Extensor tendons are just under the skin. They lie next to the bone on the back of the hands and fingers and straighten the wrist, fingers and thumb (Figure 1). They can be injured by a minor cut or jamming a finger, which may cause the thin tendons to rip from their attachment to bone. If not treated, an extensor tendon injury may make it hard to straighten one or more joints.
Tears caused by jamming injuries are usually treated with splints. Splints hold the tendon in place and should be worn at all times until the tendon is healed. The tendon may take eight to twelve weeks to heal completely. Longer periods of splinting are sometimes needed. Your doctor will apply the splint in the correct place and give you directions on how long to wear it.
Other treatment for an extensor tendon injury may include stitches (for cuts in the tendon). Also, a pin may need to be placed through the bone across the joint as an internal splint. Surgery to free scar tissue is sometimes helpful in cases of severe motion loss.
After treatment, hand therapy may be necessary to improve motion. Consult your hand specialist for the best form of treatment.
© 2014 American Society for Surgery of the Hand
This content is written, edited and updated by hand surgeon members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Find a hand surgeon near you.