I broke my finger

It’s been quite a while since my last blog post, and I have a good excuse: I broke my finger. Not to worry though, I broke it 6 weeks ago and I’m recovering nicely. I do want to share the story about the injury and recovery.

On December 9, 2012 I was out for a run in the morning, about 4 miles from East Cambridge into Boston, over the Longfellow and back up along the river to my building. Just before I got home, I had to cross Route 28 and while clearing the center median I caught my back foot and fell in the road. I was running full speed, so it was more of a tumble than a fall, on asphalt. I quickly got up and out of the way of the oncoming traffic. When I got to the sidewalk I realized my finger felt strange, and when I looked down I could see it was dislocated. The middle joint was out of place and turned about 45 degrees sideways.

While still on the sidewalk, I decided to see if I could reset it. I pulled a bit and the finger slid back into place. I was feeling pretty good about my amateur orthopedic skills. I went inside and showed Krystal, but by that time my finger was neither out of shape or swollen. I decided against going to the hospital for the time being. I iced the finger and we got a splint from the drug store to immobilize it.

Finger X-ray One

1 Day After Injury

Unfortunately, the next day my finger did not look so good. It was swollen and there was bruising all over the front and back of my hand. It was clear that there was serious trauma. I called my doctor and got an appointment to have it checked out. When my doctor saw it, he actually thought it looked pretty good and suggested I wait a week and see if it is healing. The nurse had already made a referral to an orthopedist, though, so my doctor said it would not hurt to go get it looked at by a specialist.
Later that day I went to the orthopedist and got an X-ray that showed two things. 1) I had not properly reduced (reset the finger) and the joint was not congruent. 2) The bone was broken. Even if you are not a radiologist, you should be able to spot both issues in the picture here.

The doctor and her very nice PA decided to set me up with a hard splint which is basically three-quarters of a cast, going from the tips of my fingers up to the middle of my forearm. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but necessary to keep the joint protected and allow the bone to heal.

A few weeks later, we removed the splint and took more X-rays. Luckily the bone was healing well, but the joint was still not aligned properly. I was sent over to Occupational Therapy where they made me a hard plastic splint that bent into a sort of claw shape. The idea was that a constant bend would help to align the bones. A couple more weeks and more X-rays showed that this did work.

4 Weeks After Injury

4 Weeks After Injury

Currently, I am wearing a much straighter “normal” splint and going to OT sessions once or twice a week. I do contrast baths (2 minutes hot water, then 1 minute cold water, bending and extending the fingers) and other strengthening exercises. Another month or so and I should be done with therapy sessions. My range of motion is still limited, but it’s getting better everyday.

I’m thankful I did not have a worse injury, and this one just proves that accidents happen and no amount of caution in exercise can keep you completely safe. I also learned that anytime there’s a dislocation, you should definitely go to see a specialist. Even a small fracture can complicate things greatly. The longer you wait to get it taken care of, the worse your chances of recovery.

For about a month, my ability to type was very limited. It was an interesting challenge. I still had to write code and emails, so I found ways to simplify. I did a lot more copy-paste and reused code wherever possible. I found ways to think through the problem with pen and paper before moving to the keyboard. I wrote terse emails, I think I’m actually going to stick with that. A month of one-handing typing was bearable, but only just. Though now that I’ve been through this, it was not as bad as I had envisioned.

I am not an expert on hand injuries or therapy, but I’m happy to help with any questions readers may have. Leave a comment or connect with me on twitter @abdinoor.

Categorized: General