A Severed Flexor Tendon in the 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, that 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, I was unable to bend my pinky finger at all, and I also had severe pain shooting through my hand and forearm. I decided it was time to see my general physician. One x-ray later, I was deemed okay—and no treatment was prescribed.
A few more weeks went by, and now the pain in my fingers, hand, and arm had reached disturbing levels. I began searching for a hand specialist.
Later, I would wish I had been referred to a specialist at the outset. 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. The 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
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains the finger tendons this way:
"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.
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.