Fractured Metacarpal Causes Symptoms Diagnosis and Treatment

Fractured metacarpal injuries are commonly caused by falls and sporting injuries and require physiotherapy treatment to fully heal. This informative fractured metacarpal guide covers the causes, symptoms and treatment for fractured metacarpal injuries and how you can make the best possible recovery following your injury.

Fractured metacarpal (or fractured hand) injuries refer to a break in one or more of the five metacarpal bones in the hand. The most common causes of fractured metacarpal injuries include sports injuries, falls and any kind of forceful impact to the hand. Fractured metacarpal injuries usually completely heal within 6-8 weeks with enough rest and proper treatment. More complex or open fractures that require surgical intervention can take a lot longer to heal and come with an increased risk of complications. To find out more about the causes, symptoms and treatment of fractured metacarpal injuries, click on a section below.

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What is a Fractured Metacarpal?

Fractured metacarpal

Fractured metacarpal

A fractured metacarpal injury refers to a break in one or more of the five metacarpal bones in your hand, which are located at the level of your palm. The fracture can occur at any location along the bone.

The job of the metacarpal bones is to support your hand, and the end of the bones make up the knuckles. The phalanges (your fingers) and the carpal bones (your wrist) also make up this area of your body.  You may have heard others refer to a fractured metacarpal injury as a “hand fracture” or a “broken finger”, however your doctor will probably refer to your specific injury by its medical name, such as a fractured fifth metacarpal, as this will describe the fracture in more detail.

What are the Common Causes of a Fractured Metacarpal?

Fractured metacarpal injuries are most commonly caused by trauma, such as falling from a bicycle when your hand is clenched around the handle bars or falling awkwardly on your hand. You could also be at risk of sustaining a fractured metacarpal injury by punching or striking an object with your knuckles, such as during a contact sport such as kickboxing or martial arts. Fractured fifth metacarpal injuries are almost always as a result of a direct blow, such as in a “karate chop” manoeuvre.

It takes a great deal of force for a fractured metacarpal injury to occur such as during a punch or direct trauma to the hand. Because of the amount of force it takes to sustain a metacarpal fracture, it is common for other injuries to be seen in conjunction with fractured metacarpals, such as dislocations, joint sprains and other hand fractures.

The cause of your fractured metacarpal may also affect the severity of the break. For example, a competitive martial arts fight could result in a simple fracture whereas a hard fall may cause a comminuted fracture where the bone is broken into many pieces. There are several other types of fractured metacarpal injuries including greenstick fractures, displaced fractures and compound fractures.

The most common injuries that lead to a fractured metacarpal bone include:

  • falls
  • sporting injuries
  • fist fights
  • road traffic accidents

What are Fractured Metacarpal Symptoms?

Fractured metacarpal symptoms can depend on a number of factors, including the cause of the fracture and what metacarpal bone is broken. For example, fractured 3rd metacarpal symptoms as a result from a forceful blow during a car accident may not be the same as the symptoms you experience from a fractured fifth metacarpal as a result of a direct blow during a sporting match. However, if you have sustained a metacarpal fracture, you are likely to notice pain and swelling in the affected hand, along with stiffness when moving your fingers or forming a fist. You may also notice bruising developing in the affected area within a few days of the injury taking place.

Fractured metacarpal treatment depends on whether the fracture is located at the head of the metacarpal (towards the knuckle) or the base of the metacarpal (towards the wrist).

What is the Difference Between a Fractured Metacarpal and Sprained Metacarpal?

Fractured metacarpal symptoms are often similar to metacarpal sprain symptoms, therefore one of the best ways of achieving an accurate fractured metacarpal diagnosis is through an imaging test such as an x-ray.

One of the main reasons that fractured metacarpal symptoms are so similar to metacarpal sprains is that both injuries are often caused by impact. The safest way to determine whether you have sustained a metacarpal fracture of the hand or a sprained metacarpal is to undergo an x-ray. Placing ice on the injured area of your hand will also offer an insight into the severity of your injury; the pain should ease when you place an ice pack at the location of the suspected fracture.

The most common fractured metacarpal symptoms include pain and swelling at the point of the injury. While bruising does not always occur immediately after the injury, it is common for bruising to develop within a few days of a fractured metacarpal injury. If you have fractured your metacarpal, you are also likely to notice stiffness in your fingers and pain when attempting to form a fist.

Most metacarpal fractures completely heal within 6-8 weeks; therefore it is common to experience stiffness and inflammation until the fracture has fully healed.

Metacarpal fractures are generally diagnosed by the location of the break in the bone. Fractured metacarpal injuries that are located in the middle of the bone are known as metacarpal shaft fractures. Fractures at the knuckle, near the base of the finger are referred to as metacarpal head fractures. Fractured metacarpal injuries near the wrist are known as fractures of the base of the metacarpal. The treatment you receive for your fractured metacarpal injury will depend on the location of your fracture.

What is the Diagnosis for a Fractured Metacarpal?

If you have a suspected fractured metacarpal injury, your doctor will ask you a series of questions about the cause of the injury before carefully examining the affected area. During this initial physical examination, your doctor will assess your hand for any joint or soft tissue damage, the extent of any bleeding from an open fracture and whether there are any foreign objects (such as glass) present in the wound. Depending on the doctor’s findings from the physical examination, you may be sent for one or more of the following tests to confirm a fractured metacarpal diagnosis:

  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Ultrasound scan

Could I Qualify for Free Orthopaedic Assessment of a Broken Bone Report?

If you have sustained a fractured metacarpal injury, your doctor will use the results from your imaging diagnostic tests (either an x-ray, a CT scan or an MRI scan) to compile a broken bone report. This report will include the specific details of your fractured metacarpal and the course of treatment that your doctor believes is appropriate for your injury. If you wish to see this report, you are entitled to ask for a copy.

Depending on where in the country you live, you could be entitled to a free orthopaedic assessment of your broken bone report. This cost-free expert medical opinion can help you to discover any inadequacies in the medical treatment you are receiving for your fractured metacarpal injury. It can also determine whether additional treatment may help to accelerate your recovery from your injury. By getting in touch with us today, we can tell you if you are eligible to receive this free broken bone report. Contact us today and we can start helping you straight away.

What is the Treatment for a Fractured Metacarpal?

Fractured metacarpal treatment

Fractured metacarpal treatment

Fractured metacarpal treatment usually involves wearing a cast or a fractured metacarpal splint for around 6 weeks. After this period of time, your doctor or physiotherapist will recommend fractured metacarpal exercises to help accelerate your rehabilitation and restore mobility in your injured hand. You may also be referred to a hand therapist of you notice your hand becoming stiff after your cast is removed.

Surgical treatment is recommended in some cases of fractured metacarpal injuries. For example, your doctor may decide that you need surgery if you have sustained multiple fractures or an open metacarpal fracture. If you have sustained an isolated fractured metacarpal, your doctor will evaluate the following two factors to determine whether surgical treatment is necessary:

Length

  • Your doctor will look at the length of your fractured metacarpal and determine if the affected finger has become shorter as the result of your injury. If it has, your doctor may recommend surgical treatment to restore the finger to its previous length.

Rotation

  • Your doctor may recommend surgery treatment if your finger has become rotated or twisted as a result of your fractured metacarpal To determine whether your finger is rotated, your doctor may ask you to make a fist to check whether your fingers cross over each other.

Surgery for a fractured metacarpal injury often includes the use of medical pins, plates or screws. The medical team at the hospital will decide on the type of operation you need based on the specific type of fractured metacarpal injury you have sustained. For example, fractured 5th metacarpal treatment may differ to fractured 3rd metacarpal treatment.

You may require surgery for your metacarpal fracture if the break is located at the head or the base of the metacarpal and the bone’s joint surface is involved in the injury. In a case such this, surgery may be the best course of treatment to prevent any problems with joint mobility.

One of the most important parts of fractured metacarpal treatment is sufficient rest and avoiding any activity that is likely to increase pain. Following your fractured metacarpal injury, you should avoid any activities that could place extra stress on your injured hand. This includes punching, lifting, gripping, pushing, pulling and placing excessive weight through your hand and wrist. Avoiding these types of activities and ensuring you fractured metacarpal is sufficiently rested will help to prevent any further damage taking place. Once you are able to carry out these activities without experiencing fractured metacarpal pain, you can gradually return to performing your everyday tasks. This usually takes place over a period of weeks to months following advice from your doctor or physiotherapist.

The final part of rehabilitation following your fractured metacarpal will consist of a gradual return to your normal activities or exercise. Your doctor or physiotherapist will tell you the best time to start carrying out your usual activities again and whether you require a fractured metacarpal splint during the process.

Ignoring your symptoms is likely to cause further damage to your fractured metacarpal injury and slow down the healing process. Seeking immediate medical care for your injury is essential in giving yourself the best possible chance of making a full recovery. You can start treating your fractured metacarpal injury straight away by gently applying ice for 20 minutes every two hours on your way to seeking medical attention. If you experience swelling as well as pain, you should keep your injured hand elevated above the level of your heart.

As part of your fractured metacarpal treatment, you will need to engage in some form of physiotherapy exercises to help prevent any complications developing in the future. We can find out if you are entitled to free, private physiotherapy treatment in your area that could help to accelerate your recovery time. Get in touch with us today and we can start helping you straight away.

Could I Qualify for Free Private Treatment for a Fractured Metacarpal?

If you have sustained a fractured metacarpal injury, you could be eligible to receive free private medical care in your local area. You may also qualify for cost-free private physiotherapy that could help to speed up the rehabilitation process following your injury. This kind of private medical treatment could help you to restore full function in your injured hand in a safe and comfortable way and reduce the risk of losing movement in your broken hand.

Contact our friendly and professional team today to find out what kind of free private physiotherapy and medical treatment is available in your local area. By calling one of our medical experts today, you can find out almost immediately if you qualify for free treatment and medical supplies that could make your recovery from a fractured metacarpal a quicker and better one.

What Sort of Free Medical Care is Available for a Fractured Metacarpal?

If you have suffered a fractured metacarpal injury, you could be entitled to various forms of private health care and treatments in your local area. This may include:

  • Free private medical care by a physiotherapist or a fractured metacarpal specialist
  • Free physiotherapy treatment tailored made for your specific fracture, such as a fractured metacarpal thumb or a 4 metacarpal fracture
  • Free medical supplies and aids that could help to reduce your recovery time following your fractured metacarpal injury

By getting in touch with one of our professional experts today, you can find out what free treatments are available in your local area and whether you are eligible to receive them. Our team are ready to help you straight away.

Would I Need Surgery for a Fractured Metacarpal?

Whether or not you require surgery for your fractured metacarpal depends on the severity of your injury and what kind of fracture you have sustained. For example, you are likely to require less treatment for a closed fractured fifth metacarpal than an open fracture with a wound. If your fractured metacarpal is severe, you may need to undergo surgery where pins will be inserted into your injured hand.

Most fractured metacarpal injuries are treated with non-surgical methods such as physiotherapy. Contact us today to find out if you could receive physiotherapy treatment for your fractured metacarpal injury free of charge.

How Long Does it Take for a Fractured Metacarpal to Mend?

Most fractured metacarpal injuries completely heal within 6-8 weeks with rest and physiotherapy sessions. It is important that you follow the advice of your doctor or physiotherapist before returning to work or attempting to resume your normal daily activities, whether you are receiving NHS treatment for your fractured metacarpal or free private medical care.

Can I Recover Faster and Safely From Fractured Metacarpal?

As part of your rehabilitation following your fractured metacarpal injury, you will require some form of physiotherapy treatment. By getting in touch with our friendly team today, we can let you know if you qualify for free private physiotherapy sessions that will help to safely speed up your recovery. We can check, based on where in the county you live, if you are eligible to receive cost-free private healthcare for your fractured metacarpal injury that could help you to recover faster and better. Give us a call now and we can start helping you straight away.

Are There Any Complications with a Fractured Metacarpal?

If you receive non-surgical treatment for your metacarpal fracture, you may notice a lump or a bump on the back of your hand. This commonly occurs during the healing process, when excess bone forms at the site of the fracture.

Possible complications following fractured metacarpal surgery can include:

  • The development of infection
  • Damage or injury to the nerves in the hand
  • The need to remove metal implants months or years following your operation

The Doctor Missed Something When Diagnosing my Fractured Metacarpal, What Should I Do?

If you believe you have received inadequate treatment for your fractured metacarpal injury, it is important that you gain as much knowledge as possible on fractured metacarpal injuries so that you can determine whether your suspicions are correct.

The website links at the bottom of this guide offer more detailed information on fractured metacarpal injuries.

Contact Us to Find Out About Free Medical Care in Your Area

If you are living with a fractured metacarpal, you will be keen to make a full recovery as quickly as possible. You can find out if you qualify for free private healthcare and physiotherapy treatment that can make your recovery a quicker and easier one. Depending on where in the UK you live, you could be eligible for invaluable private medical treatment. Call our friendly and expert team today and we can tell you what fractured metacarpal treatments are available in your local area. We are ready to start helping you making a better recovery from your fractured metacarpal today.

Helpful Links

If you were involved in an accident that left you with a fractured metacarpal and would like to know more about this type of hand injury, the following link takes you to an NHS website where you will find lots of useful information:

More about metacarpal fractures

If you would like to know more about how physiotherapy can help with your fractured metacarpal recovery time, the following link provides informative reading on the topic:

How physio can help your fracture metacarpal recovery time