Does your finger look bent or is in a swan neck position? Read below to find out about the common finger deformities and how they are treated.
Swan Neck Deformity
A swan neck deformity is a condition that affects the fingers, particularly the middle joint (proximal interphalangeal joint or PIP joint) and the end joint (distal interphalangeal joint or DIP joint). In this deformity, the finger takes on a shape that looks like a swan’s neck. This can lead to a characteristic curved appearance of the finger.
Swan neck deformity can be caused by various factors, including:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: This autoimmune disorder can lead to joint inflammation, which in turn can cause ligaments and tendons to weaken, leading to swan neck deformity.
- Ligament and Tendon Injury: Trauma or injury to the fingers’ ligaments or tendons can result in an imbalance of the forces that control finger movement. An untreated mallet finger can lead to swan neck deformity over time.
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Similar to rheumatoid arthritis, lupus can lead to joint inflammation and deformities.
- Joint Hypermobility: Some individuals have naturally loose ligaments and joints, which can lead to joint instability and deformities.
- Nerve Injuries or Disorders: Damage to the nerves that control finger movement can disrupt the balance of muscles around the joints, leading to deformities.
- Congenital Factors: Some people are born with a predisposition to swan neck deformity due to the way their ligaments and tendons develop.
- Degenerative Joint Disease: Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease can affect the fingers’ joints, leading to deformities over time.
Boutonniere deformity is a condition that affects the finger’s middle joint (proximal interphalangeal joint or PIP joint) and is characterized by the flexion of this joint and hyperextension of the end joint (distal interphalangeal joint or DIP joint). This results in a finger that appears bent at the PIP joint while the DIP joint is extended. This deformity is named after the French word for a “buttonhole,” as the finger takes on a button-like appearance.
Boutonniere deformity can be caused by various factors, including:
- Trauma: A direct injury to the finger, such as a forceful blow or dislocation of the PIP joint, can damage the structures that keep the joint in proper alignment.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: An autoimmune disorder that causes joint inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis can lead to ligament and tendon weakening, which can result in deformities like boutonniere.
- Ligament and Tendon Injury: Any injury that damages the tendons or ligaments around the PIP joint can disrupt the balance of forces that control finger movement. This deformity is often seen in someone with a central slip injury.
- Congenital Factors: Some people may have a congenital predisposition to developing boutonniere deformity due to the way their ligaments and tendons develop.
- Inflammatory Joint Conditions: Conditions like systemic lupus erythematosus or psoriatic arthritis can lead to joint inflammation and deformities.
Treatment for finger deformities varies depending on its underlying cause, severity, and the impact on a person’s daily life. Some treatment options include:
- Hand Therapy: Exercises prescribed by a Hand Therapist can help improve joint stability and restore proper finger alignment.
- Splinting: Custom-made splints can help restore proper joint alignment and treat injured tendons and ligaments
- Medications: Anti-inflammatory medications or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can help manage underlying conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Surgery: In severe cases, surgery might be recommended to repair or stabilize the affected joints, especially if non-surgical treatments haven’t been effective.
If you suspect you have a finger deformity or are experiencing finger joint pain, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment options based on your specific condition. Contact one of our clinics – our Hand Therapists would be happy to see you for an assessment.