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Common Mistakes in Treating Mallet Finger

Common Mistakes in Treating Mallet Finger

Have you ever jammed your finger or twisted your finger – and thought nothing of it? At some point, we all have.

What if you jam your finger and develop a “droop” at the tip of your finger? When you develop a droop at the tip of your finger, you may have a mallet finger. The biggest difference is that you have a more severe injury that takes more effort to fix to prevent something like a swan neck deformity this time. 

So, if you have a mallet finger and it does not cause you any problems – lucky you! You are doing just fine.

Not exactly sure what’s wrong with your hands, and you want to avoid it getting worse and needing surgery? That’s exactly why we provide Discovery Visits.  We want to help you get clear on what’s wrong and decide if we are who you want to help you with your hand injury.


Mallet Finger in a nutshell

In short, a mallet finger is an injury to the terminal tendon at the tip of your finger that helps you to make it straighten. It’s called extension.  

More about symptoms of mallet fingers, treatment options, and hand exercises you can find in this article about Occupational Therapy for Mallet Finger. 

Surgery is NOT always the first option after a mallet finger injury. Unless there was also a fracture that caused the mallet finger, it’s not an easy surgery. The recovery takes a long time.


Most of the time, hand therapy is the first option after an injury.

I would highly recommend looking for a Certified Hand Therapist in your area as they are the experts in treating these types of injuries. We have a Certified Hand Therapist here at Hands-on Therapy Services.

Common treatments for mallet finger are

  • conservative treatment of hand therapy
  • splinting
  • specific exercises.


You might not notice a mallet finger if you jammed your finger right away. It might take two-three weeks before you ever see that have you developed a mallet finger – a droop at the tip of your finger.


Patient stories of mallet finger

I had a patient jammed or twisted her finger while walking her dog by grabbing her dog suddenly and developed a mallet finger that became a swan neck deformity. She didn’t notice anything was wrong with her small finger until it became more and more uncomfortable, and she could not bend it all the way down.

And I had another patient, who doesn’t even remember ever jamming his finger and noticed the droop in the tip of his finger that was not becoming deformed but was starting to get stiff and painful. 

Those are just a few of the recent stories we have, and we treat them often in our clinic.


Here are 3 misconceptions when it comes to treating mallet fingered.

  1. Ordering a splint on amazon.
  2. Thinking that it’s a small joint and that it may not matter.
  3. Thinking that it should be a quick fix since it’s so small.

I mention these 3 misconceptions because this is what most people tell me when they come to us and makes them the most frustrated. 


You might think that you can just order a splint on amazon. 

Splinting for a mallet finger. It is easy enough to get started with a splint your doctor gives you, or you might be tempted to use a splint that you found at the drugstore. 

That’s perfectly fine. The important aspect that most people get wrong is the wear schedule and how long it takes. 

My # 1 advice to anyone who has a mallet finger is to keep the tip of the finger as straight, if not a little more hyperextended, for a minimum of 6 -8 weeks.  

Most people who come to us seeking a certified hand therapist have tried using a splint for that amount of time. The biggest problem is that they did not keep it as straight as possible the whole time. As soon as the tip droops, it’s like starting all over again.

That’s why it’s so important to be fitted for a custom-fitted splint – or something where you can wear for several weeks without having to change the splint. Failing to fix the mallet finger with the splint is THE biggest problem that I see as a certified hand therapist.


You might think that it’s a small joint and that it may not matter.  

Mallet fingers, by nature, are the injury to the tip of the finger. So it may seem unimportant, and I’ve met plenty of people with mallet fingers with no problems, no pain.

However, it’s when the finger becomes stiff or develops a swan neck deformity – where your finger looks like it zig-zags – that mallet fingers become more of a problem.

Usually, my goal and the goal of our patients are to avoid having surgery and not developing problems later down the line. We have worked with musicians whose hands are their career. We have worked with people who don’t want to have deformed-looking hands. 

As soon as you start to notice MORE pain or discomfort or deformity – it’s the BEST time to come in for a hand therapy session. Get clear on what you can do to get the finger better and how to prevent it from getting worse.  

Therapy for a mallet finger is NOT the same as with other injuries. I most often evaluate if a custom splint is needed, for how long, and pick the most appropriate exercise for the mallet finger.  

Believe it or not, it does not require a lot of exercise or sessions. But it does require a lot of patience.  

If you have a mallet finger and wonder what you can do, click here and request to speak with our specialist.

You might think that it should be a quick fix since it’s so small.

Oh, I wish it didn’t take as long as it does, but mallet fingers can take a long time! I mean, most people injure their fingers and don’t come to us for a minimum of 3 to 8 weeks! 

Then depending on how bad their mallet finger is, it can take several more months! That does not mean you are with us for months and months in therapy.  

I can guarantee that we are always honest with how much therapy you need based on your actual problem and what you want to do for yourself. NO more, no less.

Most of the time, the smaller the finger and the smaller the joint, the smaller the tendons. The tendon that is injured is the smallest, weakest tendon of the whole body! It’s the tendon that does not have its own muscle. It’s made up of small increments of other tendons, making it difficult to treat on your own.

So, if you have a mallet finger and it does not cause you any problems – lucky you! You are doing just fine.

If you injured your finger and developed a mallet finger, consider getting professional help from a certified hand therapist here at Hands-on Therapy Services. Sure, you can try and do it on your own. But to save time and frustration, give us a call and see how we can help. 

It’s easier than you think!  Request to Speak to Our Specialist Today.

Written by Hoang Tran

About the author – Hoang Tran 

Hoang Tran is a certified hand therapist , the owner of Hands-on Therapy Services and author of the book “The Hands-On Approach”. She loves helping people with hand, neck and shoulder problems, because she knows how bad and debilitating they can get if not addressed and treated properly (once and for all!).

The aim of her occupational therapy practice in the Miami area is to bring patients back to full functionality, without pills, injections or surgery. Occupational and Physical Therapy are both offered at Hands-On Therapy by our experienced therapists who provide a comprehensive approach to your care. 

If you are struggling with hand and wrist pain, including 

or any other hand, elbow or neck injuries, speak with one of our specialists for FREE by signing up for a 30-minute Discovery Visit here! Talk to our specialist first before booking any paid session. We like to ensure that we can help you before taking you on as a client.

In these difficult times, we are here to help. Telehealth and online sessions are available!

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

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