Thumb Sprain

Dealing With A Thumb Sprain

Even the words "thumb sprain" are somewhat painful to listen to, as the condition is a result of the thumb being bent backwards, a movement it was not designed to do. In our everyday lives, a thumb sprain is really not all that common. Most of the time when we are holding our hands naturally, the thumb is not fully extended, and is in a somewhat protected position.


Sprains Suffered During Falls - It is when we fall we are most apt to suffer a thumb sprain, as we instinctively spread out fingers, either to grab something while falling or to help cushion the fall with our hands. If the thumb makes contact first, and has the weight of the body behind it, it can all too easily be bent in the wrong direction.

Sprains Suffered During Sporting Activities - Those participating in sporting events or activities are more likely to suffer this type of an injury, either from falling (horseback riding, mountain biking, skiing), or from making contact with a person or object (football, basketball, handball). In fact, when a thumb sprain is addressed, it is usually addressed in terms of being a sports injury. It is the type of injury that, while it is not all that common, is not all that preventable either. Even wearing fairly stiff gloves, such as ski gloves, offers little protection.


Sometimes thumb sprains are the result of the joints and ligaments of the thumb being overused. The obvious preventive measure here is to simply back off to keep the condition from worsening. Bending the thumb backwards due to contact is far and away the more common cause of this injury.

The Affected Ligament - The part of the thumb involved is the main ligament, the ulnar collateral ligament, which is in play whenever we pinch or grasp something. Consequently, if the sprain is at all severe, the capability to pinch something or even hold on to something will be compromised, if not absent. When this ligament is only partially or slightly torn, we could consider the thumb sprain to be mild. The thumb can still be used, but pinching or grasping will be uncomfortable at best, and painful at worst. If the tear is complete, the thumb in effect becomes a useless appendage, and corrective surgery will usually be required to correct the situation.

Categories of Thumb Sprain - Any sprain to a muscle, ligament or tendon, is placed in one of three categories. A Class I sprain is the mildest, and often no treatment beyond rest and ice, and gradual exercise is needed. A Class II sprain will usually heal itself, but the thumb will have to be incapacitated partially or entirely for a time, allowing tissue to heal. A Class III sprain is a severe sprain, usually requiring surgery, a cast on the thumb and hand, and brings with it the likelihood of a long recovery time.

What To Do In The Event Of A Thumb Sprain - Should you suffer a thumb sprain you may notice a loss of mobility in the digit before you begin to notice any lingering pain (it will probably hurt when it happens, but the initial pain may subside). Depending upon the seriousness of the sprain, swelling, tenderness and bruising may occur. Except for a very mild sprain, treatment is basically a two-step process. The first step is to ice down the thumb, and the second step is to see your doctor. If the sprain is a bad one it's important not to put off medical attention, as this could result in unnecessary pain, and a longer than normal recovery time.