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Home > Services > Orthopedics > Hand Center > Hand & Arm Injuries > Finger Extensor Tendon Injury

Finger Extensor Tendon Injury

Tendons are responsible for connecting muscles to bone. The fingers have tendons that run from the forearm through the finger. The extensor tendons are located on the back of the hand and fingers. They let you open your hand and straighten your fingers. An extensor tendon injury is a cut or tear to one of these tendons. When they are damaged, you can lose the ability to extend your hand and/or finger(s). Two common extensor injuries are:

  • Mallet finger — the tendon is affected at the last joint on the finger, usually from a jammed finger
  • Boutonniere deformity — the tendon is affected at the middle joint, usually caused by an arthritis-like condition

Extensor Tendons of the Hand

extensor tendon

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Causes

Extensor tendon injuries may be caused by:

  • A cut or laceration to back of hand or fingers
  • Broken bones
  • A crush injury
  • An open wound or cut
  • Jamming a finger
  • Arthritis
  • Nerve compression

Risk

Factors that may increase your chance of an extensor tendon injury include:

  • Participating in certain sports, such as basketball and football
  • Arthritis

Symptoms may include:

  • Inability to open hand or fingers
  • Pain
  • Numbness or weakness
  • Cut to back of hand or fingers
  • Jammed finger

Diagnosis & Treatment

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and check your fingers for sensation, blood flow and strength. You may need an X-ray to take images of your hand. 

Medications

Depending upon the type of injury, you may receive antibiotics to prevent infection.

Surgery

Tendons that are cut or ruptured require surgery. Your hand surgeon may sew the tendon back together or insert a pin through the bone to form a type of splint.

Rehabilitation

After surgery, you will be given a splint to protect your hand. Your may wear it up to two months. A physical therapist or occupational therapist will work with you for several weeks to regain your strength and range of motion. 

Splinting

Some extensor tendon injuries are treated with a hand splint. Splints are worn until healing has occurred. This is usually several weeks.

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Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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