Open a PDF version to print this topic

HealthInfo Canterbury

Broken hand bones

The long bones in your hands are called your metacarpals. A break (fracture) in one of these is relatively common.

Your metacarpal bones form joints with the small bones in your wrist (carpal bones) and the small bones of your fingers (phalanges). If something hits your hand, or your hand hits something, this stresses your metacarpal bones. If the stress is too great, one or more of them may break.

Often a broken hand bone happens with other hand and wrist injuries such as a sprained or dislocated joint, or broken fingers or wrist.

Your metacarpals can break in different places, like the head, neck, shaft, or base. Some breaks are more severe than others, depending on how many pieces the bone breaks into, whether the break involves a joint, and whether or not the broken ends are still together.

How do I know if I have broken my hand?

If you have broken one or more of your hand bones, your hand may be:

As well:

If you think you have broken a bone in your hand, it's important to get it treated. You doctor, hand therapist, or nurse practitioner will examine your hand and ask questions about what happened. You will also have an X-ray to show which bone is broken, and also how it is broken.

How is a broken hand treated?

Treatment for a broken hand depends on what the break looks like and how painful it is. Most breaks are simple, with the ends still together, so these are treated with a splint or cast, but no surgery. This is often called non-operative management.

Things you can do yourself

There are several things you can do yourself to help your hand heal, whether or not you are having surgery.

If you are not having surgery

If the broken ends of the bone are not aligned, your doctor may need to move them back into place. This usually doesn't need surgery, but you will probably receive a local anaesthetic injection to numb the area, or possibly laughing gas (nitrous oxide).

You will have a splint or cast to stop the bones in your hand from moving and hold them in place. The cast or splint will probably extend from your fingertips down past your wrist, almost to your elbow. This makes sure the bones stay in place. You can read about how to care for your cast, so it continues to protect your hand.

You will have to wear the cast or splint for four to six weeks. You will probably be able to start doing some gentle hand exercises after three weeks.

When the cast comes off, the finger above the bone you broke may be slightly shorter than before. This should not affect your ability to use your hand and fingers.

You will also need to take special care of your hand, including doing some strengthening exercises, for a while after your cast comes off.

On the next page: Surgery for a broken hand

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by orthopaedic surgeon, Canterbury DHB. Page created March 2017.

See also:

ACC help after an injury

Broken bones first aid

Living with an injury

Page reference: 347801

Review key: HIWAH-240323