This blog post may be an unpopular opinion among some people (Hint: Chiropractors). Nonetheless, I feel it is a very important topic to discuss due to the number of times it comes up.
Over many years working in the field of hand and arm rehabilitation, I think it is time to address this question I’ve heard over and over again and that is:
Can My Chiropractor Fix My Mallet Finger?
The quick answer is a very robust “No!”. However, hear me out because there is a lot more to it.
I’m not sure why anyone would choose to go to a chiropractor for a hand injury in the first place. You have family doctors, orthopedic MD’s, nurse practitioners, hand surgeons, and specialists in the field of hands (ahem– hand therapist here).
My guess is because you saw your chiropractor for your back or hip and felt amazing afterwards.
In fact, you may still be seeing them- they have a tendency to want you to come back over and over again. Am I right?
Anyway, you probably thought they could help you out with your mallet finger too. Perhaps you spoke to your chiropractor and you were told you needed to see them in order for your finger to heal correctly. (This isn’t true by the way.)
Along with wondering whether your chiropractor will fix your finger you may have similar questions. I know, because I’ve been asked questions like:
My chiropractor says I need to adjust my finger. Will this help?
My chiropractor says my finger is out of alignment! How do I know if it is?
My chiropractor says I have a lot of scar tissue and they need to break it up for my finger to heal. Will massaging make it better?
My answers to all these are still the same, "no, No, and NO!"
I can also tell you it isn’t just me that has this same answer or feels the same way as I do. I’ve also heard from fellow hand therapists around the world that people with mallet finger injuries have repeatedly gone to their chiropractor for months and months.
Bleeding their pocket books and wasting precious time, only to be left with a finger that is not healed and still drooping.
The biggest reason as to why I am against chiropractic care for mallet fingers is because of the lack of proper treatment.
They are treating your Mallet Finger WRONG.
I think you and I can agree that your finger is not like the spine. In fact, it is not like any other body part right?! So the finger shouldn’t be treated as such.
Now, I don’t want this post to sound as if I am anti chiropractors. Because I am not. But I am against any professional misleading you with false, incorrect, unproven techniques to heal someone’s finger.
So to help you better understand where I am coming from, let’s think this through together.
Your finger is NOT out of alignment.
The droop is happening because the tendon is not attached!
Your tendon that attaches to the distal phalanx, also known as your fingertip bone, has been torn away from where it inserts.
This is typically what happens with a mallet finger.
This can happen when the tendon is pulled off the distal phalanx, with or without a piece of bone, from a minor or major trauma. There is a lot more to a mallet finger and you can read more here on my blog post- What is a Mallet Finger.
I guess, in a very round about way, you could say the finger is not in alignment. It’s not in the correct position, right? Your fingertip is no longer straight. It is drooped because the tendon is no longer attached to the bone.
But I can confidently say, and so do thousands of hand therapists and hand surgeons, that no adjustment or re alignment can magically make your finger tendon heal by getting it put back in place.
What happens is your fingertip will droop immediately again if there isn’t anything to hold it straight.
But that’s okay because you will have to come back again and again to get it put back in place (insert sarcasm).
Unfortunately, some chiropractors will tell you they can adjust your finger, or massage, or manipulate your finger better.
I’ve heard it all. And continue to question how is that possible in a mallet finger?
It makes me think they do not understand what a mallet finger really is.
They most certainly can try to align your finger all they want. In fact, I am sure you have already tried your hardest to get that fingertip straight. But it won’t stay that way and no chiropractor’s hands will be able to do that either.
So to clarify, this is not a post against chiropractors in general. Not all chiropractors try to treat mallet fingers. However, it is happening a lot and it burns me up. Hence the reason I felt the need to create this post.
Unfortunately, I have heard stories like this over and over again from many clients. And I have reached out to colleagues of mine that only treat hand injuries such as mallet fingers. They have seen it too.
I truly want to help save you time and money. But more importantly make sure you are getting the right treatment at the beginning of your recovery because the longer you have your mallet injury without proper treatment, the less likely you are to have a good outcome.
Unfortunately, one thing I have found amongst those that go to a chiropractor for their mallet finger is that you are still left with a droopy finger. But now, it will take twice as long to heal. If it isn’t too late.
So I say this kindly, but also from 17+ years of experience working with the hand, please see a hand surgeon or certified hand therapist for your mallet finger injury.
Because…NO, your chiropractor can not fix your mallet finger.