We use our thumbs more than the rest of our fingers. Scientists say the evolution of the human race can be attributed to our ability to make tools and the opposed thumb played a large contribution to this. As a result, thumbs are more likely to be injured during our daily activities and with age wear and tear develops quicker than in other parts of the hand.
Many activities we do involve repetitive movements of the thumb (typing, texting, gaming, etc) and it is not surprising to see a whole range of thumb injuries that take their names from the causal activities such as skiers’ thumb, trigger thumb, etc. These painful conditions are repetitive stress injuries and scientifically can be named tendinitis, tendinosis, carpal tunnel, etc. Also the thumb can be easily injured resulting in fractures, collateral ligament injuries, etc.
Please see below a series of conditions that can frequently cause pain around the thumb area.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a common condition that causes numbness, tingling, pain or weakness in your hand. It occurs when the median nerve becomes compressed in a narrow space in the wrist. Read more about Carpal Tunnel Release
Trigger thumb is a condition in which your thumb gets stuck in a bent position. The condition it is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis. It occurs when the flexor tendon can no longer slide easily under the A1 pulley at the base of the finger causing pain and locking. Read more about Trigger Finger Release
De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis is inflammation of the sheath of the tendons involved in the movement of the thumb. This causes swelling and pain at the base of the thumb and can affect your ability to use your thumb. Read more about de Quervain release
Sprained Thumb (collateral ligament injury)
A sprain is an injury to a ligament, which is a soft tissue that connects bones to each other at joints. The most common ligament to be injured in the thumb is the ulnar collateral ligament. This helps connect the thumb to the hand on the side near the index finger. It allows the thumb to act like a post. Injury to this ligament is sometimes called “skier’s thumb” because it is a common injury from a ski pole. The radial collateral ligament is on the other side of the thumb. It can tear, but this is not as common as a tear on the ulnar side. Read more about ulnar collateral ligament repair.
Catchers’ Thumb Injury
A somewhat similar injury known as catchers’ thumb or mallet thumb occurs when a force causes hyperextension of the upper interphalangeal joint of the thumb, such as when a catcher is “thumbed” by a foul ball tipped directly back or when a soccer player is kicked in the tip of his or her thumb. Sometimes, this “super sprain” also pulls the extensor tendon away from the bone (this is known as an avulsion), which causes the thumb to stick in a slightly flexed position.
Other symptoms of this thumb joint injury are swelling, pain and trouble performing tasks such as pulling up a zipper, turning a doorknob or tying one’s shoe. Treatment of this thumb knuckle injury involves splinting the injured joint for a period of six to eight weeks, followed by thumb splinting at night for two weeks. In some severe cases or in instances where an avulsion occurred, surgery may be necessary to repair the damage.
Volar Plate Injury: Thumb
Thumb volar plate ligament can be sprained or ruptured due to hyperextension.The volar plate of the thumb is a very thick ligament that forms the bottom of the interphalangeal joint and separates the joint space from the tendon sheath. This ligament is responsible for preventing hyperextension. But with enough hyperextension force, the volar plate can be sprained or ruptured.
Base of Thumb Arthritis
Base of Thumb Arthritis or thumb arthritis is the result of the wearing away of the cartilage in the joints at the base of the thumb. It is common with aging and can cause severe pain and difficulty in using the thumb during your daily activity. Read more about base of thumb arthritis treatment options