Fractures of the phalangeal or metacarpal bones of the hand are common. Many of these fractures are treated without surgery. However, both conservative and operative management of fractures of the hand can result in stiffness. Stiffness is the most common complication in the management of hand fractures. The key to preventing stiffness is early range of motion exercises. This article challenges many of the current treatment regimens offered to patients with the so-called unstable fractures. The evaluation of the patients' function is the primary factor that should determine the course of conservation versus operative management. X-rays do not demonstrate function and therefore act as an adjunct only to the care of the patient. The goal of treating hand fractures is to restore function. Early motion may not only improve healing but may also hasten the return to normal hand function. The tenets of how to prevent stiffness are described in this review.

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