeks… now .. out of splint — finger joint still sore and red and will not bend … I am doing blocking exercises and trying to make a fist several times a day .. I do not force it — affected joint still quite swollen, sore and red .. so I cannot really tell if I have use of it as it will not really bend — this is the most annoying injury I have ever had–and on the most used finger of all— I sometimes think it would have been better to taken the finger off than to endure this recovery— but I can only hope that it will begin to reduce in swelling and stiffness and become a useful member of my hand again in the near future–I will keep coming back to this helpful blog– thanks for everyone’s stories — I sympathize with you all.
Hi Terri and everyone!
I’ve posted several times about my mallet finger, but it’s been awhile, so here’s my update. I injured my finger back in June 2016. Been out of the splint completely since October 2016.
I lost several weeks with mishaps and had to start over a couple of times. Anyway to date my finger still will not let me make a complete fist and is still swollen, some days worse than others
I’ve also noticed now too that my fingernail is not growing properly and has little indentations on it. As difficult as all this was/is. Things could always be worse (loosing the finger) I know the recovery makes you think it might have been better, but not in my opinion. Also. My finger is not straight and I don’t anticipate that it ever will be. Good luck to all.
I’m on week 3 of wearing my splint..Middle finger of my left hand (could get me into trouble sticking out there!!)..I didn’t realise just quite how left handed I am until this injury..Such an inconvenience!..washing not only your own hair but the hair of 3 young children is so frustrating..my daughter once had perfect plaits for school,now she looks like a st Trinian thats been dragged through a hedge backwards (and thats at 8:50 as i kiss her googbye)..cutting cheese,pizza,school sarnies..arghhhhh. ..Please let this heal…I’m sure it would have been easier to have broken my arm!!!!!
I empathize –I know it is so frustrating..I couldn’t wait to get splint off .. but now realize it may take months to get back to possibly normal ? since mine was pointer finger .. I could only do a peace sign when I wanted to shoot a bird –hahaha…make sure you keep flexing the other finger joint .. it will get very stiff if you don’t.. good luck to you– I hope your results will be amazing
Well, visually it took longer than I thought it would but the finger is straight now 10 months later. It can’t hyperflex like my other finger but nobody can detect that except me.
The swelling from the break/tendon issue is still going down – you read that right. At 10 months I still have some visible swelling and it declines every month. Maybe at 2 years it will all be gone. But I have 100% grip strength, can curl into a fist, do everything I could ask of that finger (and maybe a tiny bit more due to the exercises).
I still wear an Oval 8 splint every night and it’s not a bother – just routine now.
My take home message is that this injury is baffling and kind of crazy but you’ll get better information off this site or others than you probably will from your hand surgeon. The blocking exercises are much better than the handout from your doctor (which is generic). The concerns raised here and the replies are more informative and useful than what the nurse or P.A. can offer. And the community of fellow victims is simply more useful.
Don’t despair or rush to a surgical option. Give it a lot of time and patience, Do the blocking exercises. Wait (and wait and wait) for all the swelling to subside. Wear your splint!!!! Don’t blow that off. Move into an Oval 8 when you are de-splinted by your doctor. Use it religiously and do move down in size as the swelling recedes.
Don’t give up. This will take way longer than a broken leg to heal. Just accept that and move on.
Hi Terri and all,
I’m sitting a little confused right now, Thinking maybe there was more I should have been doing. I was told by the pt not to exercise the finger because it could it could actually have more negative affects than positive, so I didn’t. I also stopped wearing the night splint and all splints as directed by doctor, again I was told that keeping it on could cause more damage than good. I am not happy with my results thus far, 9 months later. Still can’t make a fist ? My finger has a lag, and now my fingernail is not growing properly. All things I can live with and are not life threatening, but this injury had been quite the emotional ride. I’ve said it before, I don’t think the doctors take this injury seriously. In fact I told the surgeon I went to who also did my mother’s very successful shoulder replacement that it was strange that he could replace a shoulder but not fix a mallet finger. Terri is 100 percent right there is more information here than the doctors office. We should all get together and invent an easier way to solve the mallet finge issues!
Terry is right, you need a LOT of patience with this type of injury. My cousin broke his hand and in 3 months he is like new. This might not happen so easily with the mallet finger, it seems to take longer to heal. Again I highly recommend Oval 8 splints, which allow your finger’s skin to breathe, and you can do almost all the chores with it this way. But in the end you need to wait and be patient for it to heal properly. I was lucky my finger healed 100%, all swelling is now gone and I can use it like before. So do not despair
Hi, I joined the mallet finger club about ten weeks ago , I fell while walking the dogs , I went to a&e within the hour and was splinted and given orthopaedic appointment for the following week at which time I was told to keep the splint on for 6 weeks I went back every week for them to wash and redress it for me as I was so scared about doing it myself it is lucky that it’s only a five minuites walk to the hospital . When the six weeks were up the consultant removed the splint and there it was ,this Hugh swollen sausage like finger . I asked for the splint back to wear at night but he laughed and threw it in the bin saying it was all mended and nice and straight and to keep flexing my hand and would I like to be referred to a hand specialist to which I said yes please . Next morning it had drooped a bit and was so painful and swollen , there was no way I could flex it but I saw the hand specialist the following week and she has given me loads of excersises to do , block ones every hour and more intense ones 3 times a day she also gave me some Coban to use at night to help with the swelling . I saw her again a week later and she was very pleased with my progress I have to carry on for another three weeks now before seeing her again . My hand is still very weak and finger rather horrid looking all deformed and twice the size and every morning I feel like I am back to square one with the stiffness and pain but by the evening it feel much better . What a stupid injury this is . My sister fell a couple of weeks a go and broke her wrist it’s not half the trouble .
Hi . I hurt my finger on friday night. Much to everyones hilarity. They werent laughing at 6 am on saturtay morning when we left a and e. I am not laughing now that i have discovered I have to weat a bit of plastic and tape on my right hand ring finger for eight weeks. My kids just washed up, put the bins out and hoovered. Cant see that lasting! As for work and fun I am always doing things mainly practical and teach art. Cant clean a pallette without getting wet and my hand is always covered in paint. I invested in latex gloves and hope they work. All because i tried to stuff a sleeping bag into its cover.
Love the blog. Good luck everyone and fast healing!
Yes, it’s really frustrating at first. But don’t worry, you will learn to cope. (Just don’t tell the kids…!) Latex gloves are helpful for keeping the splint dry when you shower, wash dishes, etc. Good luck!
Wish you fast healing!! Like I have said before in a couple posts, try getting the Oval 8 splints. They definitely made my life so much easier than any other type of splints. And it was pretty hard to get them in Eastern Europe, but well worth it.
I haven’t read any posts on here about swan neck deformity as a result of mallet finger. I was splinted for 8 weeks and just got my splint off. Now I have swan neck finger and lag. The doctor said I would just have to live with it. I know that is not true. My finger just needs to be splinted in an anti-swan neck splint. I saw a you tube video from Action Rehab in Australia that addresses this problem but obviously I can’t go to Australia to have a finger splint made. The problem is I don’t know who to go to here in Dallas. Most doctors only address the DIP joint and not the PIP joint which in my case was also involved. I need to take care of this before it is too late. I would appreciate any information anyone might be able to provide.
hi. i am gratefull for this article.. I have after operation 10-15 percents lag…I think my tendom is little bit too long whats why i have lag. Maybe someone know, Can i reduce it?
I got my mallet finger 6 weeks ago while undressing…went immediately to Urgent Care and they gave me a too-big Stax splint at which point I found the Oval 8 online and have been switching back and forth between size 7 and 8 depending on the time of day (swelling). Up until this week when changing the splint I would keep my finger tip pressed against a table but this week I once noticed that my finger stays straight when I remove the splint so am not pressing it against a table any more.
Against the advice of my GP, I have still be going to the gym and lifting weights, I just wrap that sticky self-adhesive tape around the Oval 8 and it stays straight. So now that it’s been 6 weeks and my finger stays straight when I remove the splint, I am nervous about trying to flex my DIP joint (PIP joint moves fine because of the Oval 8) since for 6 weeks I have been intentionally trying to make sure it doesn’t flex!
Anyway, I just read through 258 responses to this blog post that was put up like 3 years ago now so I just thought I’d add my experience. I am probably going to keep splinting the finger for another few days into next week just for good measure and then see how it goes from there.
Hello fellow mallet sufferers!
This site has been such a help to me that I wanted to share my experience to see if it might be useful to others as well. I got my injury about 4 months ago – rushing to take off my running pants to jump in the shower. I felt a weird buzzing feeling and then a wave of nausea as I looked at my very crooked mingle finger and swooned! My husband is an MD and told me right away what had happened. I went to the ER for an X-ray and the kind but slightly nonchalant doc there put on a very clunky splint and told me to see the cast clinic. I couldn’t get in for about a week so struggled with the splint he gave me in the interim – it was one of those huge metal ones with blue foam inside. This thing came off so easily that it slipped off 3 times in the first couple of weeks – from almost anything that touched it: digging in my purse, tucking in a shirt, or folding a blanket. It was extremely frustrating every time it came off as I knew it was setting the clock back to zero.
At the cast clinic, they made me a molded kind of boat-cradle piece that cupped my finger and was held on with velcro straps. I noticed right away that after an hour or so in that splint, my finger started to bend within it and it wasn’t keeping any kind of extension.
Thus began my search for a decent splint. I ordered a bunch of different kinds online: an Oval-8, a few sizes of stax splints, and a straight foam piece that I was able to tape on the back of my finger. I am someone who uses my hands a lot, all day. I have two young kids and my work is primarily writing. Since it is my dominant hand that was injured, the biggest challenges for me were: typing, writing, holding a knife to chop vegetables, fixing my girls’ hair, doing up my jeans, washing dishes, carrying heavy things (especially luggage), digging out wet laundry from the washer, and anything requiring any kind of mess. It took a few weeks of trial and error but I eventually figured out what worked best for me. The stax splints are by far the best ones for security. I would fold a thin strip of paper towel into layers and place it between the top of my finger and the top edge of the splint and slide it on, and then secure it with medical tape. This stayed on really well and had a low enough profile for an XL rubber glove to go over it for dishes, etc. When I needed to do a lot of typing and wanted to have the pad of my finger exposed, I used the straight metal piece taped on my finger, but this really bothered my skin after an hour or so. I also got some rubber finger cots (mini-condoms) from the CVS and these were perfect for showering. As long as it stayed dry, the stax splint didn’t ever slip off or get all that stinky. I think the paper towel kept it from irritating my skin too badly. Still, I changed it most days to give my finger a minute of breathing space just sitting at the counter. Once, I tried to wear the big blue splint again to just give it a rest, and the thing slipped off as I was folding a quilt and instantly my finger bent. This was 3 weeks in and I seriously cried!
Nobody, my husband included, seemed to understand how disruptive and difficult this injury was. I was feeling very frustrated that I had done this to myself and was facing a permanent deformity. Anyway, that was the last “bend”, and after that, I was either heavily taped into a splint or sitting still at the counter giving my skin a chance to breathe. Because of all these early slips, I was determined to keep the splint on for a full run, so I kept it on for 11 weeks (8 weeks post-final-bend). When I went back to the clinic, the extremely young doc (she looked about 19!) informed me that I had worn the splint way too long and had probably caused permanent damage to my finger. Sure enough, when I took off the splint, it looked awful: purple, swollen, stiff, and still crooked! I was disappointed to say the least. Actually, I cried again – the second time from this darn injury. I felt really dispirited leaving the clinic with a finger that was extremely sensitive and hardly moved at all, thinking that I had potentially destroyed it even worse than before.
That night, I read everything I could find on the internet, including this site. I realized that there is very little consensus among health professionals about the correct protocol of treatment. Splint duration seems to range from 6-12 weeks, and there are widely divergent opinions about what to do if your finger is still crooked after the splint comes off. Some people say put the splint back on for another 6 weeks, some say to just wear it at night, some say to start exercises and some say to baby it and barely use it for a while. My doctor had told me to throw away the splint and to aggressively try to stretch it back into flexion. Her advice didn’t feel right to me. For one thing, it hurt like hell when I tried to push it into a bend, and I could see that the lag was getting worse from the moment the splint came off. On the morning she took it off, there was maybe a 5 degree bend and by the evening it was probably 20 degrees and was starting to look like it did when I first broke it.
I just decided that the doctor was wrong, something that goes against my nature to respect the medical authorities. After reading so much on the internet, I actually felt like I knew more about mallet finger than she did, and my husband confirmed that there is very little known about these kinds of injuries as few studies are done. Since that time, I instituted my own protocol: wearing a splint at night, taking it easy with it during the day, just slowly edging my way back into normal activities, and occasionally doing “power pinch” exercises when I think of it. It has been 3 weeks since the splint came off, and although it is far from perfect, I have seen a lot of improvement. First off, I now have FULL use of my finger for all my daily tasks, including typing. I actually did a pretty challenging ropes course on the weekend that required me to use my finger constantly to clip caribiners and grasp ropes. I can make a full fist and the sensitivity is almost gone.
Now for the negatives. My finger is still not straight. There is probably a 10 degree bend at the end, sometimes less, sometimes more. It bothers me aesthetically, but it is probably more noticeable to me than anyone else. It is still swollen, though less so, and the colour is more normal. I am supposed to start physical therapy next week (I had to wait 3 weeks for an appt.), and I am hopeful that some blocking exercises will further reduce the lag.
While there is still time for improvement, my feeling is that for some mallet injuries, there will never be a 100 percent fix. The best you can hope for is a finger that is not obviously deformed and can once again do everything you need it to. Like many things about getting older, at some point you have to accept that you are not going to ever get back to your younger self, but you can still work to build the most functional, healthy body you can get. I am 43 years old, and I don’t consider myself a vain person, but it is still a little tough to look at my crooked finger. But, it is also tough to look at my crow’s feet and grey hairs, so there you go! I am grateful that my finger is working well again and can do all the things I want it to do. I will try to check in every few months to give you an update and share any tips I come across for improvement. I sympathize with every person visiting this site and wondering how it’s all going to turn out. It won’t be as bad as you think, but it probably will never be perfect again.
Hello,i want to say that my doctor said that external lag can improve by time..furthermore one of writers Mark wrote about his lag,that lag reduced aftee few months…so maybe it can take more time 🙂 i have 15-degree lag,still dissapointed.
Thanks for this. I’m on day 3 and the depression is almost as bad as the physical
Pain. I don’t know how I can deal
With this for 8 weeks. I’m a very active person. Sports and the gym. I can deal with taking time off from both as much as I don’t want to but the uncertainty of the recovery is what is really digging into my psyche.
I am very active too, and I probably overdid it with the activity while I was in the splint (mountain biking and weight training with whatever open-handed grip I could manage). The most important thing is to be clear with your doctor about your level of activity and anything you NEED your hands for, like your occupation, playing a musical instrument, etc.
In retrospect, I would have completely avoided any activity that requires a grip, even with the non-splinted fingers, and let the finger heal. Eight weeks seems long but it goes by quickly. Because of my disappointment with the results we decided to re-splint for an additional 6 weeks. But realize that after the 24/7 splinting ends there is probably another eight weeks of getting your range of motion back without over-stretching the tendons, and in many ways my doctor thinks that period is equally critical to a successful recovery. Typically there are a few weeks of wearing the splint only at night, but during that time I would also slip the splint back on during any activity when I was likely to overstress or injure the finger.
As far as activity, you can substitute other exercises/activities, and realize that there will be a period of re-conditioning after this is all done. And yes, for most of us this is a much more significant injury than it seems at first.
Please don’t stress out over the lag! Sure, YOU see it but trust me, nobody else does unless you point it out. The lag is much less important than your grip and your functional use.
I’m slightly over a year out now. I have full function and 95% of the swelling is gone. Yep, I still have a tiny bit of swelling. My finger is straight in the morning but I can see a bit of a lag by evening. Meh. It’s purely cosmetic. So far, Vogue photographers haven’t suddenly demanded that I model rings at 9:00 p.m.
Forget everything you think you know about healing and recovery – this injury is simply weird and frustrating. It’s entirely different from breaking your leg. As an example, I still splint at night and do blocking exercises when I think of them. One of my friends has had 2 knee replacements since February and I expect she will be 100% recovered by August. Me? Still working on it.
Be patient with yourself, do your blocking exercises, get into the Oval 8 splint early, and….relax about it. Function is way more important than form. If you see a bit of lag just let it go. After all, you still have a finger and it works! Most of all: time. This injury takes way more time. Don’t beat yourself up.
Thank you Terry for your response.I want to ask, did your lag improve a lit bit or not by time?
It improved 99% from the original injury. I’d guess that 70% of the improvement was due to being very strict with splinting and the rest was/is due to blocking exercises.
Keep in mind that I also broke the bone where the tendon attaches!
I still have a tiny bit of swelling and I use my hand (and that finger) A LOT so that is probably why a bit of lag reappears at night but is much better every morning. Your injury is probably different if no bone was broken.
Do those exercises every time you have a couple of spare minutes if you are out of your splint during the day. You can’t do them too much! And give it a lot of time.
If I had no more improvement (but I think I will), I’d still be fine with where I’m at since I have full function and the tiny lag at night is not noticeable to others.
Hello mallet finger fellows!
I’m on my 2nd mallet finger injury, lucky me! First one occured when I was 15 playing football (soccer) in goal and saving a bad shot which bent my ring finger DIP joint on my left hand! Ruined a potential career to be a professional footballer as was playing at quite a high level level, injury caused by a certain famous footballer, I will not disclose names!
I’ll start with some reassurance as I know it’s an injury that feels like you never see light at the end of the tunnel, I fully recovered from it and I have full mobility in my finger with zero drop, that was 13 years ago! So with my 2nd mallet finger I am keeping high hopes I will make a full recovery.
My current mallet finger, yet again playing football, mis-caught a ball and bent finger, this time my right middle finger DIP joint! Although the finger didn’t droop as much as frst time, but soon as I took my glove off I knew I had snapped the tendon as it was still quite floppy. Fortuantely I have private medical cover in the UK so I’ve been in good hands (…bad pun)! X-ray showed no broken/fracture bone, it’s preferred if the bone fractures off with the tendon as quicker to heal.
I’ve had my splint on for 8 weeks solid (31st July was 8th week), it was a custom made splint that goes over the top of my finger, made out of plastic with breathable holes. It’s the plastic you dip into hot water which makes it mallable so you can then mould it before it cools and sets. The physio moulded it around my finger giving it slight extension of the DIP joint affected.
I cleaned my finger every week, it used to take around 45 minutes as I was extremely careful to keep the finger flat, I sometimes propped up the tip of my finger with something to maintain the slight extension position when hand was laid flat, always cut the tape into strips for strapping and lay out before you start cleaning so you have less to juggle whilst your finger is exposed! If I ever needed to lift my finger up I’d use my other hand to support the finger.
I visited the physio on 31st July and took the splint off to see the state of the finger, luckily it looks to have healed very well, it has a slight extension which is fine and more importantly no drop.
The tendon is extremely stiff due to how it heals, I tried to bend it as per physio’s request but it would hardly bend, maybe a few degrees, it’s expected at this stage, plus I was worried it would just snap after 8 weeks of perseverance so I wasn’t trying too hard to bend. I was able to extend the finger from the little bend I had which was great.
I now only need to wear the splint most parts of the day mainly for protection and definately on at night when sleeping.
To get the flexion back I need to do finger exercises e.g. holding the finger straight isolating the joint and flexing and extending the DIP joint for a few reps, 5 times a day, making a fist and releasing.
I will see the physio in 2 weeks time to see the progression of the flexion.
The biggest concern I have is not having full flexion back in my joint. But I am keeping in high hopes and spirits as I’ve faced these hurdles before and came out the other side ok and I know what to expect.
A few tips which have helped before and this time round:
– Patience is the key for all stages of this injury! from the splinting to the exercises. First time round was my dominant hand, it was a huge struggle, 2nd time round my non-dominant and the struggle doesn’t come close as it did the first time, so I feel for you guys who have the injury on the dominant hand.
– 8 weeks in splint 24/7, tendon seems fully healed, physio said it looks excellent. Previous time I think it was only 6 weeks but 8 weeks won’t do any harm. Make sure splint is in perfect position and well strapped.
– Ask the doctor/physio about having the splint in a slight extended position, I do mean slight not fully extended! My fingers are hypermobile and I want to try and keep it.
– If it’s the DIP joint, permitting the doctor/physio say it’s ok to do so try to keep the PIP joint fully flexible and keep its full (or most) range of movement, you don’t want that joint to go stiff, keep exercising it. Doctor might forcefully strap the PIP joint at a permanent bent angle if they are concerned about that joint being affected.
– To assist the finger from dropping, wrap tape around the top tip of finger and criss-cross it over the top of finger, see photos below for example
– Cleaning, if the splint is breathable with holes and using microporus tape you can get away with cleaning it just once a week, 10 days at a push, know your body and how it reacts, don’t get the dressing wet at all costs.
– Post 24/7 splinting, do the exercises. A few reps for 4/5 times a day, as the days and weeks go by you will notice the flexion coming back to your joint. Don’t dispear, it’s a slow process and the hardest part of this whole injury is trying to get the flexion back, it will gradually come back if all goes well.
– The exercising and occasional splint wearing phase (e.g. night) will be for a long time, probably many more months after, it will turn into a routine.
– Be careful, the last thing you want is a semi flexible joint hitting something hard and causing damage, I remember hitting it multiple times, it does hurt, and you do panic, watch out.
Here are some pics:
Example of criss-cross bandage, may help prevent finger from drooping if lifted up by mistake:
Post 8 weeks just out of splint:
Splint and flexing the PIP joint keeping mobility:
YouTube vid of me strapping up the splint, this was after the 8 weeks of splinting, it was just a quick video to show the steps of strapping and what points:
Any questions let me know, good luck to everyone! 🙂
This just happened to me about 6 days ago are used spat tape also known as athletic tape and wrapped it over I used an a large amount I guess it’s hard to explain though not too much it seems to be working quite well occasionally all use a very thin strip to reinforce the tip knuckle listen to your post I suppose I’ll have to take off the athletic tape it has to be a heavy fiber it stays on very good even in the shower and after the shower it actually has a tendency to tighten up a little.. it keeps my finger highly immobilized.. thank you for your post
Yes. Exactly. I’m at Day 49 I know exactly how you felt about writing each sentence. THats for your words.
Please can anyone help. My mallet finger, middle finger left hand has been splinted for 10 weeks. I am left handed and play guitar and piano. The splint is now off and I have been given exercises to do. If still looks a bit swollen and slightly droopy especially at the end of the day. Is there any hope?
Hi Gillian. Don’t know if you are still posting on here but thank you so much for this blog. As I have said above I am struggling with my mallet finger. It has been 11 weeks ago yesterday since I did the injury cleaning bird dirt from my car windscreen. I applied a lot of pressure with the sponge and my hand slipped and hey presto floppy middle left finger. The splint is now off but I am wearing it at night and when doing any jobs around the house etc. The finger still looks swollen and a bit red and aches a bit as well. Have seen a physio and am doing gentle excercises but the tip droops more so during the day. Nothing like the original injury when I couldn’t move it at all. Is there any hope that the lag can get better with time? I can bend reasonably well to make a fist but am very concerned about the lag. Can the exercises and time help to reduce the lag, swelling and ache and am I still in the early stages of recovery? I feel so despondent with this awful injury. I so want to be able to play my guitar again. How are you doing with it now? Thanks in advance. Regards despondent Margot
Yes, I still post here. 🙂 Fortunately for me, my finger healed well and is back to 100%, but unfortunately for everyone else, it means I have no real advice for people who have fingers that continue to lag.
I do agree, however, that you are still in the early stages of recovery. When I got my splint off after 8 weeks, my hand surgeon said that mallet finger is a 6-month injury, and that splinting is only about a third of it! Yes, it did take many months before I got back to normal – it was about well after 8 months before I could make a full fist. I don’t recall having any lag problems, though.
If you’ve only been out of the splint for a week, the swelling, redness and achiness you mention should go away with time; just give it a couple more weeks, and keep doing the exercises unless your physio tells you otherwise. Maybe someone who has had lingering lag issues comment on whether they did go away after a few months. I only had a bit of a droop but it eventually disappeared. Now you would never know that I once had mallet finger.
Good luck and keep us posted!
Thank you so much for your reply Gillian. I am not sure whether mine is lag or droop. Just won’t quite extend fully and droops more as the day goes by. Physio said strengthening exercises may help. Don’t know whether to splint it a bit more. Did your finger ache a bit? I really do feel very despondent.
My injury was over a year ago, sadly, I have a lag and still cannot make a complete fist. I was told no excercise as it could actually make it worse. I am not happy but it’s tolerable. Best of luck!
Thank you Kathy – not sure whether mine is lag or droop! I have read they are the same. Physio says it could improve with strengthening exercises. I can make a fist already but still very stiff. So sorry you still have lag. Could you have a small op?
I just wanted to chime in to give some hope to those with a lag after the splint comes off. As I wrote earlier, when my splint came off after 11 weeks, my finger looked really terrible. It started the day only slightly drooped, but by evening looked almost as bad as it did right after the break. It seemed to be clenching tighter throughout the day and bending on its own. In despair, I continued to wear my splint (actually a removable mini-cast by this time, custom made with quick-cast by the OT) at night. Weirdly enough, within about a week, I started to see a real improvement. I was also doing “power-pinch” exercises during the day whenever I thought about it. I’m not sure which made the real difference, but now, 5 weeks later, my finger is almost completely back to its pre-break perfection (lol!) Seriously, it is still a little swollen, but otherwise is normal enough that you wouldn’t be able to tell that it was broken. I actually got the idea of the power pinch from this video:
which I found in desperation, and honestly kind of thought the guy might be a quack. I still tried it because if seemed low-risk and actually felt good to do on my finger. Between these two things, I have seen a HUGE improvement. I would say, if ongoing droop or lag is your problem, it might be worth a try to do these exercises and continue splinting at night (in a good hyper-extension position). I saw a difference in a couple of weeks and now I am so happy I did it. I have actually stopped the nighttime splinting and the exercises over the last couple of weeks and have seen no regression. All the best.
Thank you so much for your input and the prospect of some hope. My droop is nothing like it was when I did it – couldn’t move it at all. Now I can bend it – it’s stiff and a bit red and swollen. It feels very weak and fragile but I think it is still only early days with an extensor tendon injury. I will look at the video. Thank you Milk and Marble it is good to hear some positive input. Regards Margot
August 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm
I’m glad you found my blog post helpful; I wrote it because I couldn’t figure out a good way to keep my finger clean and no other blogs touched on this subject. Like you, I figured I would bend the finger as soon as I tried to remove or put the splint back on. I was able to keep it clean just by using a thick cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol, and it wasn’t that bad when I finally got the splint removed.
Wow, that sounds even worse than me jamming my finger in my boot! It’s amazing how every day activities can be so dangerous. The good news is, you will eventually get used to the splint. It took me about 2 weeks before I learned how to function with it. The remaining 4 weeks weren’t fun, but I managed to survive. At least you don’t have to worry about dealing with winter gloves!
It’s now been almost six months since the injury, and it’s still not 100%. The lag seems reduced, but I still can’t make a complete fist, and it still hurts at times. Still, this has not affected the function of it; I have the complete use of that finger. The joint closest to my hand is the one that hurts, so I would advise you to keep flexing that joint when changing the tape, if you can’t flex it with it on as I couldn’t.
Best of luck with your mallet finger!
Hi Gillian…..have been looking back over your comprehensive blog and it would seem that you did suffer with some lag at the time. I shall take comfort that over the years you have forgotten about this as your finger returned gradually to normal. Thanks so much for posting this blog. Best wishes to you, Margot
Hello, luckily my mam sent me this site as this also happened to me while making the bed. I do yoga and I’m generally fit so I was surprised when this happened. I wanted to ask if any one suffered the same injury while being very upset. I had recently had a loss which was really emotionally upsetting and I was very tense for weeks, this is when the injury happened while tucking the end of the bed sheets. I did not even use any force. I have just recently taken the splint off after eight weeks. The finger looks a lot better but still droops down a little and is painful on the top. I still cannot bend the finger and I am putting the splint on at night. Julia
Folding a tent
Obviously a valuable posting – three cheers for Gillian!!!
Here is a link to the missing document from the links above:
Click to access malletfinger_presentation.pdf
I have not been to the doctor for mine (to spite my wife’s na… ‘er, urging.
After I first injured it – exactly as described: pop, no immediate pain, drooping finger, etc. I placed my finger in an aluminum and foam, velcro splint but would take it off to wash my hands and check on condition. Last I knew – before I splinted 24/7 – was I was still able to flex it some. But I soon Googled my way into a mallet finger self-diagnosis and have been resigned to 8 weeks splinted.
One week in, I accidentally lost the splint and quickly put it back on; although I don’t really think I allowed the joint to bend I still reset the clock.
I have been in the middle of a big job that requires a lot of manual labor (read construction) and find the aluminum and foam splint too bulky and risky. I have begun using a 3/4 in. wooden craft stick cut to about 1-3/4 in. – with a layer of foam medical tape as a pad – taped on the joint with foam tape to immobilize the DIP while allowing the PIP full motion. Plus the rubbery surface of the waterproof foam tape acts a bit like skin which has restored a more natural ability to type and ‘left-click’ otherwise I’d go nuts; seeing how this affects my right pointer finger.
So, “six more weeks of splinter.” – I should be done about Thanksgiving & I already know what I will be tankful for – but for now I’m thankful for The Pathless Wood! 😀
Thanks for the comment, infinitelyremote! The Pathless Wood: bringing mallet finger sufferers together since 2014! 😀
I hope that your healing is well under way and that after another six weeks of splinting it will be fully healed. Then comes the next fun part – rehabilitation. 🙂
Thanks for your great blog Gillian. It is now 4 months since I damaged my finger and the lag has gone from 10% to 5%. It still feels fragile and a bit lumpy where I hit it. But hopefully it will strengthen further in time and with exercises. I may be left some lag I don’t know. I suppose 4 months is still early days.
just a few more days before thanksgiving and i have tentatively removed the splint and am typing this note for a little therapy (both phys and psych.) My finger looks awful in terms of bruising and swelling but any lag is relatively minor and nearly matches the characteristic lag of the complementary finger on the opposite hand.
I tried buddy-taping for taking a shower but went back to the splint for the drive to work. I am resigned to making the weaning from the splint a gradual process but am now elated with the realization that the long time in the splint seems to have had the desired effect of allowing the finger to begin now the road to recovery.
When I first splinted the finger, it seemed that 6~8 weeks was an impossibly long time to suffer with splinting but the time has indeed passed and i realize upon reflection, a lot of living happens in the course of the time spent wearing the splint. I need to be mindful of the inherent value in each and every day. And in addition to the miraculous ability of the human body to heal itself over time, I find it equally marvelous, the human ability to patiently endure the trial in expectation of its sequel.
I am so thankful I stumbled into this; the best mallet finger sufferers support group on the internet.
Good luck to all – keep the faith 😀
I never thought mine would ever be better but after the splinting and some time after that…..it’s ‘almost’ as good as new. It’s usually a freak accident that makes it happen but with splinting and lots of time……it will get better. Hang in there.
Thanks for this. I’m on day 3 but it is extremely hard to see light at the end of this tunnel
Ive noticed a lot of people having issues keeping therr splint on. I too had the same issue and found a perfect solution. I used a key ring and slid it over the splint until it was tight enough to fit comfortably. Because of there strength it acts as an adjustable clamp and doesnt loose its tension. It means no more elastic tape / plasters / glue or whatever you’ve been using, no more worrying about getting the tape wet (which evidentially keeps the finger moist for longer as it takes longer than skin to dry) and no more sore skin from applying and re-apply sticky tape / plasters to your skin. I have also found that this has eliminated the worry for getting the finger/splint wet. It is easier to dry without the lresence of tape / plaster strips and as long as the finger is kept straight, is no problem to carefully and quickly remove the splint to dry both splint and finger. I removed mine daily to clean / dry when needed and as long as you keep the finger straight it will still heal just fine. Week 5 and finger already holds itself straight again with the very slightest of droops as expected with still a few weeks to go. Hope this info helps all sufferers out there, its working wonders for me
Great, thanks for the tip, Chris! The key ring sounds like a great idea.
I was put in a splint that went under the finger & tapped on & told to keep it straight to wash it. It would take 4 – 6 months to see a plastic surgeon special in hands. I found one after a month & he was appolled he sent me o a phisio physician & a partial cast put on & will change every week. Started over again 6 – 8 months. Showed her what I ordered on amazon & she showed me a box full & said they dont fit properly & u cant take them off to clean. Was also told to exercise the middle joint just bending & use it to try to reach for things. 5 weeks later but back to week one. the mini cast feels the best so far. By being able to bend that joint a little it doesnt shrink. im cossing my finger 5 weeks to go
Gillian, did your pip joint widen or look more swollen after you did the finger exercises? I kept the splint on for an extended period because my doctor thought it wasn’t strong enough yet. I took off the splint around late July but it was too stiff to do the exercises yet. When I started to do the exercises my pip joint widened and looked swollen. I went back the hand surgeon and she said it would go away. It’s now December and my joint still feels stiff. I can’t make a fist yet but it is much easier to push down the finger but then it goes back up again and does not stay in a fist. I am thinking of just taping the finger, a pinky, down to touch the palm and keep it that way each night. I have been buddy taping at recommendation of the doctor and tape my pinky and the finger next to it thru the day but I still can’t make a fist since that finger is longer.
This was very helpful. This is by far one of the best resources out there. I got a mallet finger about 12 weeks to the date. Splinted for 8 weeks then wore the splint at night after that. I dont know the severity of my tear as I didnt see a doctor it seemed pretty apparent what was wrong with it though. Strange injury pretty painless I didnt even know I did it for a few minutes until I looked down and saw it.
I wore a Oval 8 splint although not perfect by any means what was nice about it was you could slide it a 1/4 forward or backward when your not doing anything and let the skin underneath breath. I tried a couple other splints that I just had so much trouble with stink finger or the skin just swelling up to much.
I have most my mobility back its still on the weaker side and has a couple degree droop but I can almost make a fist. So all in all Im pretty happy. Could be better but could be far far worse Im sure.
Its been another year. The droop went away. So did the bump that was on top of the finger. I have trouble opening a tight can with it. That’s the only time I notice it.
Quite fortunate that it was a relatively minor incident for your mallet finger.
I managed to have a far more traumatic injury, partially my own fault. If you do not have the pleasure of using a snow blower to removed snow during a wonderful Canadian winter, then you have certainly missed how dangerous these machines can be. Lots of move parts that are designed to crunch up snow and throw it off your driveway.
Needless to say, I put my hand in a location that I should not of and took a high velocity hit to my middle finger of my left hand. At the time I did not know the damage I had done, but I had a open fracture of the tip of my finger, which required four stiches, broke the bone and also completely severed the ligament. I do consider myself lucky as I almost lost the tip of my finger
I have been in a mallet splint for 63 days. Healthy scar on the finger and working through efforts to make a full fist and weaning from the split (5 week plan). At the present time I cannot bend the tip of my finger and have no droop. I am unsure if I will ever be able to bend the finger again, only time will tell.
Good luck to all in your healing
I got mallet finger on the middle finger of my left hand about 4 years ago. I was devastated…..I am left handed and live alone. Also I had recently taken up playing the guitar again. Music is my therapy! I became very depressed also I was going through a marital breakdown. I wore the spilt for a few months and life was extremely difficult trying to do simple things, washing hair ablutions etc. However I persevered and when the splint eventually came off and some physiotherapy at the hospital I am now left with a slight droop which isn’t very noticeable and can use my fingers normally. Do not give up hope. It may be a long haul but if you follow your treatment instructions you will get over it. Hope this helps
Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad
Did it ever heal?
Thank you so much for writing this! We are sitting at urgent care now – they do X-rays here and we are pretty sure it’s mallet finger; this is a good indication of what we should expect to go through.
my middle finger smashed to volyball ball and i went to hospital they advise me to use splint i fasten my splint about 3 week after 3 weeks i removed the splint but when i try to bend my finger the middle splint hardly bend 10 digree now im very nerves that is it need surgury. it has some swelling and when i bend it with my other hand it is hurt much and its very stiff. so what should i do. is it normalthat i couldent bend my finger?
Yes, it is normal to be stiff, I wouldn’t advise forcing it to bend. Were you advised to remove the splint after only 3 weeks? My finger took more than 6 weeks in a splint. Good luck with recovery.
Glad I found this. I did my right handed ring finger last week: really floppy finger-end. Falling UP the stairs. What numpty falls UP the stairs? 😉
Such a trivial thing but it looks like it’s gonna be a while in a splint. Skin is sore under the splint so when I wash it I leave the splint off for a while and keep my finger flat on a desk. Who’d have thought such a “trivial” injury could be such a pain.
Hey Ben, glad you found our community. And yes, I’m just the kind of person who often falls up the stairs when I’m in a hurry, too – we should definitely start a list of weird ways to get mallet finger! Hope it heals fast (and straight).
What a joy to find this blog! I’ve only met one person who’s ever had a mallet finger — except for me and my family. In the 60’s my mother did hers making the bed. In 1978 I did it pushing a cushion into a slip cover. And on Feb. 1, 2018 I did it again taking a resistance band off my legs at the gym. At least this time I can call it “my athletic injury” instead of “my stupidity”!
I’m almost through week 6 of the aluminum-and-blue-foam monster. I had my husband cut it down, both width and length, because even my ring finger is only a size 4, and this is on my tiny little pinkie. I may have let it droop in the first couple of weeks while I struggled to get a comfortable fit that wouldn’t fall or pull off, so I figure I’ve got a couple of weeks to go before I dare check it out.
My biggest problems are
(1) I play church organ, and it doesn’t work to have this clattering around on the keys, so my husband is playing for me for the duration. Not a problem for me, but you’d have to ask the congregation!
(2) Although it doesn’t smell like gym socks, it itches like hell! I have regular clear surgical tape around the PIP to hold it to the splint, and the stretchy stick-to-itself wrap outside because I don’t trust the tape. This means I can take off the outside layer for a bit of air, but I think I’m rotting away under the surgical tape. The splint is probably holding my finger mostly straight, but I’d really prefer a bit of hyperextension.
40 years ago I had an aluminum-and-GREEN-foam splint with arms that folded up over my finger. The doctor called it a Freddy Frog. It worked fine, but it was on the middle finger of my dominant hand, so it’s what I pushed my sunglasses up with one day just as a police car was driving by. He slowed down (why is this woman giving me the finger?) but didn’t stop…
I can report that the finger 40 years ago looked bumpy for quite a while, and didn’t go quite completely straight. It loosened up and strengthened to more or less normal in a few months, and straightened out gradually. But it ached in stormy weather for many years.
Thank you for continuing to maintain this site. Even before I found it, I decided I was lucky it’s not the finger I focus binoculars with. The juncos and the red-winged blackbirds are back in Wisconsin.
I made my own splint from popsicle sticks. It wasn’t as bulky as the ones you can buy and it gave it a lot more air. I was even able to chance it…….very carefully though so I wouldn’t bend it, I wore it faithfully for many weeks…..always being careful not to get it wet. When I finally removed the splint….my finger was much better but not exactly the same as it was before. But it still looks pretty good and mostly functional.
Im from singapore and suffered the same fate as u….mallet finger
Hows yr finger now?
I also have a mallet finger and only in my second week of the splint. Did you go back to the Dr. Did it heal okay? I don’t know how much longer I can take this splint.
I remember those feelings so clearly Sharon! Stay positive. There is an ending. Sadly my finger did not heal as well as I would have liked, most likely due to frustration and fear. My results are liveable. Just wish I would have been more patient and not so afraid to care for it properly Hang in there, be patient and baby it. It had to stay splinted at least six weeks. Oh and knowing what I know now, I don’t even think I’d waste my time going to the Dr. Best of luck for a full recovery.
I’m on week 5 with the splint now. Everything appears to be going ok. When I wash my hands my finger looks fairly straight and there is *some* strength in it.
I’m getting pretty good at dressing it left handed now and I’m getting more used to the splint now I have a better fitting one from the physiotherapist.
I’m getting a mild tingly pain in it very occasionally now but I think it’s just the healing process.
I don’t think there are any “quick fixes” unfortunately. A few weeks of frustrating inconvenience is probably the price to pay for giving it the best chance to heal properly long-term.
Something interesting about 3D printed splints on shapeways newsletter: https://www.shapeways.com/blog/archives/34136-shapeways-education-grant-stories-anna-ruiters-fashionable-3d-printed-splint-rings.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=170b4714be-2018_03_21_Feature_4_Marketing_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6e89647623-170b4714be-61810723&mc_cid=170b4714be&mc_eid=05e5be4168
I found this post about a week ago. So glad as everything else I’ve found has been straight from the medical sites. Basic what it is, and expected treatment. Reading what other sufferers have dealt with has been so informative and reassuring.
My scenario: I casually realized my right pinkie wouldn’t straighten out. I didn’t give it much mind as I was focused on wrapping up work prior to taking a work sabbatical and getting packed for a long trip. Normally, I’m sure I would have googled what it could be. So fast forward a week or so. My husband and I are on our trip. I’m crocheting and noticing my pinkie still won’t straighten.. but we’re not home until at least a month after I first noticed it. After we returned, I had a previously scheduled appointment with my hand surgeon for a trigger finger that had started a few months earlier. I had another trigger finger a few years previously so knew that wasn’t urgent. I happened to mention my pinkie. They x-rayed it, no fracture or bone problem was viewable. So the doctor told me it was a mallet finger. He asked me when it happened and I told him I wasn’t quite sure. I thought it may have been a month or two. He said if it was two months or more the chance of it healing are really low. He told me that you take the amount of time it’s been since it happened and add that to two months splint time. I estimated it was about five weeks if not longer.
That same day I was able to get to in to see an OTR/Hand Specialist. She made me a custom splint. She took some material that looked like a small finely stitched sock, put it on my finger then she immersed it in a water bath. She pulled it out put it back on my pinky and started molding it. It started to harden.
So I have a custom splint. She cut a window where my nail goes. I also have a blue Velcro wrap that wraps around my finger to help keep it on. It is then wrapped with the self stick bandage wrap.. I can bend my upper knuckle which she told me was important. She said to not keep that finger straight as my upper knuckle would stiffen. When she told me how some of her other patients had injured their finger, she mentioned a patient that was changing the bed. That jogged my memory and I remember my husband and I changing the sheets, and I had immense pain in one of my fingers. I remember shaking my hand, my husband asked me what happened, I said my finger hurts but I don’t remember hitting it against anything. I later recalled seeing a bruise that looked like a line on that finger. However, I don’t recall seeing my pinkie bent at that time. So did it happen later, not sure. It never hurt me after the initial pain.
My Hand Dr estimated 9 weeks initially to keep it on. My OTR/hand specialist thinks we could try removing splint at my next visit. That would be 6 weeks from initial splinting. I did have an incident about 10 days in, where my splint accidentally came off when I was taking off my shirt. I quickly put my hand on the dresser and put the splint back on. I do not know if my finger bent, I am hoping it did not as my hand was still in my sleeve. However, I told my OTR that I would rather be safe and keep it on additional weeks. I’ve gotten used to it. I’m lucky it is the pinky on my hand I type the least with. I see her (OTR) every two weeks to remove the splint. She cleans it and my finger thoroughly. Powders my finger and puts everything back on. It feels so much better after seeing her! Between visits I try not to get it wet. I use alcohol swabs to surface clean the splint. If I do happen to get any moisture inside, I drip some drops of alcohol and try to lift my finger within the splint with my fingernail. I blow to try to dry it.
And an additional com0lication, I ended up getting trigger finger surgery on my other hand so I had it wrapped for two of the past weeks. I wasn’t able to get either hand wet which made showering challenging. I went thru ziploc bags and duct tape extra quickly! It’s much easier now that stitches are out and I can get that hand wet.
I’ve not read where anyone posting had their finger unsplinted as long as I did. But I am hopeful mine will heal as well as many folks have posted here..
Thanks for the great info, and personal experiences.
Hi Annette! I injured the extensor tendon on my right middle finger almost 6 weeks ago catching myself when I stumbled. I makeshift splinted it at home for a week but I took it off a lot! Then I went to the hospital and they gave me a moveable splint and told me I didn’t have to wear it all the time. I didn’t rest it at all! At my follow up THREE WEEKS later I saw a different doctor who told me it should have been static splinted immediately! I was/am SO angry! My finger is very deformed, the splint is awful and I am really quite scared ;( Thank you for sharing your story…
Oh I meant to say. It isn’t a mallet finger. It’s my second joint ;(
Hi Jackie, do you have a Boutonniere finger? I’ve only been searching for Mallet finger, but I just searched by middle finger or PIP (Proximal Interphalangeal) joint and found a couple things on that condition..
Do you have your finger currently splinted? Does your Dr give you a timeframe for keeping it on?
I went at least 5 weeks before splinting, and I am hopeful it will work. So even if you are starting again with keeping your splint on consistently, it is worth trying. Time now with a splint is better than long term with a problematic joint. I would imagine it would be harder to have a splint on the middle joint. Best of luck,
So as everyone else on here has stated, I injured my finger, playing with my husky puppy. I immediately felt a burn and my finger got red and swollen. I had a doc appointment in 2 days so i just splinted it up and called it a day till i could see the doc. I went in and she said that I dislocated it and then relocated it (which i did not dislocate or do anything to relocate it, just a very painful red swollen pinky finger) and she said once the swelling goes down i should work on range of motion. Well to be honest it hurt way to bad to have out out of a splint so i kept it wrapped up for 6 weeks. Well i took off my splint and my finger just hangs, there is not range of motion, in fact i cant straighten it out at all. There is also a purple spot on my knuckle and it still burns and it hurts to bad to bump it or carry something in that hand. I did some research and I believe i have mallet finger but its been so long, i don’t know what i can do at this point. Any suggestions? I don’t care that my finger is permanently bent i just cant use my hand and if i bump my pinky i want to cry! I suppose I can just keep splinting it but since it didn’t help so far, i fear I am just wasting time. I have also read about several kinds of splints, none of the ones i found worked for my finger, its very small. So i taped a paper clip to it. However the skin on my finger started to have a funny smell so that is why i took it off. I am frustrated with my doc, she didn’t take x-rays or anything just looked at it and told me to wait it out and i will be fine.
Hi Angela, does your finger still hurt? My dr took an x-ray as sometimes when the tendon breaks, a small piece of bone can come off as well. My injury was just the tendon so I don’t have any info on what is involved with that type of injury. And I’m not a physician, so I would get it looked at by another Dr for a second opinion.. My pinkie finger is also small, I think I am lucky to have a custom splint. I use extra sel adherent bandage wrap to help keep it on. It hasn’t been too bad the past 6 weeks. But the last 3 days it’s been itching a bit. I do not take mine off but use alcohol to spot clean as much as I can. Tomorrow I go to my OTR and she will remove and clean the splint. It will feel better after that.
I have a very small splint – if you send me your address I’ll send it to you
I too had mallet finger on my left hand index finger after a cricket ball was hit on my finger head. My finger was not keeping straight would always bend then I wore a splint for 1 month while it healed. After removing the splint the finger became too straight and would not bend beyond 30 degrees. Then I started having physio sessions for strengthening the finger tendons. It needed lot of patience and had regular 1 hour sessions daily for about 2 months. Only after 1 month I started seeing results. The entire finger took about 4 – 6 months to get to normal where I can bend it like a normal finger. Anybody suffering from it give it time have patience and never miss out your physio sessions. I am glad mine healed. I am sure you will have it fixed too.
Does someone have good ideas on how to make the bruised, red, swollen finger less painful when I re-splint it at night? I’ve had the splint off for most of two weeks (daytime only) now, and the skin itself is still horribly painful, like a burn. My splint has been aluminum and foam, held on with sticks-to-itself tape. It feels better during the day, but as soon as I re-splint for the night the pain level jumps enough to keep me awake.
Second question: on a good day I can hold the DIP joint almost straight, but it sags down 5-10 degrees by evening. I can bend it maybe 45 degrees and bring it back up. However, when it’s straight I can still twiddle the end and see it flap up and down those 5 degrees. Does that sound normal?
My first shower sans splint was heaven!
About 2 months in splint now. Good news is that my finger is straight and I’ve been careful washing it. Physio appointment tomorrow.
DIP is still very swollen, red and sore and towards the knuckle.
I’m a master at dressing it now but I’m getting a bit frustrated and upset.
I’ve done everything right which is probably why its healing well but it’s a VERY long road.
I wouldn’t swear in this chat of such good people but suffice it to say it’s getting me down now. 😦
A word to the wise: use non-latex tape during the 8 weeks of splinting. My 8 weeks of 24/7 splint held on with sticks-to-itself tape has apparently produced a latex allergy. So the mallet finger now means finding latex-free underwear, swimsuits, exercise mat, bicycle handlebar grips, bandaids, mouse pads, remote controls — you name it.
Thank you Gillian for this post, and also many thanks to the support community that’s grown up around it! I got my injury 2-1/2 weeks ago while pulling weeds for a couple of hours. One finger felt a little bit scratchy or sore inside my gardening glove, and when I took the glove off at lunchtime to look at it, discovered the tip joint drooping. It’s my left middle finger. Naturally, I’m a lefty.
I went same day to Urgent Care, where they took x-rays, put on an aluminum-and-foam splint that immobilized the entire finger, and told me to wear the splint for 2 weeks and if it wasn’t better by then, to see them again. They also told me to take the splint off to shower, and sent me home with information on the wrong condition (a leaflet about injury to the wrist, which I did NOT have).
Fortunately, I immediately researched my symptoms and quickly found “mallet finger”, and eventually, this page. Thank goodness! I’ve read everything everyone posted, and I’m very glad to now have my expectations set appropriately. What a nightmare it would have been if I’d taken off the splint at 2 weeks and gone back to that clinic!
I’m still trying to find a decent splint that will fit, stay on, and still provide some PIP joint mobility. I’ve tried 2 types of aluminum splints (neither of which stayed on), and then popsicle sticks with tape, which as someone recently said, are less bulky and do a reasonable job. I also adopted a prior poster’s tip about first doing a figure-8 taping-up of the DIP joint before putting on the splint. That is holding my finger in a better position, slightly extended. And I’ve ordered 4 sizes of Stax splints, we’ll see if any of them fit.
I have only a tiny bit of swelling, and no pain at all, not even when I first got the injury. Unfortunately, in my early fumblings with those aluminum splints, I’ve re-bent the joint a few times, the most recent time being about 3 days ago. So I guess I’ve reset the clock on that, and have at least 6 more weeks of splinting ahead.
This is the first site I found with other experiences. Thanks to all of you all for sharing!
In my case I got the mallet finger by taking a USB stick out of my trouser pocket when I felt it “pop”. Talking about silly reasons for the injury!
My left ring finger has been in a splint for 7 weeks now and I am looking forward to taking it off next week and start different exercises. If anyone has some good examples of that I would be very grateful! One tip from my side, I take the splint off every day to clean my finger to keep the bad smell away. I rest my hand flat on the table on a moist face wipe you would use for little children. That allows me to clean my finger on all sides without bending it before shifting it onto some tissue paper to let the skin dry before putting the splint back using “tensoplast” tape that I was recommended in the hospital. To avoid the plastic touching my skin I put a strip of a disposable washcloth on the top of my finger and that works really well to keep it comfortable.
Hi Gillian. Thanks so much for this post. With all of the collective advice from everyone I think I made a pretty good recovery and it has only been 4 days since my splint was taken off. So here are my lessons learned for the next person.
Splint the finger right away and make a appointment for the doctor right away. Goto to the drug store if you have to and get one of those foam splints. Try to get a referral for a hand specialist. If not look for a sports physician assistant. Usually there are sports medicine clinics near universities and schools. Even if you can’t get a specialist those sports people have seen so many of those injuries they are quite knowledgeable. The guy who made my custom splint was extremely knowledgeable. Surprisingly there are doctors/nurses who have never heard of a mallet finger and you have to be careful about taking their advice. The sooner you see someone the better and the less you have to worry about them asking you to flex your finger since it is so early on.
Does your finger hyper extend? Flex your fingers on your uninjured hand? Does it go up a little above the horizontal? The custom splint made for me kept my finger in a hyper extended position. Only a doctor can tell you to do this as it is not recommended in many cases. I think it worked well for me because it scrunched the torn tendon closer together as it was healing.
My finger rarely smelled. This is what I did and there are videos/info out there on it for more detail. Clear a table and have your splinted finger flat on the table. Carefully pull it out of the splint horizontally while keeping your injured finger tip pressing against the table. This will prevent it from flexing and tearing. Apply some alcoholic sanitizer to your injured finger using your uninjured hand. Also apply some sanitizer to the pinky of your uninjured hand and stick into your splint. If you do this twice a day your finger and splint will never really smell.
When you are in the shower put a sandwich baggie over your finger(those ones that fold over) and add a rubber band. Double bag it if you have to.
After 4 days with the splint off I can make a partial fist. My dip joint can flex almost 45 degrees. And I can extend it back. There is a small amount of lag. I wore my splint for six weeks and now I have to wear it for 6 more weeks at night only. Once you get to the point of only having to wear it at night, it is a treat! Good luck everyone! I caught a nerf football the wrong way, jammed my finger, and I got this mallet injury. This perplexes me because a nerf football is softer than real football!
I wish this post could be fixed to be at the top of the comment list. It is a very nice compilation of a list of things someone should do all in one spot. Thank you
Glad to hear about your success with healing. I had mallet ginger two years ago. Just two weeks ago I noticed my finger was bothering me and looked like
It was breaking again, don’t know if I should have but I put s splint on again and have been wearing it for two weeks. Two years ago the doctor warned me that it could happen again, unfortunately I didn’t ask about what to do if it did happen again, so hoping I’m doing the right thing, this time I’m wearing an oval 8 ad opposed to revisiting doctor for a fitted splint
Since I already knew what to do and had one on hand that fit me, I hope I am doing the right thing, sdI know too much splinting can be harmful. Just don’t feel the doctors care enough about this injury for me to go back,
Kathy, sorry to hear your finger giving you trouble. When you say is it breaking again does that mean it is starting to droop more or lag more? Maybe your tendons are tearing and needs some time to heal again. I notice my lag at night is more than the morning, probably the nighttime splinting gives it time to heal again. If your lag is not too bad yet, maybe nighttime splinting for you might be enough. Best way to check this is to compare it between nighttime and morning to see if it helps. But if the lag is really bad, then maybe wearing it fulltime is necessary – just define a cutoff point because you do not want to wear it too long without talking to a doctor. Make sure you pip joint can move.
After a week and 2 days I can practically make a full fist. My injured dip can’t quite flex as far as my other uninjured finger counterpart, but an onlooker would never notice. I can grasp soda cans and grab the steering wheel completely so I am thinking I got my finger’s function and appearance back for all intensive purposes. I know I am quite lucky and feel for all of you. Only those in the mallet finger club can ever really understand. Unless a doctor had one, they cant understand either. The guy who made my custom splint had mallet finger once and that helped make him a better person to treat me. There was a lot of anxiety the past 6 weeks for me myself.
I’ve looked at this blog several times after being struggling, too, with a mallet finger. The story and the experience of the various testimonies helped me to understand and deal with this embarrassing incident. So I decided to testify, in turn, hoping that my testimony can help others.
I must first clarify that I speak French so please excuse the poor quality of my written English.
The accident: I was sitting on the ground with my grandchildren. I get up, leaning on my left hand and “knock”: mallet finger. I’m sparing you the details: Christmas eve, searching the internet, waiting to see the doctor, the doctor looking on her computer, etc.
Duration: 8 weeks full time + 6 weeks almost all the time. For the last 6 weeks, the doctor told me to wear it at night and during the day when I carry heavy things like groceries, when I push heavy doors at the shopping center, etc. So that, I took it off to read or watch TV 😉
Splint: I used 4 different splints. 2 metal and blue foam ones (frog and another of different shape), oval 8, stax type. I took them off very cautiously and changed regularly before my finger got irritated. I think this is the best solution.
Shower: oval 8 + plastic glove with elastic on my wrist.
Swimming (at beach): oval 8 or stax + blue tape used by athletes to hold it firmly.
There is lot of info on the web on how to cure the mallet finger but little on what happens after.
After: After 14 weeks of splinting, my finger remained swollen and with a gap but my hand was functional.
Now it’s been 6 months since I removed the splint. The gap of my finger is less pronounced. Looks like it’s slowly improving. My finger is still stiff in the morning but is not really swollen anymore.
Conclusion: mallet finger is a stupid accident. The healing is long and very boring. But in my case, the story ends well. So, I wish a GOOD COURAGE to all those who are affected.
I appreciate all of you greatly, most especially Gillian for sharing the initial story and continuing to respond even all these years later.
I’m 8 weeks post-injury and am just starting to experiment with removing my stax splint. As a bowler who tore her dominant-hand middle finger tendon, I actually really need that finger to heal strong and highly functional! I feel WORLDS better after reading these stories and hearing how Gillian could form a fist after 8 months and several years later doesn’t notice any residual problem. Having previously torn a tendon in my ankle, I knew this would be a long road to recovery and there would be many moments of doubt; I’m just glad to hear it sounds like I am on track to recovering well and could be back in action with my sport for next year.
By the way, while some of you had truly disastrous injuries I did get a lot of giggles out of hearing how some of you experienced a pretty silly injury. I feel I should add mine in return…are you ready? …I was harvesting potatoes!
I am so grateful to have found this site! I injured my finger 3 weeks ago today cleaning the sofa – the middle finger on my right hand caught as I was scrubbing and it bent back and went pop! Then I couldn’t straighten I so although it didn’t hurt too much I knew I’d done something bad to it. A nurse at the hospital confirmed it was mallet finger but X-rays showed no bone break so I was given a couple of plastic stax splints and tape to take home and told to keep it taped at all times for 8 weeks and then nighttime only for another 2 weeks. I don’t have to go back for any follow up appointments (I’m in the UK) but did given a sheet with exercises to start once the splint is off.
The first week was really frustrating and I struggled with keeping it dry until I got some of the finger cots (which everyone think look very funny!) Imhate it when it starts to smell so change it fairly regularly but am very careful to make sure the finger doesn’t drop. I do have a different foam and velcro splint which I wear occasionally to let the finger breath a bit but it doesn’t give enough protection to wear all the time.
My worry is that sometimes my finger moves in the splint slightly so it isn’t completely straight but pointing down very very slightly. Does anyone know if that will slow the healing process? Most of the time it is completely straight or even slightly pointing up. I’d hate to think that means I have to go back to the start – it happened yesterday so that would be 3 weeks wasted! 😢
I don’t think slightly pointing down will slow the healing process. Mine did the same thing two years ago and I was too afraid to take my splint off, after having a couple of fails when I did in the beginning. My finger still healed but had a slight lag after the 8 weeks. I was never given excercises and actually told by th PT that I should not do excercises because it could further damage the finger. Anyway my finger was working fine up until 7 weeks ago when I noticed a considerable lag and discomfort. I felt it was breaking again and starting wearing a splint again. I took it off last week to check on it and it seems better, but still a slight lag, Just try to keep it as straight as possible and it should be okay. I’ve read so many success stories and found this blog to be the most informative. Good luck!
Thanks Kathy – I hope you are right – the trouble with this injury is that you have no idea until the splint comes off how its healing! Like you, as much as I am looking forward to the time I can take the splint off, I also know that I will be very nervous about what state it is in and whether it is ready to take the splint off!
Sorry to hear that yours has been uncomfortable and lagging again – I wonder why it would do that after 2 years? Hopefully it is only temporary and your splinting helps to give it a chance to recover again.
I had a football hit my left hand and the finger beside my little finger suffered the same injury. It dropped at the top joint. Based on advice here, I splinted it for 6 long weeks. The lump was on top of the finger so I kept the splint on for another 2 weeks. Once it came off, the lump stayed for nearly a year. There was mild discomfort and the finger was weak at that joint for several weeks after the splint came off. It’s two years later and it’s as good as the other hand. It’s crazy, but it can take a very long time to fully recover. I massaged the lump every night for 20mins and it gradually improved. I also did strength exercises by keeping the finger straight and pushing gently down on the end of it (y should not feel pain doing this.. .maybe mild discomfort). It was a long recovery for me and at times I thought I had not treated it correctly but in the end it as just a slow and gradual healing process. This site gave me great advice and stopped me from worrying about it too much. Hope my comment does the same for others. A ridiculous injury with an unexpectedly long recovery. Hang in there 😊
I fell and tore the ligament on my baby finger. Just got back from the emergency and they put a stax splint on and told me absolutely nothing about care of the finger and skin.I think the splint is too big for my hand,
The splint covers my middle joint PIP and I gather that this can prove to be a problem – has anyone had success at cutting the splint above the knuckle?
It is going to be a long 8 weeks. Just wondering if I should go to a sports physio who may know a bit more about this injury than the doctor at the hospital?
Hi Maureen, yes I think it never hurts to have a specialist look at it. Like an orthopaedics doctor.
One thing to keep in mind that I believe a mallet finger involves a tear to the tendons and does not involve the ligaments. I think you need to determine if the ligament that was torn is in your middle PIP joint. If so keeping the PIP immobilized is probably best. I think mallet finger usually involves the tendon connecting the muscle to dip joint so in that case you definitely want to be able to flex the pip. In the end I am not doctor and having something else look at it like a sports physio or orthopaedics doctor is always a good thing.
Thank you for this post and all the comments. I just injured my little finger this way yesterday, and am coming to terms with the journey ahead. This blog post is do helpful.
Oh my gosh, I know this post is old, but this just happened to me, and I feel I could’ve written the beginning myself. I too was tucking in clothing and wished I had a better story to tell-like saving a child or something lol!
Thank you for the great cleaning ideas. I’d been doing so well this first week and then today I was cleaning my finger out of the splint and, you guessed it, bend and ache and reset the clock. So I think this splint and I aren’t parting again!
You guys are the best! I’m very happy to have found this little mallet finger support group. It’s been tough to justify what an ordeal this is to people around me as it seems trivial (just a finger!) and happened in such a trivial way (cleaning house). It’s been really stressful as I’ve been constantly worried that I’m making it worse as well as constantly worried about the same thing happening to other fingers! So it’s great to read all of your similar stories. One thing that has been super annoying is that although the injury is to the ring finger, my pinky and middle finger are now also very stiff and sore. I had no idea how connected all the fingers were but the top knuckle of the pinky refuses to bend at all and the middle finger will only bend a little. So I’ve been stretching them to try to maintain their mobility, but it’s not pleasant! Fyi, here are a few things that have made my life more bearable, hopefully they’ll help someone else
– cutting the finger off a disposable glove to put over the splint in the shower
– putting a small square of paper towel over the knuckle to protect the skin from the plastic
– Penguin Finger ice packs that roll on over the splint: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MRBSBHD/.
My ortho said to ice instead of taking ibuprofen since there have been some studies showing that ibuprofen can slow healing, so the ice packs have been great. Yup, it still hurts after three weeks of splinting – ironically it didn’t hurt at all when I did it…
Well, I am coming up to 5 weeks of stax splinting – yes it smells, and now my skin underneath is exceedingly itchy and sometimes painful. Just tried putting some cotton inside the splint to see if that helps. I am considering going to a hand physio since I am getting a bit tired of the whole procedure and wondering if I should get a different splint.
It is so encouraging to read everyone’s stories, and good to know that we are not alone with this ridiculous injury. And like someone else said – nobody seems to understand it very well at all.
Wishing everyone a speedy recovery and hope the time passes quickly for you.
Amazing to find this post after searching through so many medical sites online.
Mine happened to my left pinkie randomly during a football (soccer) match. Like many others, I didn’t even realise I was injured at first. I’m travelling in South East Asia so regular check ups with the consultant (from a hospital in Bangkok) are out of the question.
I’ve had the aluminium and foam splint on for a couple days short of six weeks. Doc said 4-6 weeks in the splint but I’ve gone for the higher part of the range since I can be clumsy and had couple of small mishaps early on that might have slowed things.
Took if off today and it looks like there is a tiny droop but it’s almost horizontal. No hypertension like in the opposite pinkie. It’s also swollen, red and painful to try and bend. Judging from comments above that seems normal so I’m going to try for the next week only wearing at night and trying the power pinch exercises. Fortunately, I still have decent PIP movement as it was a pretty ramschakle homemade splint that allowing me extension.
Good to find a community here anyway! Good luck to all on our healing journeys! 🙂
Thanks for commenting, Carlton. Feel free to let us know how the healing progresses now that you’re out of the splint!
My experience is that it took almost 6 months (yes months!) after I took off the splinting to get a normal finger (not swollen and almost horizontal). It, slowly and gradually, straightended.
I’m about a month out of the splint, but still sleep in a full finger cast. I’ve been going to a hand therapist twice a week and she tortures the finger into bending and I do exercises 3x a day. It’s pretty functional right now – I can do most everything, but my grip strength is not what it used to be. It’s still swollen, has bump on top, and is painful to bend. It won’t bend into a fist yet and still drops about 5%. I’m supposed to wear a compression sleeve or wrap to control the swelling during the day. My ortho doc wants me to do another month with the hand therapist before reevaluating. That will put me around the 5 month mark post injury. What a long road!
This is Day 1 for me and my stax splint; however, I have been wearing a frog splint (for 9 days) issued by the Doctor I had seen the moment my injury happened. I was injured playing basketball when my ring finger was hit real hard and fast. Your article has been really helpful, but at the same time I am a bit bummed at how long it took yours to heal at 100%. I am not mentally ready to keep this splint on for 4 months and spend another 4 months after to getting my finger used to moving the way it did before. But I am thankful that surgery is not needed (at least at the moment-until we see the progress 4 months from now).
Hi Kristina, as long as your finger didn’t bend/droop after putting the frog splint you should be able to count those 9 days toward your splinting time! If, however, it drooped then unfortunately yes, the clock resets to zero. And it shouldn’t be four months in a splint; mine was only eight weeks. The first three are the hardest as you figure out ways to cope, but once you do it gets better. Good luck!
Thought I would come back in with an update. I injured my left little finger tearing tendons in the top part Dec 16th 2018. My journey so far has looked like this:
Dec 16th 2018 – Injury and splinting within 3 hours at Emergency Room
Dec 20th 2018 – Seen by a hand consultant, splint not removed, so as not to put it back the 4 days. Advised 7 weeks fulltime splinting.
Feb 4th 2019 – Seen by hand consultant again. Splint removed (very nerve-wracking and quite upsetting, but Gillian’s description in her updates here of how it looked and felt was comforting. Otherwise, I would have been more upset!). Fortunately, finger held its own when splint came off. Stuck straight though. Moved to night time only splinting for 5 weeks. Encouraged to gently move it, and could swim again (I am a big swimmer, so all that time without it was hard!)
March 11th 2019 – Seen by hand consultant again. Finger only mildly bending, still extremely swollen and bruised looking. Was advised it will look like this until the two joints start bending again. Referred for physiotherapy and night-time splinting to stop.
March 29th 2019 – Today. Fully out of splint, but finger has very limited bending and is still swollen and bruised looking, though better than when came out of splint and skin integrity has returned. Still seems dropped at the end a bit, but hand consultant said on last visit this is normal and will improve as finger regains bending and so on. First physio appointment is April 3rd – looking forward to that and getting support to get it functioning again.
This blog has helped me come to terms with the journey of this injury and so I am fairly chilled at this point about the time it is taking, preferring to let the body heal and regain functionality in due course, rather than rush anything. I saw an osteopath for a back issue and he looked the finger over too, and said this type of injury can be 12-18 months and to allow healing time, which backed up most things in this blog. So, slow and steady wins this race, I think and accepting that has helped me a lot. Best wishes to anyone reading this going through it too 🙂
Just had my second mallet finger injury, ten years after the first. This time on my dominant hand. The first was a motorcycle accident — well actually tucking jeans into leather chaps, but “motorcycle accident” sounds so much more impressive than “wardrobe malfunction”. This one was a gardening injury. I guess I know the drill this time around so it doesn’t bother me that much. I know it will be an inconvenience, but I also think it is somewhat of a miracle that a tendon can grow back together across a gap of a few millimeters. I don’t want to rush a miracle!
The old injury healed quite well — 100% functionality and strength with no pain, but with a very slight bend in it is when fully extended. Apparently this is common. As with most of you, it took months to get back complete range of motion without any discomfort.
Here is what worked for me (this was following the doctor’s advice, then and now):
Stax-type splint. Two of them. Was taught by the hand specialist the first time around how to change the splint out and clean the finger — “Fingertip on the table” technique to keep it gently hyperextended at all times. Putting it back in the splint is the tricky part! The splint is held on with latex-free self-adhering “mesh” bandaging, so no adhesives touch the skin. I change the bandage every day. I find that a little moleskin (with the doctor’s approval) on the front part of the splint that is on top of the second finger bone helps do two things — it pads the finger and it provides a little more leverage to gently hyper-extend the last joint, but everyone’s fingers are different. However, it will get dirty and have to be cleaned/replaced more often. I keep up most of my activities, including many outdoor activities so things will get dirty!
Stumbled on here because I was looking for this detailed experience to compare to mine. It’s almost fitting the same experience and timeline as me so far. I am 7 weeks ago in. I have 2 mallet fingers!! The first one I thought I was being reckless (couldn’t explain it) which led to snapping of one finger. Then 3 weeks later, I was simply tucking in my shirt. So apparently, my 3 months of Cipro (ciprofloxacin) antibiotic treatment for a tooth infection weakened my tendons! Cipro has a nasty side effect of increasing the chance of tendon damage and I was unlucky enough to fall victim to it by busting 2 fingers barely doing anything. I am posting here because there is really a lack of resource about the topic and hoping someone would find it helpful if they stumble on it from search engine.
Thanks Mumen. I’ve heard Cipro is nasty for all sorts of reasons, but I didn’t know weakened tendons is one of them! And you’re the first person to comment that they have two concurrent mallet fingers – that must be twice as awful! At least you are close to being finished with the splints. Hang in there, and let us know how your healing goes. It would be interesting to compare how the two fingers heal. Some people have lots of problems with drooping, or not being able to close a fist, while I was lucky and ended up with a hand that is 100% back to normal.
I have suffered this injury and is my 3rd day of wearing the stack splint. Thankyou so much for sharing your experience. Its good to know that you made a full recovery and thank you for the tips!
My orthopedist just cut a splint from a strip of aluminum, bent it to ensure slight hyperextension, and wrapped it in Coban and taped it to my finger with more Coban. It’s great– I hardly know it’s there. I shower with it on each morning, then carefully change the Coban. The Stax didn’t fit me at all, and seems really uncomfortable. I asked about the Oval 8, and the doc didn’t like it because it allows some flex. The aluminum so far seems like a cheap, low-tech alternative, which so far, is comfortable and working great.
Sounds like you actually saw a good ortho. Mine sucked. I’m on day 4 of the aluminum splint that my family practice doctor put on, but they didn’t know what they were doing. The ortho didn’t even have a splint there for me and told me to order the stack splint on amazon. So I’m waiting for that. But in the meantime trying to figure out washing dishes, showering, cleaning my finger…everything is a pain!
Thank you so very much for sharing the details of your experience. I’m only on day 3 of the splint but what a giant pain in the ass this is. I just want to wash my hands like a normal person so badly. And nobody seems to understand my bitching because it just looks like a little inconvenience to them, but it’s really affecting so many day to day chores and activities. I’m trying to figure out the best thing to use to keep it dry in the shower at the moment. Also my splint flew off my finger too on day 1…i was thankful it wasn’t further into it as well! I need to set up an appointment with a hand specialist because both the pa at my doctors office and the orthopedist were really no help at all. The orthopedist didn’t even have a splint there and had me order it on amazon. 😩. Thank you again for helping us other sufferers of this strangely unspoken ailment! Glad you fully healed.
On 13 April I had my finger tip of out a quter of an inch by 15 they had operation to they did flap a d know that has held I had to go go to hand therapy for a whil which helped lose the joint but my finger is be t i tdyed warring splint at night for about a month which know put the finger in. Ast I just wanted some Dvis on what to expect ne t week they haven’t zeUd how long the cast will sty on for so she mid Ppintment for 8 days latter for thrpezt I not sure What she do whether she ca. ExsMNn the cast I hope she will take off to exsamn I wLd like to see if there is any difrance I. Finger I do expect very s. All chNge
I don’t think they will be Ble to tell any cha ges through the cast any Ide on what I may expe t from the next bit on 4 July the. Ast was put o on Wednesday. 26 and ahas any body else been in the same thing and what did they do
Okay, you basically told my story. Right now I am at the 7 week phase. Last week at the 6 week mark the dr told me I was healed, take the splint off and wear at night. Then it started to drop again after a few hours and it swelled like a balloon. It burns like crazy and I’m miserable. I am going to see another hand specialist, but your story sounds so similar and I am beginning to think this is just what happens. It’s actually more painful now than it was when it was first injured. I guess that’s the part I do not understand.
Your splint looks like mine, too big, cos of the gape at the bottom, but guess it would be too tight at the top otherwise. Have ordered others from Amazon but no good.
I’m a self employed nurse so would be homeless as until recently lived alone.
My instructions say take sprint off twice a week on a flat surface to wash, but needs changing at least daily as constantly needs repositioning.
Thanks for sharing your experience. Mine happend playing sports. 6 weeks for the pins to come out the finger for the broken bones and just started another 8 week journey with my favoirite smelly splint. (Thanks for the cleaning tips) Im glad that there is some hope of it returning to full mobility.
I have mallet finger injury to my left little finger . Your information is very helpful . However I am a professional violinist and unable to play until it has healed 100% . Is there anyone else who has had this injury who to is a musician . If so how long did it take to get back to playing and we’re you able to play to the same high standard ?
I am not a musician, but injured my left little finger too this way Dec 16th last year. I put a timeline of my splinting etc above. At that point, I was about to start physio I think (from memory).
I have had several months of physio now and the finger is a little improved in the bending, but still very far from normal. I am not able to close a fist and have a much reduced strength of grip in that hand and in that finger. I have learned through this how very important the little finger is. I often drop things still, as can’t make the full grip, when I go to use it normally. I come back here to take comfort from time to time from people who have found recovery, even over extended time periods. It is just over 8 months since my injury now and sometimes I feel demoralised in honesty about the everyday effect of it.
That said, there is progress. In the last two months approx, I gained about 5-10 degrees extra bend in the injured joint and the one closer to the hand (which was initially fine, but locked up during splint wearing). I felt like throwing a party with that improvement! So, I hope it continues, even if slowly, as in my mind, I see my hand closing that fist again, so I can grip and hold things fully again.
I wish you a full recovery with yours and hope someone musical sees your post and can help specifically around that aspect.
It’s been a year and a half (or 2 1/2?) since I did my left little finger. When I read your post this morning I realized I haven’t even thought about it for months. Nothing hurts. I have a full gripping range (finger tip goes to the pad at the base of the finger). It still doesn’t hyperextend much past straight, but if I’m pushing on something it doesn’t hurt to try.
I play piano and church organ, which I’m sure don’t put nearly the same kind of pressure on the fingertip as violin. For a while after the splint came off I was really nervous about hitting wide chords with the left hand, and I refingered hymns to use my fourth finger when I could ,or to use pedal for the low note, but that’s a lot of hassle so I often just left notes out. (As far as playing up to my previous standard, that was pretty low to begin with! But I haven’t gotten any worse.)
I want to follow up on my earlier post. Recall that I had mallet finger on my left middle finger 10 years ago, and on my right middle finger this year. I followed exactly the same protocol this time around – splint for 8 weeks, and then 8 weeks nighttime splinting and slowly regaining range of motion. But the results this time were very disappointing — I could nearly make a fist, but there was a much larger droop than on the left hand. According to the hand doctor — each injury is different and heals differently. but I also think that having the injury on my dominant hand this time made a big difference.
My advice is that if it is on your dominant hand, then cease almost all activities with that hand while it is in the splint — at least for the first few weeks of the splinting — especially any grabbing motions. I’m thinking that using my hand while splinted was a factor in the worse outcome – even though I was rigorous about keeping the finger splinted. (On my non-dominant side, I used the hand normally when splinted, but I really don’t stress that hand much during normal usage).
The doctor recommended going back to splinting full-time for another 6 weeks based on some studies, but there are no guarantees. If I can reduce the droop by any amount I will be glad I did it.
I am travelling for a few weeks in Europe with my wife and rhe injury is driving me nuts. I wear my splint all the time but It seem its getting more swollen and bumpy on top of my middle finger. Also more red but maybe its because Ive been putting the ice directly on top of the injured finger. This friday is my 6th week with the splint, I will try to move my pip joint from today on. Thanks for putting up your experience, it helped a lot to read.
The second course of 6 weeks of splinting is over, and I am slowly recovering my range of motion. I am about 1/4 the way to full range after 10 days and I still have nearly complete extension. It also just feels better with less inflammation in the joint where the injury was compared to the first course of splinting and a more natural feel when I flex my hand. So far, the second course of splinting was definitely worth it!
Hey Joe,any advice during the splinting? Im on week 2 and its been ok,. but Im curious if I should be doing more- more flexing of other knuckles? more icing, etc…just want to make sure im doing enough. Thanks,
Those are really questions for your doctor. I can only tell you my experience. For my second course of splinting I really did very little. I just flexed my unsplinted knuckle every once in a while. Tried to keep my hand resting in a relaxed position and did as little as possible with it and let it heal up. Just take it very slow once the full-time splinting ends or you risk over-stretching the tendons. I assume you have an appointment for when the splint comes off — or at least have gotten instructions from your doctor as to what to do.
When i went in, he didnt seem to make it out to be a big deal which we all know in reality it is. I have a 7.5 week appt to see him to get it removed, but he really didnt give me much guidance during the splinting other than to keep it splinted…he actually had the same injury in the past and his finger never recovered because he continued to work out and do jui jitsu with the splint on..ive been trying to stretch all my other fingers daily and even ice my splinted finger as much as i can every other day or so. Thanks for your advice though, just wanted to see about your experience since you went through it twice…
Hi All –
I did my finger in July of 2019. Gardening accident. I went a couple of weeks trying to splint it myself and not getting better. Finally went to an Orthopedic hand doc. He said, “Yep, Mallet finger” and put me in a cast for 2 months! Every 2 or 3 weeks I had to go get the cast changed. 9 weeks I wore that cast. After removal my finger was red, sensitive, swollen, and very stiff. It is now a month since the cast was removed and I still have 5 degrees of droop, but I am doing the blocking exercises. It might be getting better. I still wear a stack splint at night. Interestingly, typing on a computer makes the droop worse. I’m not sure why that is.
What an amazing pain. I had shoulder surgery while recovering from mallet finger and the shoulder recovery has been faster. I’m glad I found this blog. It seems to be the only spot on the internet for accurate info about mallet finger.
Just wanted to leave an update here on my situation. I just reached the 7 week mark of my splinting and it feels like 70. I believe its healed at this point, but I am going to stay splinted for another week as that is when my doctors appt is. I have been very consistent throughout the 7 weeks of flexing all the other knuckles on my hand, icing it every once in a while, and obviously keeping it straight and in the splint. Im reaching the point of just wanting it off but 1 more week won’t hurt me. Anyone has any questions, just ask away. Thank you for everyone else that has left info about their experiences.
Las update, I did the full 8 weeks, when I took it off at the docs office he congratulated me on a job well done. There was no droop at all. Its been 2 weeks since then (I splinted periodically during the day for those 2 weeks and nightly). I am now splint free and the finger feels great, mobility is great, I can make a full fist, no effects whatsoever on any normal function. It doesnt give that “back bend” like the other fingers yet, but maybe that will come in the future. Even if it doesnt, everything should be fine. thanks for letting me share my journey with this injury. Have a good day everyone.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this emotionally supportive blog. I’m at mallet finger + 6 weeks, and finally plucked up the courage to remove the splint and raise my hand off the ground a few days ago. A bit of relief the finger didn’t drop, but it just kind of hangs there, sticking out and feeling very sorry for itself. I can barely bend the joint at all, and sometimes it feels it bends\twinges on its own accord. Freaky! It also feels very fragile, and I can’t wait to get the splint back on. For me this has been the most distressing part of this injury so far, and led me to find this website.
Finally sought medical help yesterday by seeing a hand surgeon. X-ray shows no broken bones. Booked in for ultrasound this week, which should provide details on the tendon. He didn’t say much though…maybe he had to do abit of Googling!
It’s so reassuring to hear that the finger will get better because at this point, you start to feel as though it’s useless, almost like it’s not your finger.
There are plenty of brilliant posts above, so I probably won’t post an update unless anyone wants it!
Thanks for the post, Chris! It’s a good sign that your finger sticks straight out – now, you just have to getting it working again. Doing the blocking exercises will help, though it will take time (think months, not weeks).
Yes, feel free to post a follow-up. A lot of people find their way here when they still have issues after removing the splint, so posting your experience may help reassure them. I’m looking forward to hearing what the ultrasound will reveal since I never had one.
Take it slow with the range-of-motion exercises when you finally take the splint off. You can overstretch the tendon and set yourself back. I splinted for 8 weeks and the finger was nearly straight. Then gradually regained some range of motion over the next 6 weeks. There was too much droop at that point for me, but at the hand doctor’s suggestion I re-splinted for 8 more weeks (!) and that helped a lot. It still took 8 more weeks to gain back most of the range of motion. Finally now, a year after the injury, the finger is pretty much back to normal with only a little droop.
Hi Gillian. I just came across your post on your journey through a mallet finger. A very big thank you. On the 21st March 2020 this year I was making my bed. Yes, I got a mallet finger. Never heard of it before. I too thought I had dislocated it. Went to the emergency department at our local hospital. Lucky me, I was X-rayed & out in an hour. No not normal… I took the splint off to clean it, but kept it flat on the vanity. Yes, it smelt terrible. I was too scared to take the splint off for any length of time, due to swelling & pain. Today 24th July 2020 I went to a hand specialist thinking I would need surgery. No he through my splint in the bin. Then sent me to a hand therapist, who has given me excersises. Tonight it’s like a puffer fish & sore. You have given me the forecast of what to expect. Thank you again. I hope you are well during this covid19? I’m in Adelaide Australia, we are going really well. I hope this continues. Best wishes Kim Smith.
I had a mallet finger in february and I can tell you that it tooks a good 6 months to my fingers to get back to normal strength, Before that, it was a little bit bend but with time it came back as before.
I had both middle finger tunred into mallet fingers ! It was terrible, it happened when I was taking off my socks lolll trust me, I had many people laughing at me when I explained them how I did that !
I had them in a splint for 6 weeks.
You are now an elite member of the double-mallet club. So far I am the only other member that I know of on this list. Unlike yours, mine were 10 years apart, almost to the day. The first one was a “wardrobe malfunction” like yours. There is some evidence that vulnerability to this injury has a genetic component, though that is far from proven. I play piano and found that doing scales and basic exercises brought back the strength and coordination (and yes, my timing was off because of the new placement of my middle fingertip). I imagine any activity that uses the fingers independently would be a good therapy once the basic lesion has healed.
That should of said parents not stents 😂😂😂
This blog has been helpful as the hand specialist I saw after getting a mallet injury was not upfront about how long it would take for the finger to be completely normal. I got the injury from making the bed – pulling the 4th corner of the fitted sheet. At 3 months post injury, my finger looks the same as you described. The middle joint is swollen and stiff and my finger doesn’t have that cute hyperextension at the tip like my other fingers do. Surprisingly, I have been given no exercises and have been told to just use it except no gripping or weight-bearing. There goes pickeball for a while. I’m a pianist so this was particularly terrible and stupid, but I am able to play with that finger after 3 months. I’m supposed to wear the splint at night for another 2 months. They finally told me that it would take 6 months until my finger felt normal, but it sounds like it may be closer to a year.
Like Ellen above I am also a pianist and did my rh middle finger taking a sock off!
That was May 31st and today (25th August) and after a couple of inspections from a hand surgeon, I’m spending time without a splint. I haven’t suffered much with PIP problems as I always re-taped below that joint and kept playing piano throughout (the 4th finger is now stronger than ever!
I am now at the beginning of the exercises, still have a droop and it’s weak but letting it play some of the notes! Here’s a few tips I worked out for regular cleaning.
Have a spare splint and both should be cut back so as to be far away from the pip joint. This allows for taping up without restricting that movement. Alternate them so that one can be cleaned and dried.
Place a small piece of sticky sponge inside, and at the end of the splint, to prevent any movement and to hold the tip in a slightly hyper extended position. Change the sponge when it has compressed.
Before cleaning cut a long length of tubular finger bandage, put it on an applicator. Also cut a thin strip of printer paper, place it in the splint sticking out both ends, you can blue tac one end (pip end) on the underneath. The purpose of this is to allow the finger to slide easily over the shoulder of the sponge pad. This can be uncomfortable if it rucks and can cause the joint to move.
Take a wooden lolly stick and wrap some vetwrap around the end to the same length as your dip joint.
Place your finger with the splint (but with the tape removed) on the stick, gently slide off the splint and let the dip land on the lumpy bit of vet wrap. You can now wash and dry the finger and, once dry, apply a little moisturiser.
Once aired use the finger bandage applicator to place the bandage over the finger, pull the bandage right back to the knuckle, Keeping the finger flat remove the applicator and lolly stick.
Feed the loose end of the finger bandage into the splint and then, pulling from the front, use it as a pull through, over the paper. This means you don’t have to risk ‘pushing’ your finger into the splint.
Pull out the paper,cut away all surplus bandage and tape up.
You may find that, through the day, the tape stretches and the splint can become loose. If you apply a section of vet wrap, you can adjust it through the day.
Hope this helps
Lim, My injury was May 28th. I went to the clinic within an hour and they put on a stax splint. Saw a hand specialist (PA and OT) a week later and they didn’t like that splint so made a thermo plastic splint allowing me to move the PIP joint.
I played piano with only my RH for 2 months and then started playing with all LH fingers except the middle finger. I learned finger substitution fast, using 4 instead of 3. After wearing the splint for 10 weeks (including the 1 week before seeing the specialist) they put me on a 4 week splint weaning schedule. I now am off the splint about 8 hours today and in a week it will be using it only at night. When I play piano now without the splint it’s only for about 20 minutes at a time. I was so nervous my finger was going to droop again but it didn’t.
One thing that has helped to reduce the swelling is to use a heating pad and taking Ibuprofen a couple times/day. I was icing at first but the OT suggested heat to reduce the stiffness that she says is caused by scar tissue.
Amazing detailed instructions. Any chance you could post a video to YouTube of you demonstrating this cleaning and re-splinting routine? I’m a visual learner and I think it would be very helpful
I had my injury on April 3rd of this year. All I did was deal with an rambunctious young puppy! My smallest finger on my left hand was the one injured. I immediately bought a cheap splint, then bought the STAX splints online and did as instructed on youtube and other sites I found via Google. Finally, though, I went to a hand specialist who provided me with his own, special splint, and I went to him each month, until he told me to start the exercises. I am now where you were when you said you still had a 5 degree droop. I have to type for my job, and I am a writer and an artist, so, I use my hands alot! I have been discouraged by the droop, even with doing the finger exercises (which I don’t do often enough). But upon reading about your experiences, I am hopeful!
I do not have pain, just pressure when I try to stretch that healed tendon.
Thank you, and the others who have had a similar experience, for sharing.
Just come across this post as I was looking for excercises for mallet finger seen as the A & E haven’t been in touch to check up on my finger. 😝(presuming that’s because of Covid and they have more important patients than me and my mallet finger 😠) I injured my finger while undressing. Pushed off my pjs and felt my finger “pop”. I’m now on week 8 and have just started leaving the splint off for an hour a day although I don’t know how you left yours on continuesly as I changed my splint twice a day ( by keeping my palm on a table ). That pain you mentioned where You felt you needed to stretch your finger oh wow I am with you there. It’s not a pain But a feeling of GRHHHHHHHH!! I just want it to heal now as it’s getting on my nerves having to write with my 1st and 3rd finger and the worse of it is my little finger and the one next to it(sorry don’t know that ones name) are both broken. My sister(god rest her soul) broke My pinky finger by placing it in a door when I was little! Don’t know why my stents never thought of getting it fixed 🤷🏻♀️ And I fell out of bed and broke the other one 15 years or so ago ( I don’t know why I never got that one sorted ) and now that’s broke even more as knocked it a few weeks ago and it looks more deformed so you can imagine what all 3 fingers look like all together! 😂 any way I’m gonna go look at the excercises you’ve left the link for to try get this finger sorted 😝
I have an ACL injury on my left leg i got when i slipped in the swimming pool back in 2018. I cant even play football or dance well.
And now a finger on my right had cannot bend to make a fist!!All this happenedeah as i tucked in a seat covering. Im now miserable too broke to fix either of them just bracing for a life with limited mobility😭😭 ..why is surgery so expensive in Kenya?
Is surgery the only option i have?Are there natural ways of healing my finger? I could survive with a bad leg but my finger is crucial since i do alot of lifting and mopping
Brilliant and informative blog post and comments from others who have suffered from this inconvenient issue – thank you. I am at week 4 having ripped the tendon on the middle finger of my left hand as a result of vigorously scrubbing the back seat of my car with disinfectant after my son weed on it. I wouldn’t mind but he’s 7!!!!! (naughty boy lol!). I felt it rip and pop and although initially there was little real pain the droop was very pronounced. I didn’t think too much of it that afternoon but come evening it was starting to throb and swell and it was clear it was not going to resolve itself so I drove to A&E. It was x-rayed and temporarily splinted and I was sent away with instructions to call first thing in the morning to have a custom splint made. That took place 4 days later and I have to say it is the most uncomfortable thing to deal with. It is made from jagged plastic that cuts into my skin and makes my whole left hand ache like crazy. I have tried numerous ways to loosen it (I remove it daily to clean the splint and my finger/hand, making sure to keep my finger flat and fully straight) and I even bought a new one from Ebay that I’d hoped would be more comfortable to wear. Sadly that one is too long and does not allow me to bend the finger at the top knuckle. Nothing seems to help. I contacted my GP and to be truthful he could not have been less bothered. He told me it’s bound to ache and to live with it and take ibuprofen! I have always considered myself to have a high threshold for pain as I’ve had numerous back surgeries but this mallet finger is driving me up the wall. I am going to try to re-mould my custom made splint to see if I can get it to fit better and I cannot wait until 4th November when I get to take it off during the daytime. Reading the many posts here has helped me immensely and given me hope that the discomfort I’m dealing with now will be worth it in the long run. No1. son might be getting nappies from Father Christmas this year lol. Nah, not really, he’s a good lad, it was just one of those unfortunate things that happens from time to time. Good luck everyone.
Hello everyone, i’m from France i am new to the finger mallet hell club !!!!!. First of all sorry for my english.
I’ve been wearing a moulded splint for 4 weeks now and I have to say that I can’t see the end especially with what I saw in terms of time of recovery (1 year, 2 years, …), it is absolutely insane just for one finger !
I have never removed the splint even to wash myself but I’m doing cross fit training because I cant stop for 2 months it is not possible for me (I take care not to bend my finger every time, no pull-ups, etc …, so I wanted to know if someone had manage to pass this hell while playing sports and if pull up is possible after the end of the splint ?
Thanks for all your experiences, it really help !
Angelo, welcome to the club that no one wants to join. Are you seeing a hand specialist or physical therapist who can advise you about what activities you should be doing? I was told not to grip, lift or pull heavy objects while my finger was splinted and during the additional month of splint weaning.
I am 4.5 months in from the date of my mallet injury and I started PT a couple weeks ago. When I got the splint off, my finger was swollen and very stiff, plus the tip of my finger was slightly bent. The hand specialist said to just use my finger and it would be fine by December. Six weeks later I became alarmed how little progress I was making and saw a PT who I now see weekly and have a bunch of exercises and therapies to do at home daily.
I started up again playing pickleball and am not able to grip the paddle with the injured finger but am still able to play. I have a lot of scar tissue around the middle joint because my finger was swollen and immobile for so long. I’m pissed that the hand specialist did not address rehabilitation of my finger and never wanted to see me again. If a friend had not suggested I see a PT, I may have ended up with a semi-functional finger on my dominant hand. Some of these exercises are painful but already my finger mobility is improving.
This is my roundabout way of suggesting you get good advice early on and not just hope for the best. Because I waited so long to see a PT, it is going to take longer to heal. I’m not even sure if my finger will ever be straight.
As far as never washing your finger, try cleaning it with rubbing alcohol 2x/week. Your skin may end up peeling and feeling raw if that area does not get cleaned.
Ellen, thank you for all your advices and your story, I went to see an orthopedist but he didn’t tell me anything about heavy objects, just to not bend my finger…. I will try to lighten the weights so as not to pull too much on my finger.
But from what I’ve read here, it takes at least 6 months for the finger to start to look like something…, I hope you will soon be able to recover the mobility of your finger and that it will be just a bad memory.
It’s so frustrating as an injury, only those who had one can understand the mentality it takes to endure this horror…
Week 4,5/8 Splint 24/24 7/7
Angelo, The recovery is highly variable from person to person. I had mixed results trying to do sports during recovery. My first mallet finger I was able to do quite a bit (mountain biking, weight training) by gripping with the other fingers on the hand, even during the splinting period. I had a quick and total recovery in 4 months. But for my second mallet finger (10 years later and on the opposite hand) I started back into weight training and mountain biking too soon during the splinting and the finger kept getting inflamed. As a result (probably, but not certain!) I had to re-splint for another 8 weeks, which really helped improve the drooping from bad to minimal, but was no fun. Or maybe I just had a worse injury this time around. It was 8 months total until I could do pretty much all my activities.
My hand doctor warned me to take it slow after the splint came off for fear of overstretching the tendon. The risk is that you will end up with more droop than you are comfortable with and all those weeks of splinting will be wasted. I wore my splint at night for the first couple of weeks, and would use a temporary splint (and grip with the other fingers) whenever I was doing strenuous activity that might accidentally over-stress the finger. However, I would not have been comfortable doing pull-ups at all until I was able to grip the bar comfortably with all my fingers. Listen to your finger during this period. If you feel you have overstretched/irritated the tendon, or if it becomes inflamed/painful, give it some rest.
Hi Gillian, I have the exact same injury as you. Same location. Same finger. Same hand. No bone fracture. complete tendon cut from a gardening accident. First, the doctor fixed a k wire and soft tissue mallet. 7weeks later, the wire and mallet were removed and my finger started dropping around 10 degrees. Went back to the doctor and they attached a splint. Now after 3 months, the splint is removed and the finger still droop by around 10 degrees. After 3 days of removing the splint, I still can’t bend that part of the finger at all. They now say I just have to go for physio to gain movement and live with the droop. When you said you had a 10 degree lag, do you mean 10 degree droop too? And after physio exercises, the droop disappeared for yours? Appreciate your comments. I am afraid they didn’t attach the tendon properly and I wasted plenty of time. Probably the splint didnt help at all to straighten the finger. Believe there is only some window of time for repair. After that, recovery will be difficult if not impossible.
Yes, by 10 degree lag I meant a 10 degree droop. I just did the exercises I found online and the droop eventually went away. It takes time with the exercises to regain your mobility – I hope your physio exercises help!
Thank you for your quick reply. Glad I found your blog. I am sure many people found your blog extremely helpful. I went to get a 2nd opinion from a ortho specialist and he said I might have been overtreated and I should just move forward and get on with physio. I may have that droop in future but I am keeping my fingers crossed (on my good hand anyway) that I will get full motion and no more droop like you. It is nearly 3 months since my injury and a week since the last splint is removed and another smaller splint that bent upwards is given by my primary doctor. The 2nd opinion said I need not splint anymore. For now, I think I will keep the splint on especially at night and do many exercises for 2 weeks during the day until my next appointment with my primary physio. For now, (3rd day of my physio), I can bent my dip a bit but can’t flex it though. Or at least no clear visible flex. I am also working on my pip for the injured finger as well as the ring and pinkie. Those have not moved for ages and they are stiff. But I can see them improving these 2 days. Now, my concern is the flex for my supposedly healed dip and I guess to a certain extend, the aesthetics (the droop). Hope for the best and thank you again for this marvelous blog
Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I’ve had the splint off now, but keep wondering if the lag will improve. I thought once the joint had moved the tendons wouldn’t pull the finger back any more. I’m glad to hear the lag on your finger disappeared eventually.
This is am awful injury, and like many people, i did it cleaning!
It takes time for the lag to improve. A lot of time….like months. Are you doing any exercises? They helped with the mobility, which was my main problem when the splint came off, but as time went on the lag went away too.
Just for an update if it can help someone :
I took off my splint for a week after 8 weeks of splinting and today I manage to fold my finger on the palm of my hand but not to make a fist. There is a bump and a 5-10 degree offset I would say. I did a lot of workout during my mallet and the result is “ok” so there no incidence for me with sport and mallet finger if you care to not bend your finger of course !
Good luck everyone !
Hi Gillian, Thank you so much for your blog, after this stupid injury, it makes me feel a little bit better. I was just wondering if anyone out there heard clicking in that joint, when are you you have the splint on? It happens when I still try to do some thing with the injured finger that’s splinted.
I still have to take an x-ray tomorrow to determine if there’s any fracture.
Thank you!! Ari
Hope this is still active. My finger somehow got tangled in my bath towel while drying off after showering. Result mallet finger on middle finger. Benn totally self caring for it with a Stax splint for 5 weeks. Has anyone else self treated? So tired of dealing with the splint but also nervous about taking it off in 3 more weeks. Has anyone used Coban wrap to protect finger after splint is removed? Read somewhere to do that. Do I just take the splint off and see if my finger still droops? Crazy how easily this can happen.
Yes, this is still pretty active even after all this time! It’s crazy to me that for a nature blog, this is my top viewed post almost every single day. It just goes to show how little information on real-life experiences there really is out there.
I was being treated by hand surgeon but I only saw him the day he took my splint off. But yes, he just took off the splint and looked at my finger (which stuck straight out) and bent it himself. He pronounced it good and suggested I wear the splint at night as my finger had to get used to being out in the world again.
I think some others here have treated their mallet finger themselves; hopefully they are still around to let you know how theirs went.
Best of luck!
Thanks so much for responding so quickly. Hope there are other replies from those who self treated. This whole thing makes me so nervous. This is the first injury in my life and I’m 72. Not used to feeling helpless.
When I did my second mallet finger I bought a splint (not Stax, not available locally, so an aluminum and foam thing) and cut it down to fit my finger (little finger, small hands, only available splint size was large!). After six or eight weeks I took it off and did Gillian’s finger exercises. But I kept taping the finger overnight or when I was doing anything strenuous, just to avoid bending it funny.
I felt helpless as well, I got lucky by finding this wonderful doctor via the internet, she is incredible, with a wealth of experience and information. I highly recommend her.
Check her out.. https://malletfingertreatment.com/courses/mallet-finger-on-demand/
Thanks Gillian for starting the blog. I have a bony mallet finger (tendon with a piece of bone removed). I had been on the splint for 6 weeks but after 6 weeks I still see a tiny gap between the bone piece and healed bone. I wonder if anyone had similar experience.
Doctor is not satisfied with the healing so he had me started with ROM exercises and night time splitting. After 2 weeks of doing ROM exercises I still can’t make a full fist and still can’t completely bend the top of finger. Although I believe the finger bends a bit more than 2 weeks ago. Reading other posts I realized I am in for a long recovery path.
As Gillian implied, even if you see a hand specialist, most of the “treatment” is self-administered. I have had the “benefit” of having two mallet finger injuries, with different experiences. The left one was splinted for about 7-8 weeks (I forget the details, it was 12 years ago). It went just as Gillian described — after the course of splinting the doctor just removed the splint and told me to wear splint at night for a few weeks. Good outcome (less than 5 degree droop (lag) and complete range of motion after about another 8 weeks). The second one, on the right hand, was more problematic. The doc emphasized that the weeks after the splint come off are critical. The tendon is regaining its suppleness and it is possible to over-stretch it during this period. It is a period of gradually regaining range of motion while also trying to keep the droop to a minimum. That means slowly stretching the “elastic” while making sure that it returns to its original shape (It’s not that simple, but that was his analogy). Reading the posts here it seems that while a lot of people regain the range of motion rather quickly, some don’t. For me, there was more inflammation of the tendon than the previous time, indicating it was not healed completely. After a few weeks with the splint off, I was dissatisfied with the amount of droop (probably 30 degrees), so we re-splinted for another 6 weeks. What a pain! But it was worth it as I ended up with minimal droop and complete range of motion. Doing a second course of splinting is rare, but it is a fallback.
As for using coban to protect the finger — that is an interesting idea. But you also need to protect your finger from gripping too tightly, too soon, which I suppose you could also do with coban. During the first 4 weeks I would keep the splint handy and use it when I was doing something vigorous that risked over-stretching the tendon — weight training, turning the soil in the garden, mountain biking, etc. Don’t be afraid to protect the finger when you need to during the weeks after the splint comes off. And to rest it if you feel you have overdone it.
Excellent advice, we thank people like you that share their experience with us all. Thank you Joe!
Is the course worth $49?
Absolutely, and you get one free consultation with her, she is so nice and knowledgeable, and you can actually talk to her again, and get an updated advice. For me it was a lifesaver. I couldn’t recommend it anymore.
Liz, do you not have free health care where you live? Given that you have already been splinting for 5 weeks, I wouldn’t pay for a course unless you have issues after the splint comes off. And it takes a long time after the splint comes off for it to return to normal. This is a six-month injury, and only two months of that is in a splint.
I would just highly recommend this course for anyone starting with a Mallet finger, and not utilizing doctor and a Physical Therapist. You will have a visit with a physician that knows exactly what to do, and it’s a video chat, so it worked perfectly for me.
Any advice on removing my stack splint in 2 weeks. It will have been on for 8 weeks. I can’t wait to have it off but I’m quite nervous about what to expect. Will it still droop, be swollen? It has never hurt. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I would expect that your finger will be swollen. Use a cold pack several times a day and wrap it at night with cloth tape to get any swelling down. Your finger may also droop some but not enough to require you to go back into the splint. Is it possible for you to see a hand specialist, like a physical therapist (some hand specialists are occupational therapists) to evaluate your finger? If so, I highly recommend it.
In spite of trying my hardest to do everything right, when I removed my splint I had a bit of droop and still do several years later. My finger was swollen and stiff for several months. It is now acceptable, and have just accepted the outcome. Today, with so many other things to worry about. I realize I spent needless hours of worry on my mallet finger. I still feel like doctors need to take this more seriously and hope someday, someone will come up with better remedies. Good luck
My turn with Mallet finger. I am on day 3!!! I did it pushing down my wool ski sock. I immediately put on an old splint I had from the back of the closet. The next day I called up my orthopedic Dr. and had x rays etc… That same day I managed to get my way into a hand PT, who was able to mold 3 different splints that immobilize my knuckles. Also using KT tape to hyper extend (just a little) the finger under the splint. I had Trigger finger surgery in the same hand/finger about 6 yrs ago. I was wondering if anyone has ever had trigger finger prior to getting Mallet finger? My concern is the tendon was compromised from the surgery.
This is like mallet finger heaven – finding other mf sufferers is amazing. I’m so relieved to hear how hard it has been and then thinking that you can’t complain because it’s ‘just a finger’. It affects me all the time and I don’t stop thinking about it, it’s because your hand is in constant use. I did mine cleaning the carpet, my lovely husband walked dog poo onto the carpet and so I was vigorously cleaning when ‘pop’ went my finger. Same story as everyone else – took splint off after 8 weeks – extremely disappointed and upset as I thought it was going to be healed, had no idea it was a 6 month injury, it has been SO helpful reading these posts . I’m 2 weeks after taking off splint and I have quite good mobility but a 20/30 degree lag. I’m using my hand as normal but I’ll be seeing the hand therapist in 2 days so I will ask if that’s ok.
Just to throw in an idea for when you have your splint on, using talcum powder to keep it dry really helped.
I’ve just talked to the hand therapist and she said if you can use your hand as normal then the healing is happening, there might be slight aches or pain but that’s just a sign to rest it, you’re not doing any further injury. The lag being 10/15 degrees is a good heal. The swelling will take a few months to go. Just keep exercising it and increasing the stretch and you will get full mobility. I feel a lot happier about the future of my finger!
RIP to Janes husband from getting poo on the carpet
My splint has been on for 8 weeks. Have been taking it off a couple times a day and wrapping in Conan wrap to protect it since it is quite sensitive. When I try to bend it, it hurts. Should I stop trying when it hurts?
Take it slow! If it hurts on top of the knuckle where the tendon is located and if it is inflamed there then definitely let it rest! Like the song says you can’t hurry love (healing ) … “it’s a game of give and take. “ As my hand doc described it , You are slowly regaining the elasticity of the tendon without over stretching it. The rest period is just as important as the stretching. I found warmth and cold in various combinations helped. Gently massage the whole finger. The tendons of the finger are complex and work as a whole. If you are feeling an ache in the PIP (second) joint that is likely some swelling. The swelling in the joints may take months to go away completely but in a few weeks it should be considerably better.
After 8 weeks in splint, did you wean off using it during the day? Did you continue at night? I’m so afraid of banging it but I am so tired of wearing it. Did you wrap yours with anything after the splint to protect it? Looking for all the advice I can get. Thanks.
I can only tell you what I did. I did continue to wear the stax splint held on with a CoBan bandage at night for a couple of weeks. I could just slip the splint on over the finger so it was not the same hassle as when I was continuously splinting. I forget just how long though. Maybe weaning off over a month. Yes you will wake up with a stiff fInger and each day will feel like starting from scratch. But day by day you will regain some range of motion and strength. I would also splint up when doing vigorous activities to protect the finger. If I overdid it a bit I would give it a rest day but I mainly found that the overnight rest was plenty.
My doctors philosophy is to rehab using natural motions but some here prefer the specific exercises which might be helpful.
As I gained range of motion and was able to grip things I found that using my hiking poles was a good way to get a gentle stretch. I wrapped the handle to increase the diameter to where it was comfortable and then slowly reduced the diameter as time went on. The lesson is to adapt your activities. Anything with fine manipulation and motion is good too —I started doing piano finger exercises.
I’m curious if anyone else here has suggestions to share and if their experience agrees with mine.
I worked with an occupational therapist who was great. She had me sleep in the splint for months after I had it removed and had me doing exercises several times a day and icing it afterwards. I got finger ice sleeves from amazon. I wore the splint for a long time when I did anything I thought was risky – like walking the dog, yoga, anything that I thought I might bang it. It’s still perfectly straight, no lag. Also, it took almost a year for the little lines on the knuckle to look normal.
It’s been 12 weeks since I injured my finger. Just using the splint when I think I need it. The tip still droops a little bit and the joint hurts if I bend it too much. There is what almost looks like a red burn on the knuckle. Still looks a little swollen. Any thoughts or suggestions would be welcome. Just want it back to normal or as close as possible.
I suffered Mallet Finger 9 days ago after getting the middle finger of my left hand caught in my clothes while changing. When I heard the pop I thought I’d just cracked my knuckle, but nope, I couldn’t straighten my finger. Then of course I assumed it was either broken or dislocated, but I didn’t really feel any pain at first. I found out at Urgent Care it was a mallet finger. After reading some of the other poster’s comments, I feel pretty lucky to have had an Xray tech who knew exactly what it was!
I was told to clean and change the splint daily, but I am finding that a bit tricky. It’s very hard to slide the finger back into the splint. I finally found that I could slide a long piece of gauze into the splint with a few inches sticking out the bottom. I then very carefully move my finger onto the end of the gauze, and then pull up on the other end while sliding on the splint. It keeps my finger straight and makes putting it on so much easier! Once the finger is in, I tape it and cut off the excess gauze. I find having the gauze inside makes the splint much more comfortable. Still, I have had my finger slip a little a couple times, so I am going to change it less often and use your cleaning advice. I’m a guitar player and not having this heal fully would be pretty devastating to me!
I saw a hand surgeon on day 3 and he gave me an extra splint so I could always have a clean one. I found both of them a bit uncomfortable, so using the middle finger on my right hand as a guide, I used a tin snip and a file to get rid of all the corners and sharp edges. It made a world of difference and there are times I don’t even realize I’m wearing a splint now.
Your advice on the surgical gloves and making sure to exercise the PIP joint have been invaluable! I wear one now when I prepare food, shower, or do anything else that might be messy. And I also make sure to exercise that joint everyday, and am even trying to play a bit of guitar. There are some things I absolutely will not be able to do until this fully heals, but reading your experience has made me much more hopeful.
P.S. My sister does a ton of wildlife photography and her main focus is birds. I think you two would get on famously!
Like many others this has been a great thread to read all the experiences and to still see it going after so many years. On Sunday I was tucking in the sheets in the middle of our bed and felt something strange on my middle dominate hand finger. Jerked my hand out and thought I dislocated my top knuckle, so I start messing with it, trying to push it back in, slapping it on the bathroom counter, (real stupid stuff) but nothing really happened and I noticed the droop, although not much pain. Google quickly identified it as a mallet finger. Immediately propped it and iced it and made a makeshift splint. I am on day two (really day one cause my splint fell off while accidentally tucking in my work shirt, and it did droop.) Right now I am choosing not to go to the doctor. For them to already tell me what I have and do an x-ray to show (most likely) no bone damage and to put a splint on I figured with my hours of research already I can do the same and not be put of pocket $300-$800 if not more. I have a few different splints coming, currently wearing a Walmart on that is metal with blue foam that allows me to bend the pip joint/knuckle. It works ok but I am hoping my new ones prop up the tip a bit to get a better connection at the knuckle/joint.
As of right now I don’t have much, if any, pain. Sometimes a hint of something but then goes away. No redness, swelling or bruising. I don’t know what to think of that. I figured id have at least some swelling or redness but not really anything, other than a bit of stiffness here and there. I can’t imagine it being like a partial tear or something, I mean it was visibly drooping, its a mallet finger 100%. Possibly some are worse than others? I mean I’m not complaining, just found it kinda of strange reading most people had some of those symptoms. Who knows they may pop up eventually. I definitely share the anger and frustration of such a stupid injury and process though. Not looking forward to it. Regardless of the lack of symptoms besides clearly not being able to lift it, I’m treating it as a full tear, which it probably is, and will do the 8 weeks. If at any point things start to take a turn for the worse I’ll go and see a specialist. Which at that point it will probably be all for naught. Doubt I would do surgery anyways with the outcome seemingly the same as splinting.
It’s also impressive at the various types of splints people are put in, exercise, don’t exercise, 4 weeks, 8 weeks, immobilize the pip joint, don’t immobilize the joint, swan neck deformity. Kind of a damned if you do and damned if you don’t type of situation. A “do this and hope for the best, type situation.”
Appreciated reading everyones experiences, and here’s hoping it all works out and those that have experienced this have some or all recovery.
That is exactly how I got my mallet finger, also middle finger dominant hand. My suggestions are that you make sure your middle joint remains mobile with the splint, and that you see a Physical Therapist. They will make sure the splint is on correctly and help with rehab. My injury happened 15 months ago. My finger is fully functional but there is still some stiffness that resulted from me wearing the splint for too long. I saw a hand specialist right away and I don’t think they did me any favors by making me leave the splint on for about 10 weeks. I am now wearing a spring-loaded splint about an hour a day to straighten the tip of the finger. I have hyper-extension in my fingertips so my poor mallet finger looks a bit different. If I didn’t have the hyperextension it would look almost completely straight.
Hi everyone. So mine was caused playing football with my son. Urgent care said what everyone is saying. Must keep splint on 24/7 and if it falls off for a second, back to square one. So a lot of the comments above focus on post-X weeks from splinting. I want to focus on how is it realistic to make 6 weeks without the splint falling off. After 3 days, I was taking out the garbage and the splint slide off – okay start the clock over!!
So I am wearing an entire finger splint from CVS and ordered a mallet one from Amazon. Also, I am going to see an orthopedic doctor who will help answer this and all my questions.
I’m in a similar boat as the pianist in an earlier comment. I scuba dive for a living, and participate in a lot of physical work outside, fishing, swimming, gardening, etc. I wish that there was a permanent cast that could be put on the finger….I just need something to keep it on even with physical activity. (The urgent doctor said there is nothing like this for the finger but I will ask the orthopedic doctor).
I guess part of the answer will be to tape it on. Any more ideas? I’m just saying…..I will be a broken man if at 3 weeks it slips off and I have to start over. This is crazy.
If you look at my photos, you will see that I used some tape to hold my splint on. I found it in the bandage section of the pharmacy and it’s for taping bandages on skin. Don’t use the first photo as an example where I had one vertical strip under the horizontal tape – this prevented my proximal joint from moving and caused a lot of stiffness when the splint came off. Make sure your proximal joint is free to move. Hope this helps!
You should go to the orthopedic doctor you should emphasize your occupational needs. You MAY be able to get a cast (usually a thermoplastic one rather than a traditional cast). You can also ask if you should just have surgery to fix the joint in place for those weeks . They are reticent to do surgery if there is no break, but if it is a matter of maintaining your job then they may be more amenable to these other solutions.
How exactly will the doctor know if the splinting worked? Does the finger have to remain straight once the splint is removed? Or is pressure applied at the finger tip and they feel resistnace?
This morning I took the splint off to clean it, I placed my hand flat on the table and slowly and carefully lifted my middle finger and it stayed straight? I didn’t dare to apply pressure to the nail – not sure if I’mm celebrating a bit too early as tomorrow marks the 5 week point and although I’m used to having the splint – I really need this to go away since I feel the pinky and wedding finger are sore now from not using them.
BTW, I used the tip of my middle finger to take off a sock – Wish I had a better story! LOL
I was wondering if anybody can tell me how they test if the splint worked. I have an appointment for my six week check up. Will they just remove the splint to see if the finger stays straight? Will it droop immediately if it did not heal correctly? Mine was just a tendon injury and not a bone break sowhen should I realistically have the splint removed?
I can’t comment regarding what they’ll do to test if the splint works.
From my personal experience of having 2 mallet fingers that both fully successfully repaired with zero droop and full flexion.. I kept my finger in the splint for 8 weeks and made sure I never let the joint bend or drop down freely when I took the splint off to clean it, the splint had a slight upward extension to overcompensate for any droop.
When I went to the physio after the 8 weeks the splint was taken off and the tendon held itself with a slight extension up that was reflective of the same shape of the splint, and it was stiff as a board!
If links are allowed if you follow this link it should take you to my specific comment that I posted on here 4 years ago about my whole journey and what I did the second time round, it’s a long read mind you! https://meadowhawk.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/coping-with-mallet-finger/#comment-3925
Hope this helps! Staying disciplined and not letting the joint bend/drop whilst in and out the splint is the key, then you should be fully confident that when you take the splint off it should be rock solid and straight, maybe double check if 6 weeks is enough for splinting, as 8 weeks worked perfectly for me.
Let me second the 8 week recommendation. I also want to give another set of experiences.
I too am a two-time mallet finger (middle finger on opposite hands). The first was more like Josh (below) says — it was pretty obviously healed, though it felt weak and stiff from not being used for 8 weeks. It healed with a little droop (maybe 5 degrees?), but no hyperextension. The second one on my dominant hand was different. We took off the splint and there was considerable droop and still some inflammation and pain at the joint — the doctor thought that might resolve, but after several weeks it was clear that it was not getting better. He suggested that another 8 week course of splinting MIGHT help, so I did that. I’m glad I did even though it was a big inconvenience. The finger healed up pretty much the same as the left one — just a very slight droop — but regaining the full range of pain-free motion was slower. A second course of splinting is not common at all, but it worked for me.
The month or two after the splint comes off is also pretty critical for many of us — while you are regaining the range of motion — I used the splint at night (just slipped it on and off) and during strenuous activity to keep me from overflexing my fingers in my sleep until I got the full range of motion back.
The bottom line is — each person and each injury is different. While some people end up with no droop and even hyperextension, others that diligently follow the splinting (with hyperextension during the splinting as I did) end up with a little droop. Some end up with considerable droop.
Here are some references that may be of interest:
The classification system for outcomes was developed by Crawford in 1984 — and it goes like this (from this article https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430811/) :
Excellent outcome: No pain and a full range of motion at the DIP joint.
Good outcomes: less than a 10-degree extension deficit.
Fair outcome:10–25 degrees of extension deficit with no pain.
Poor outcome: more than 25 degrees of extension deficit or persistent pain.
In one study I read, about 50% of people had an excellent outcome and 25% good, but those numbers are quite variable from study to study involve relatively small numbers of cases. I would classify my outcome as at the upper end of “good”.
An interesting fact that I just found out is that “Lengthening of the terminal extensor tendon by 1 millimeter results in 25 degrees of extension lag” (from the above article) — so this is a game where tenths of a millimeter (100 microns!) matters. The anatomy of the hand is truly amazing.
Finally, this article https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7405845/ says that the initial severity of the injury makes a difference in outcome, at least probabilistically.
I too am an unfortunate member of the mallet finger club. The fateful day was December 29, 2021. I injured my middle finger on my non dominate hand ( thankfully ) when I simply pulled off a pair of tight socks using the backs of my fingers. I felt a slight pop but no pain. My hands were cold as I was just shoveling some snow, and I was in a rush to get in the shower and get on with my day. Right away I kind of knew exactly what I done, but was in denial at first.
After having my shower and seeing that my finger wouldn’t straighten I figured this is something more serious than a ” jammed finger” so I went to the local ER. The ER Dr took an X-Ray to confirm that there wasn’t an avulsion fracture, and confirmed my suspicion that I ruptured my extensor tendon, gave me a poorly fitting stax splint, and told me I had to wear it 24/7 for 6 weeks! I was shocked, I figured in my mind 2 weeks tops! And as I am a Chiropractor how was I able to work with thing on my hand? She sympathized with me a little, and immediately referred me to a hand physiotherapist. Luckily I was able to see me that very day and he fitted my for two custom made thermoplastic splints, and proceeded to tell me that I had to wear the splint 24/7 for 8 weeks, not 6, and if the finger bent at any time during this 8 weeks I would have to reset the clock again.
So needless to say I was a little upset. He told me could change and wash my splint and finger daily as long as I kept the finger supported flat on a table/counter the whole time it was out of the splint, and to use extreme caution re-applying the splint. This was a challenge at first and just my luck about 2 weeks in, my finger bent while I was changing the splint! So I reset the clock, I was very depressed. I am now 8 weeks in the splint, ( 6 weeks since the “mishap”)
I’ve been able to function as a Chiropractor relatively well, the custom splints are not too big and the rest of my finger functions fine. A few days ago when I was again changing my splint , I accidently lifting my hand slightly off the table, I panicked of course, but couldn’t help but notice that my finger remained straight! It wasn’t the natural hyperextension of my other fingers, but straight nonetheless, so this gives me some hope it is healing ok despite all the stresses my hands are subjected to at work. I’m going to continue to wear the splint for another 2-3 weeks to be on the safe side, and to be honest the whole splint wearing ordeal doesn’t bother that much anymore, you just learn to deal with it.
So anyway, I hope this long winded story gives people some insight into the process, And I have to thank Gillian for this, I’ve received more information and hope from this blog than any other source! Cheers everyone, stay the course!!!
Welcome to the club you probably don’t want to join. I think the main issue after getting out of the splint is that you will have a fully functional but stiff, finger. I ended up going to PT for several months to deal with my stiff and swollen finger after getting out of the splint.. Don’t hesitate to see PT for your finger rehab. I ended up getting a straightening splint to get rid of the slight droop. It worked pretty well, but my other fingers have a natural hyperextension so my injured finger was not able to get that hyperextension.
Thank you Ellen for the advice, I intend on seeing the hand physiotherapist in about 3 weeks and will follow through with all his recommendations as I need a hand that functions at 100%.
How is your finger doing now almost 2 years after your injury? Did it ever heal completely straight? Do you have full function and strength in the affected hand?
I’m a pianist so having a fully functional finger was very important. The injured finger was functional after removing the splint. However, maybe only in my case or in a few cases, I think the splint was left on for too long which resulted in a swollen finger. I think it is from the scar tissue that developed as a result of the injury and the splint being on for too long. It has not interfered with piano playing or any other activity requiring dexterity. For a while I was wrapping my finger at night to reduce night-time swelling. I have stopped doing that and my finger feels slightly stiff upon awakening but quickly goes away as soon as I get going. My finger looks mostly straight two years later but does not have the hyperextension of my other fingers.
Some people have reported that their finger returned completely to normal and did not experience the swollen and stiff feeling. Again, this injury should not have any adverse effect on your work as a chiropractor.
Thanks for your reply, I was wondering if during the time your finger was splinted, how often did you remove your splint to clean your finger and splint? if at all? I was told by my hand physiotherapist that’s its fine to do so every day or two as long as the finger tip is supported and not allowed to flex, but after reading from many different sources now, I’ve seen various opinions, from do not remove it under any circumstance, from once every 2-3 days, to weekly and even every 2 weeks.
I removed the splint and cleaned my finger a couple times a week. It was a two-person operation, but one person would be able to do it as long as you figure out exactly how to remove it so the fingertip doesn’t droop (Whoop, just re-read your post about the mishap). I can’t imagine leaving it on for 2 weeks without cleaning. By the end of the 9 weeks the skin was coming off my finger, probably because I was wearing the splint during the summer, and when I exercised at all my finger would get hot under the plastic splint and swell up. In retrospect, I think the hand therapist could have put me in a better splint. Even though I was able to move my middle PIP joint, it must not have been enough because my finger ended up swollen and stiff (as I mentioned earlier).
I just re-read your initial post and you should ask the hand specialist if you can take the splint off sooner than the expected schedule since you reported that it was straight. I believe the problem I had with my finger being swollen and stiff for a long time after it healed was that it was in the splint for too long. I realize everyone is different and I’ve heard that some people had no residual problems. This is just one data point.
Well today is the day, I’m seeing the hand physiotherapist today 10 weeks after the injury, on to stage two of the process!! Hope it stays straight.
The good news is, if it is healed it will stay straight and won’t bend immediately. The bad news is, if it is healed you will have to do some work to get it bending again properly. It’s totally doable though. Good luck!
Thankfully the finger stayed straight! But it is VERY stiff, especially the PIP joint. As mentioned by Gillian earlier, it is important to keep PIP joint moving the whole time your finger is splinted. My custom made splint did restrict some of the motion in this joint and I was not able to bend it all the way during the 10 weeks, so now it is also quite tight. The therapist has started me on some very simple exercises for the first week, basically simply making a fist for 30 reps, followed by lifting my finger off the table for 30 reps, 4 times a day, keeping my finger in the splint when I’m not doing the exercises, as well at night when sleeping.
Then moving on to more time out of the splint each week.
His advice is that it’s best not to start with more advanced blocking exercises until maybe 2 weeks in, as right now the tendon is weak and can easily be stretched out resulting in it healing more stretched and with more permanent lag. I’m just happy the tendon healed.
I hope this info helps some people out there, and again thanks to Gillian for starting this thread 8 years ago!
If any new wounded warriors come across this thread, my best advice is to see a Dr. and /or hand specialist sooner than later, and get a custom made splint. You will get used to wearing it in a week or two. If you need to wash your splint, it is imperative that you do not let the finger tip flop forward, especially in the first 4 weeks. This happened to me 2 weeks in, so I was in a splint for a total of 10 weeks, it was a pain in the butt, however I learned to live and work with it.
The fewer times your finger is out of the splint the better as there will be less of a chance of it bending, so if you can go 2-3 days great. I cleaned my finger and splint each evening and had the process down to a science so my finger never bent after the first mishap. Some people go 1 -2 weeks without cleaning, and I’ve seem one person’s you tube channel were he went the full 8 weeks without taking his finger out of the splint. I can’t even imagine that!
Good luck everyone, stay the course, 8 weeks goes by quicky!
I had this problem in 2016, l replied here back then. My advice regarding Oval 8 splints remains, they are the best chimice for mallet finger. See my posts above, in August 2016.
Thank you for the detailed experience. I just got the same injury last night taking off my exercise pants and my finger snapped. I went to urgent care and will need to make an appt at the hand dr – but what an ordeal. Not looking forward to the next year 😞
It felt like then end if the world when I had my injury and I got terrible advice. It really will heal in 8 weeks if you keep it straight. Get a good splint and do NOT bend the finger and you will heal. I promise! Stay positive x