According to the National Health Service, bruised and broken fingers often look and feel very similar to the average person, which is why the only way to tell the difference is to get an x-ray. No other method is sure to determine the situation. However, if the finger looks deformed or sits at an awkward position, this is a clear sign that the finger is either dislocated or broken.
Sprains are common and are caused by a stretched ligament. A sprained finger is often painful and has some swelling, but the pain and swelling gradually subside. On the other hand, a broken finger is likely to be painful and swollen for a while. Broken or dislocated fingers need to receive professional medical treatment as soon as possible.
Medical professionals need to x-ray the finger in order to confirm a break or dislocation injury. Keep this in mind when seeking help. The injured finger is often set in a temporary splint, which keeps the finger immobile. For some injuries, a medical professional recommends that a permanent cast be applied and determines whether surgery is needed to repair internal fracture damage. Take care to keep the finger elevated when possible, and avoid disturbing the splint or cast.