Sprained thumb is a condition related to the joints and connective tissues that help in thumb movement. The thumb comprises of two joints with the IP (Interphalangeal) joint lying between the two phalanges and the MCP (Metacarpophalangeal) joint lying between the first metacarpal and the lower phalange. The connective tissues and cartilage between these joints ensure that there is enough cushioning during thumb movement when bone collides with bone. These thumb joints come under heavy pressure when the thumb is stretched or compressed during any task and when such pressure is applied repetitively, the cartilage or the connective tissues sometimes get damaged resulting in a joint injury known as sprained thumb.
Sprained thumb is usually the result of a repetitive activity that puts excessive pressure on the thumb joints, forcing the thumb to move beyond its movement range. The cases of sprained thumbs are extremely common in sports like netball l where the ball sometimes strikes the thumb awkwardly putting pressure on the thumb to go beyond its movement range limit and in contact sports like rugby or martial arts where the thumb comes under pressure during any block or collision. The most common causes of thumb strain are:
The first symptom of a thumb sprain is an instant surge of pain in the thumb whenever it is brought in use for anything like writing, opening jars, catching a ball, texting or cooking. Swelling and bruising is also common in thumb sprains with the affected joint reddening as well. Pain might well be experienced when the affected area is firmly touched as well during a thumb sprain.
A thorough checkup by a physiotherapist is usually enough to diagnose a thumb sprain and to find out which joint has been affected. Sometimes, an X-ray and a MRI might also be necessary if the physiotherapist suspects a fracture or thumb dislocation after his initial checkup.
1. Nonsurgical Treatment
2. Surgical Treatment
Surgical treatment would only be required in severe cases where the ligament gets totally torn off during the injury. In such cases, the surgeon would connect the ligament again with the bone so as to facilitate the thumb in its movement. You would need to wear a splint or a cast for around six weeks to two months after such a surgery so as to allow the ligament to heal.
After a thumb surgery or after wearing a splint or cast for a few days or weeks, you would need to ease your thumb back into action so as to ensure that you don’t suffer another thumb sprain. Here are a few thumb exercises that should be performed once your doctor allows you to move your thumb before resuming normal daily activities.
Put your thumb down on a flat surface like a table and try to move your thumb away from your palm and then bring it back after five seconds. Then, rest your thumb on your first finger in a handshake position and move your thumb sideways and then bring it back after five seconds. Lastly, try to move your thumb along your palm to your little finger and hold it there for five seconds before bringing it back. Perform each exercise 15 times and do two sets at least within a day for good results.
Pick up small objects like coins, pencils and paper balls between your thumb and one of your fingers, one after another. Try to put a little pressure with your thumb on the object while performing the exercise. A five minute session for thumb strengthening is usually fine.
Take a small and soft rubber ball and hold it in your hand before squeezing it using your fingers and thumb. Try to continue with the squeezing for five seconds before relieving the pressure. Performing the exercise in two sets of fifteen is recommended.