A painful thumb can be caused by many medical conditions. Some of the most common conditions that may cause thumb pain include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Trigger finger (thumb)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Mallet finger
- De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
- Skier’s thumb
Humans have an 'opposable thumb' which greatly aids in grasping and picking objects up more easily. Pain in the thumb can be particularly debilitating because of how much we use our thumb in our every day lives. Our modern lifestyle, with the frequent use of keyboards and mobile phones has increased the frequency of injuries and conditions leading to thumb pain.
How Can Thumb Pain Be Treated?
We understand that thumb pain has many causes (including arthritis and conditions such as Trigger Thumb, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Mallet Thumb, De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, Skier’s Thumb). After a thorough assessment of your thumb injury or condition, we will devise a suitable treatment program to help you recover from your condition, or to help you reduce the pain in your thumb and help you to prevent further injury. Depending on the type of thumb pain, different approaches may be required. Some of the common treatments for thumb pain include:
- Splints to support the thumb
- Braces to limit the movement of the thumb
- Physiotherapy or rehabilitation exercises
- Massages, warm or cold treatment
Causes Of Thumb Pain
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. A normal immune system protects the body from foreign substances like bacteria and virus. It also destroys abnormal cells, for example cancerous cells. However, when a person gets rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the joints by mistake. This causes inflammation to the affected area. Eventually, joints can become swollen and damaged, thus causing pain. Rheumatoid arthritis can be debilitating as it limits your movement.
Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the fingers and thumbs, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles and knees.
In our bones, there is cartilage that covers the end of each bone. Cartilage acts like a cushion that makes joint movement easy. As we age, cartilage may be worn out, causing swelling, pain and limits our joint movement.
Osteoarthritis can affect the finger and thumb, and also other joints in the body.
Learn more about how hand therapy can help alleviate thumb pain caused by osteoarthritis.
Trigger finger (thumb)
Trigger thumb is a painful condition where the affected thumb is unable to be bent or straightened easily. It happens when a nodule is formed inside the thumb that constrict movement. If you have trigger thumb, you will feel a painful popping or clicking sound when you force yourself to bend your straightened thumb, or vice versa.
Learn more about how hand therapy can help rehabilitate trigger finger / thumb.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
The Carpal tunnel is a passageway that allows nerves extended from our arms into our hands. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the nerves in the tunnel get compressed, causing numbness, tingling and pain in the thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger.
Repetitive hand movement over a prolonged period of time may trigger Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Besides that, pregnancy, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders and genetics are some of the common causes.
Learn more about how hand therapy can bring relief from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Mallet finger occurs when the tendon that is responsible for straightening your finger gets damaged. This results in the finger tip bending forward towards the palm. Force has to be applied in order to straighten the bent finger tip.
Mallet finger rarely affects the thumb. However, when it occurs, the affected digit may experience pain and swelling.
Learn more about how hand therapy can provide relief from Mallet Finger.
De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
In DeQuervain’s, you commonly have pain and swelling on the thumb side of the wrist. Pain is increased with gripping, and pinching or holding a saucepan, for example. In this region of the wrist, friction is caused when two tendons that move the thumb, rub together or are compressed in a tunnel at the level of the wrist. Splinting, and taping work well to settle the condition, and a strengthening program once the pain settles helps to return people to normal activity.
Skier’s thumb is a hand injury to the ligament of the thumb. The ligament connects the bones together. It stabilises the thumb. Skier’s thumb is called so because it usually affects skiers who fall while holding a ski pole.
If you have Skier’s thumb, your thumb may be bruised, swollen and painful. You may also have a weak grasp or grip. Such movements can also be excruciatingly painful.
A fractured thumb is a serious condition that needs swift medical attention. This condition affects the overall functionality of the hand. Delayed treatment of a fractured thumb can make alignment of the bones difficult and increases the risks of getting arthritis later in life.
If you suspect that you have fractured your thumb, seek medical attention quickly.
I Have Thumb Pain - What Should I Do?
A proper assessment of the cause of thumb pain is essential in order to ensure proper treatment is given. At Central Victorian Hand Therapy, our caring and professional hand therapist will help you assess your condition.
Please note, patients who want to refer themselves are welcome to do so. You only need a referral if you are funded under Workcover, TAC, The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), or you are on a Management Plan such as the Enhanced Primary Care Plan from your doctor.