Managing a Hand injury

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A hand injury occurs as a result of damage that affects the structures of the hand caused due to physical trauma.

Important disclaimer: To effectively learn to recognize and manage various hand injuries enrol in workplace approved first aid training.


The following are the main types of hand injuries:

  • Hand fracture. A hand fracture refers to the breakage of at least one bone in the hand
  • Hand sprain. The injury affects the ligaments that regulate movement and provide support to the handHand Injury
  • Hand contusions
  • Finger dislocation. This is a major injury in which a finger joint may be displaced or moved out of its original position
  • Finger sprain
  • Fingernail injury. This can be bleeding under the nail or breakage of the nail that may cause bleeding
  • Fingertip amputation
  • Tendon rupture

Skin injuries of the hand include:

  • Blisters – caused by heat or friction
  • Bruises on the hand
  • Puncture wounds
  • Animal bites
  • Lacerations
  • Burns

In most cases, some of these injuries are accompanied with others mentioned on the list. For example, a severe hand sprain may occur along with a mild hand fracture. Usually abrasions and cuts occur with fractures and sprains depending on the cause of the injury.

Causes of hand injury

Some common causes of hand injuries are:

  • Fist fights
  • Altercations
  • Kitchen accidents – especially while using the knife
  • Sports injuries
  • Car accidents
  • Crush injuries
  • Occupational injuries
  • Injection injuries
  • Gun shots

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of hand injuries include:

  • Mild to severe hand pain – depending on the type of injury
  • Pain may worsen with movement
  • Swelling of the hand
  • Tenderness of the hand
  • Bruises

Major symptoms of hand injuries that require medical treatment include:

  • Severe hand/finger pain —  pain may worsen with movement or restrict movement
  • Worsening of hand swelling
  • Worsening of bruises
  • Severe bleeding
  • Amputation of the hand or finger
  • Deformed finger/hand or fingernail
  • Inability to move fingers or hand properly
  • Significant tenderness o the affected hand bones
  • Bone protruding out of any region of the hand

When to seek medical attention

Seek immediate medical attention of any of the following symptoms result from the hand injury:

  • A deep puncture wound on the hand
  • A severe laceration on the hand
  • Worsening bruising of the and
  • Injection or pressure injury
  • Swelling is worsening
  • Hand seems to be deformed
  • Finger seems to be deformed
  • Bone is protruding out of the skin
  • Pain, swelling or deformity is restricting or not allowing movement of the hand or fingers
  • Worsening and persistent hand pain for 3 days after injury
  • Worsening redness of the affected region of the hand
  • Infection: drainage, pus, red streaks, itching

If your doctor has placed your hand in a splint or cast, see him if any of the problems occur:

  • Numbness of the hand
  • Pain begins to worsen under the splint or cast
  • Loss of circulation and sensation of the hand under the cast – skin becomes pale or the finger tips turn blue
  • Finger pain worsens
  • Infection


For finger and hand injuries, follow the treatment steps given below if you only suffer from mild symptoms mentioned above:

1. Cuts and lactations

  • Apply direct pressure using a sterile gauze or clean cloth until you stop bleeding
  • If blood soaks through, replace the cloth with another clean one or place a clean cloth over the first
  • Clean the wound with soap and warm water
  • Apply ice on the wound and keep the hand elevated in order to reduce swelling
  • In case of an amputation of the finger, place the parts of the hand/finger on TOP of some ice in a clean bag and promptly take it to the nearest hospital
  • In case of a deep cut, a puncture wound or an animal/human bite see your doctor immediately in case you cannot administer first aid by removing any foreign bodies or cleaning the wound, to prevent infection

2. Fractures and dislocations

  • Apply ice on the affected region to reduce pain and swelling
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Do not try to align any displaced bones
  • See your doctor as soon as possible

 Learn More

To learn more about hand injuries and other wound and skeletal emergencies sign up for a first aid course (more information) with a credible workplace approved provider near you.

Related Video (performed by a doctor – do no try at home)


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