Your hands are constantly exposed during daily activities, making your fingers prone to injury. Mallet finger occurs when the tendon that straightens the last joint of your finger is torn. This injury, which typically results from trauma, such as when the fingertip is hit by a ball, causes the tip of your finger to droop. Exercises improve movement and strength of your finger after this injury.
Treatment for mallet finger requires an extended period of immobilization of the tip of your finger. A splint is typically worn full time for at least 8 weeks until the tendon has healed, according to Brigham and Women's Hospital. During this time, exercises are performed to maintain flexibility of the other joints in your injured finger, as well as the rest of your hand. These exercises are performed several times each day, often in sets of 10 repetitions to prevent stiffness.
Early Motion Exercises
Once your tendon has gained enough strength and your doctor has given you permission, you will begin to move the tip of your finger. This is typically done under the supervision of an occupational or physical therapist. The goal with early motion exercises is to slowly start to bend the injured joint without overstretching the healing tendon.
Once your tendon has fully healed, blocking exercises may begin to improve your ability to bend the tip of your finger, according to a 2012 review in "The Open Orthopaedics Journal." These exercises require you to hold the other joints of the injured finger in a straight position -- blocking their ability to bend -- as you attempt to bend the tip of your finger. Typically, blocking exercises are performed in sets of 10 repetitions several times each day until you regain full motion of the joint.
Hand weakness is typical after a mallet injury. Strengthening exercises begin around 3 months after the injury occurred. Gripping and pinching exercises are performed with resistive putty, graded clothespins or other exercise devices. Strengthening exercises are also performed for your wrist, elbow and shoulder, as these muscles may become weak while your finger is immobilized. Exercises are continued until your function is fully restored.
Is This an Emergency?
- Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine: Non-Operative Treatment of Common Finger Injuries
- The Open Orthopaedics Journal: Management of Extensor Tendon Injuries
- Brigham and Women's Hospital: Primary Extensor Tendon Repair Protocol
- University of Kentucky: Upper Extremity Injuries in Sports -- Wrist and Hand Injuries in the Athlete