Flexor tendon injury
Flexor tendon injury is damage to the tendons, elastic cord-like structures that connect the muscles to the bones in your fingers. Flexor muscles allow your fingers to bend and flex. They originate at the elbow and forearm, turn into tendons just past the middle of your forearm and then attach to your fingers. You have two flexor tendons for each finger, including your thumbs.
The main cause of a flexor tendon injury is any deep cut in the wrist, fingers or hands that can injure the flexor tendons as well as damage blood vessels and nerves. Sometimes what appears at first to be a simple cut could be more serious, causing damage that requires expert orthopaedic care.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) reports that in addition to deep cuts, other causes of flexor tendon injuries include:
- Playing sports, including football, wrestling and rugby. A condition called "jersey finger" happens when one player grabs another player's jersey, his/her finger gets caught and the tendon is pulled off the bone.
- Sports that require arm and hand strength, such as rock climbing.
- Health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis weaken the flexor tendons, making them more vulnerable to tearing.
- No apparent cause – You simply could notice one day that your finger no longer bends, but you don't know how it happened.
Symptoms of flexor tendon injury range from pain and swelling to finger joints that won't flex or bend.
You may experience one or more of the following common symptoms of flexor tendon Injury:
- Pain, including pain when you try to bend your finger
- Inability to bend your finger on its own
- Hand swelling
The two types of flexor tendon injury are:
- Partially severed tendon – You may be able to bend your finger, but it is painful and "catches.” Eventually a partially severed tendon may tear all the way through.
- Fully severed tendon – You can't bend your finger on its own.
Treatments for flexor tendon injury depend upon the severity of the injury. Severed tendons cannot heal without surgery. In addition, certain types of cuts need specific types of repair, and nearby nerves and blood vessels may also be injured. An orthopaedist usually prescribes a protective splint after surgery and hand rehabilitation therapy. In some cases you may be able to return to work after one week. Full recovery time can take 10 to 12 weeks.
The multidisciplinary team of shoulder and elbow experts at Northwell Health Orthopaedic Institute treats flexor tendon injury as well as a broad range of shoulder and elbow conditions that can occur at any stage of life.