In this blog post, we are going to talk about the top 3 mallet finger treatment tips to get the best results for your mallet finger. These are position, compliance, and exercise progression.
First, if you’re not exactly sure what a mallet finger injury is, then check out this blog post first. I explain this small but mighty injury in more detail. Because I can’t emphasize enough the importance of understanding what is making your finger droop. Mallet finger injuries really can be confusing and challenging.
Not all droopy fingers are mallet fingers.
Before you read on, it is important for a doctor to properly diagnose you. And in fact, they’ll be able to let you know which type of mallet finger injury you have.
This is so important because there are different types of mallet finger injuries- bony and tendinous. Within these types, there are various classifications which basically describe the severity .
You need to know which type of mallet finger you have to determine the right course of treatment.
Armed with the proper diagnoses will help guide you with what type of splint you should be using, how your finger should be positioned in the splint, if you will need surgery, when you can start exercising, and more important information.
Neglecting these details will greatly affect what your finger will look like forever.
If you’ve ever wondered how you can get the best results from this pain in the you know what injury, well read on my friend.
We’re going to dive right in. You can also watch the video of this post below.
First, let's talk about position.
One of the most crucial steps to get the best result is the position of your fingertip in your splint. It is not the type of splint. I can’t tell you how many types of mallet finger splints are out there.
Your doctor may give you a splint, your therapist might custom fabricate one for you out of a thermoplastic or casting material.
Or you may have skipped the doctor altogether and purchased a splint from Amazon or some other website. I’ve even had people tell me they made their own out of cardboard or popsicle sticks (which by the way… I don’t recommend).
Regardless of the splint you have, a detail you’ll want to remember is the way your finger is placed while in the splint. Making sure the tip of your finger is as straight as possible if you want it to heal straight.
If your finger is not in a good position while you're splinted, well then how can it heal correctly?
Think about it. Some splints do not fit right and allow the tip of the finger to rest in the splint. The fingertip is actually bent in a little bit of flexion.
With a mallet finger injury, regardless of the type, your fingertip joint is supposed to be splinted straight. This is referred to as your DIP joint. And in some cases, your DIP joint should be placed even in slight hyperextension.
If your DIP joint, is even slightly bent in the splint, then it’s going to heal that way. This is especially true if you have a tendinous mallet finger.
If the joint is allowed to flex, or bend, even a little bit in the splint, then that does not allow the tendon to properly heal back to the bone.
You’ll get scar tissue and scar formation build up. Basically, the scar tissue will fill in and the tendon won’t be able to heal right to the bone.
What you will end up with, when it is time to remove your splint, is a finger that won’t straighten all the way.
Think of your tendon like a rope.
When scar formation occurs with the finger bent, it is like having too much length in the rope. This causes slack in the rope (aka tendon) making it impossible to straighten your finger completely.
That’s why it’s so important to position your fingertip in the right position in your splint, so it can heal completely straight. A therapist can usually tell you exactly what position you are supposed to splint your finger with either a bony mallet finger or a tendinous mallet finger.
Now let's look at #2, which is compliance.
This means how compliant are you with the splint on? Do you take the splint off to wash your hands? Do you take the splint off when you are typing or showering, but then put the splint back on?
Technically, that’s being noncompliant. By removing the splint several times a day or week, you have basically undone all that healing that has occurred. And if you’re doing that multiple times a day, over and over and over again, that can lead to a poor outcome due.
Your tendon can NOT heal properly.
Plus if you remove the splint and bump your fingertip on something on accident, you could have just completely undone all healing. The other thing to remember is that that your tendon is not very strong.
Even trying to keep the fingertip straight out of the splint can be a lot of strain to your healing tendon.
Plus your tendon may not be strong enough to keep your fingertips straight for long and you will see your tendon slowly start to droop overtime.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being compliant with wearing your splint.
I know having a splint on your finger 24/7 can frustrating. That is why I like to recommend little tips to make your life easier such as covering your hand with a plastic bag when you shower to avoid water getting into your splint. This can prevent skin maceration, irritation, and infection.
Finally, tip #3 to get the best results for your mallet finger injury is exercise progression.
This is key.
First, make sure you are healed and your doctor has cleared you to start moving. I can’t emphasize enough about the importance of a slow progressive exercise program. This allows loading the tendon overtime without straining it
Typically, that means making gentle active fists and slowly progressing strengthening exercises over time. Typically, you’re advised against doing anything strenuous with the hand for a several weeks. Always consult your doctor before starting any exercise program to your hand.
A mallet finger injury is very annoying and it can take a long time to heal. Patience really is crucial with this type of annoying little injury.
But unless you want to have a droopy finger forever, it’s really important to follow these top 3 mallet finger treatment tips along with your doctor’s program.
Now, if you’re looking for a progressive exercise program that can safely guide you, I’ve got one for you.
In this program, I’ll walk you through week by week on how to improve your flexibility, when to start strengthening and more importantly, how to prevent a mallet finger from happening again.