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Crushed Fingers - Smashed Fingers

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Smashed fingers occur when fingers are caught between heavy objects. Damage may occur to one or more fingers, most often the thumb.

What are the causes and risks of the injury?

Fingers can be smashed doing almost any activity. For instance, fingers can get smashed when doing the following activities:

  • closing a car door
  • closing a desk drawer
  • playing baseball or other sports
  • working with a hammer
  • working with pieces of wood or concrete blocks

  • Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the injury?

    Following are some of the signs and symptoms of smashed fingers:

  • bleeding
  • bone fracture
  • bruising
  • change in color
  • deformity or loss of a finger
  • loss of a fingernail
  • pain
  • swelling

  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the injury recognized?

    Smashed fingers are usually self-diagnosed. The person shows and explains how the injury occurred. There may be some bleeding, bruising, swelling, or redness. If the healthcare professional thinks any of the fingers are broken, an X-ray may be taken.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the injury?

    Some measures to prevent smashed fingers include the following:

  • Follow sports safety guidelines for children, adolescents, and adults.
  • Pay attention when getting in and out of the car.
  • Teach young children about safety techniques.
  • Use care when working with heavy materials.
  • Use safety devices when appropriate.

  • Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the injury?

    In the case of some types of fractures, a healthcare professional may recommend a splint for broken fingers. In other cases, it may be better to just tape the finger to another finger.

    If blood accumulates under the fingernail, the following measures may be helpful.

  • Apply ice to decrease swelling and relieve pressure.
  • Elevate the hand above the level of the heart.
  • Use over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to help relieve the pain.
  • If the pressure under the bloody fingernail becomes too painful, try taking the following steps. If there are any concerns about doing these steps, seek medical assistance immediately.

    1. Clean the finger with some alcohol or wash it with warm, soapy water.

    2. Use a pair of pliers to hold a needle or safety pin over an open flame until it is very hot.

    3. Touch the very hot needle or safety pin to the injured fingernail.

    4. Push the end of the needle or safety pin into the fingernail, creating a small hole. Push the needle or safety pin into the nail until blood comes out. This will relieve the pressure. Oozing and bleeding from this hole may last 2 to 3 days.

    5. Soak the finger in warm, soapy water for 20 minutes, 4 times a day until the oozing stops.

    6. Repeat the procedure if the hole closes up and the pressure comes back.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Pain medications may cause stomach upset or allergic reactions. If the hot needle or safety pin is pushed too far, it can go into the nail bed. This causes a lot of pain but no permanent damage. Although the risk is small, the hot needle or safety pin may cause an infection.

    What happens after treatment for the injury?

    After treatment, the fingernail usually comes off. This can happen quickly or it may take a few weeks. If the fingernail starts to loosen, protect it so that it does not catch on anything. The pain may persist for awhile after treatment. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.


    Author:James Broomfield, MD
    Date Written:
    Editor:Ballenberg, Sally, BS
    Edit Date:04/30/01
    Reviewer:William M. Boggs, MD
    Date Reviewed:08/09/01