A Severed Flexor Tendon in Pinky Finger

How I Severed My Tendon

Little did I know, the day a light bulb burst in my hand while I was attempting to change it, I would lose the tendon in my pinky finger. The amount of blood and the numbness that occurred made me go quickly to a nearby Patient First. There they treated my cut as a minor injury that merely required steri-strips. Steri-strips, also known as butterfly stitches, are thin adhesive strips used to close small wounds.

A week later, unable to bend my pinky finger at all, along with severe pain shooting through my hand and forearm, I decided to see my general physician. One x-ray later, I was deemed okay and no treatment was prescribed. A few more weeks went by; fingers, hand, and arm pain were now at concerning levels. I began searching for a hand specialist.

Later, I would wish I had been referred to one initially. The specialist took six x-rays and determined that my pinky tendon had been completely severed and had fully retracted, now making surgery a very unlikely successful option. Well, it's just a pinky I thought, but by now the continuous pain was affecting my entire limb from the elbow down. This hand specialist scheduled me for hand therapy and an anti-inflammatory, which would follow for several weeks.

Before this injury, I had no idea the hand was such a complex part of the human body. More than half of the 206 bones in the adult body are located in the hands and feet. The hands alone contain 54 bones in them. The multitude of tendons, muscles, and nerves is a clever mass of entanglement. The arm and hand pain I was feeling makes sense when seeing how the tendons are connected, going to the tip of each finger.


Finger Tendons Explained

At the website, http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/, the finger tendons are well explained, "The muscles that move the fingers and thumb are located in the forearm. Long tendons extend from these muscles through the wrist and attach to the small bones of the fingers and thumb. The tendons on the top of the hand straighten the fingers. These are known as extensor tendons. The tendons on the palm side bend the fingers. These are known as the flexor tendons. When you bend or straighten your finger, the flexor tendons slide through snug tunnels, called tendon sheaths, that keep the tendons in place next to the bones."

The underside of the hand is an easy target for injury, "Because flexor tendons are very close to the surface of the skin, a deep cut will most likely hit a flexor tendon. In these cases, the tendon is often cut into two pieces. Like a rubber band, tendons are under tension as they connect the muscle to the bone. If a tendon is torn or cut, the ends of the tendon will pull far apart, making it impossible for the tendon to heal on its own. Because the nerves to the fingers are also very close to the tendons, a cut may damage them, as well. This will result in numbness on one or both sides of the finger. If blood vessels are also cut, the finger may have no blood supply. This requires immediate surgery." It seems likely that a nerve was damaged as well.

Results of Therapy

While I will never be able to bend my pinky again, hand therapy helped a great deal to lessen the pain and stop avoiding the use of my left hand. Because the finger was not being used, scar tissue built up, inflammaton occurred, and the pain caused avoidance of use. This would have continued and could still reoccur, but for now things are looking good. Some of the therapy tools I used and continue to use today are shown below.

The screws are turned to put the finger in a bent position to keep the finger from stiffening completely. Ideally, it would be best to use this twice a day for about 20 minutes. The Voltaren gel below is used in conjunction with this device.
The screws are turned to put the finger in a bent position to keep the finger from stiffening completely. Ideally, it would be best to use this twice a day for about 20 minutes. The Voltaren gel below is used in conjunction with this device.

Ways a Pinky Injury Can Affect You

I was surprised by the impact the pinky injury had on my daily activities. Because I am unable to bend it without the use of the finger next to it, which now automatically pushes it down when needed (an adapted behavior), it can easily get caught on things. So, I am cautious when using my hands. I mostly notice it when I am typing, gardening, and crocheting. Also, I am unable to lift items with any weight using my left hand alone. I cannot make a fist, as the pinky will not bend, even when pushed, more than about 60 degrees, as measured by my hand therapist.

I urge you to be careful with your hands. They are much easier to injure than you may think. Wear gloves when doing work that could put your hands at risk. And if you have suffered from a hand injury, I would highly recommend seeing a hand therapist.

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Comments 6 comments

Curious 4 years ago

What happened next? Did you seek legal council against your primary care and the medical aid unit you went to initially?

Jacob 4 years ago

Almost the exact same thing happened to me but in my case with my right hand. Mine happened over a little over 3 years ago. I to went to a Doctor who had no idea what was wrong with me and treated me for a minor cut. I play just about every sport, my main sport being golf so as you can imagine while injured for a few months every time I attempted to play something I experienced great difficulties so decided to see a hand specialist. He was very upset it took me so long to come in (a little over 3 months) but immediately got me in for surgery. I had a wrist graph due to all of the scarring and the amount of time it was about a 50 percent success. My finger is now basically locked into the position yours is in the picture on here. The reason I want to write this is to let you know it does get better very slowly. I'm back to playing golf daily and very actively use my hand again with little pain though it is very "different". It truly is an injury that catches you off guard I mean both out initial doctors didn't even know how to diagnose us... Good luck with your recovery and if you're like me you can use it as an awakening for you to just how valuable health is and you can improve your life because of it.

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Rosie writes 4 years ago from Virginia Author

Jacob, thanks for sharing your story. My pinky remains very straight, and is not in a bent position unless I make it that way. I have learned to adapt to that, and can do all the activities I did before, just differently, like you said. I no longer have the pain I was experiencing - Yeah! That was my biggest concern, as it was a constant type of throbbing pain throughout my forearm. Physical therapy is a wonderful thing - that is what made the difference for me. Thank you to all the Physical Therapists out there - you work wonders!!!

Cassandra 13 months ago

Same thing happened to me a couple months ago after I cut my finger with a knife. I have felt so ridiculous, complaining about my little ole pinky but it seriously has given me so much pain. My entire hand and forearm aches on a constant basis. My pcp referred me to a hand specialist..He said that surgery at this point would be difficult and he couldn't promise me a good outcome. So..he told me to take something for the inflammation and that is it. He did mention that he could fuse my pinky at the tip, so that it is bent inward a bit. Said it would help some since I keep getting it caught and stubbed up on things. Not sure what I will do.

Rosie writes profile image

Rosie writes 12 months ago from Virginia Author

Sorry I did not see your comment earlier. I imagine you are still experiencing pain. Based on my experience, I would highly recommend seeing a physical therapist who deals with hand injuries. Because of scar tissue build up, you need the help of physician in dealing with mobility. I was amazed at the difference. I have absolutely no pain from my injury after seeing a hand therapist for a month and continuing exercises at home for another month, then as needed for a few more months.

Rosie writes profile image

Rosie writes 12 months ago from Virginia Author

Curious, I did not seek any compensation from doctors who misdiagnosed my problem. That was never a thought...

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