An X-ray is required to diagnose a broken hand. There is no other way to tell if the hand is broken or not. It’s not possible to diagnose a broken hand simply by observing it for swelling, bruising, or lack of function.
Most broken hands require some form of fixation to heal correctly and restore full function to the hand. The most common type of fixation is internal, using surgery to place pins through, or wires around, various bones to hold everything in place.1
Fractures of the hand and fingers can also be treated without surgery as long as they can be held in proper alignment long enough to heal. This can be accomplished with a hand or finger splint.
During fixation, the doctor will usually treat pain with medications. Once the fracture is healed enough, you’ll likely have to work on return of function using physical therapy.
Other broken bones require different specific treatments, depending on what’s broken.