What Does It Mean If I’m Experiencing Thumb Pain?

thumb pain

Our thumbs make us very unique creatures. They move in a way that none of our other fingers do and give us the ability to grab and hold things.  But what happens when we have thumb pain?

What Causes Thumb Pain?

There are a variety of factors that could cause thumb pain. One of the more common causes of thumb pain is actually straining or spraining your thumb. A thumb sprain is an injury to the ligaments inside the structure of the thumb. Ligaments are strands of soft tissue that connect bones to each other near joints.

The thumb has two ligaments: the ulnar collateral ligament (connects the thumb on the index finger side), and the radial collateral ligament (on the opposite side of the thumb). While it is possible to injure the radial collateral ligament, it is far less common.

How on Earth Did I Sprain My Thumb?

Getting a thumb sprain, unfortunately, isn’t that hard to do. They’re very common in the sports world and even falling on your hand in a strange position can result in thumb sprain. Typical causes of thumb sprain include:

  • Jamming your thumb into another person
  • Accidentally pushing your thumb into the ground
  • Your thumb gets jammed into a ball, or other sporting equipment
  • Bending your thumb into an extreme position

If the action results in the tearing of one or both ligaments, it’s considered a thumb sprain. Once you sprain your thumb, it’s common to see swelling and bruising around the joint. It will be painful for a while and you may lose some function. Writing, holding objects, and opening doors are all tasks that may become difficult.

How to Treat a Thumb Sprain

If you suspect you’ve sprained your thumb, it’s important to get an X-ray to rule out any other possible injuries, like broken bones in the thumb or hand. From there, a hand specialist can determine if and which ligaments were torn.

If the injury is minor, a cast or splint created by a licensed hand therapist will enough to heal the hand. However, in more severe cases, surgery could be required to reconstruct the ligament, sometimes building an entirely new one with a tendon.

Other Causes of Pain in Your Thumb

If your thumb isn’t sprained, there could be other causes for the pain you are experiencing. Some of these culprits include:

Always seek out a doctor to get a proper diagnosis.

Additionally, one of the most important things you can do when experiencing unnatural pain or discomfort in your thumbs (or any part of your body) is to seek out an expert. Make sure you make an appointment with a medical professional in order to get a proper diagnosis. Once a doctor has reviewed your case, they will be sure to point you in the right direction for treatment!


Thumb sprains may seem like mild injuries, but if left untreated, you can lose major function in your hand. If you’re experiencing any kind of pain, or any changes with your hands, schedule an appointment with Desert Hand Therapy today!

Request Appointment


Resources:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-do-humans-have-thumbs-180953393/

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/highland-park/community/chi-ugc-article-5-main-causes-you-must-know-about-thumb-joint-2014-05-15-story.html