Thumb Tendonitis

A Closer Look at Thumb Tendonitis

Thumb tendonitis has to be one of the most obnoxious forms of injury aside from a paper cut and a toothache. As a general rule, we humans use our thumbs for practically everything, and when one or both of our thumbs becomes injured, comfort and functionality go right out the window! The real problem with injuring something you use on such an unconscious basis is that the repair time often ends up being much longer than it should be. This is because the thumb will be used either purposefully or by mistake—while it’s injured—which hinders the healing process and in some instances causes further damage. Luckily, mild cases of thumb tendonitis are not a cause for serious worry and are fairly easy to treat. We are going to take a look at the best procedure for treating this condition a little later, but first let’s start off by learning a little about tendonitis.

What is Thumb Tendonitis?

Tendonitis is a condition in which one’s tendons become inflamed, resulting in irritation, swelling, and—unfortunately—pain. A tendon is a cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone. In the case of thumb tendonitis, the tendons located at the base of the thumb become inflamed. This is often a result of overuse or abuse of the area, such as lifting weighty objects with a few fingers rather than with the whole hand or both hands. New mothers often experience tendonitis of the thumb as a process of adapting to the somewhat awkward positions used to hold a newborn. Pool/billiards players are also subject to this injury because of the frequent wrist movements required in this sport.  


Symptoms of this affliction vary depending on the severity of the tendonitis. The most obvious symptom is pain at the base of the thumb which may reach around a portion of the wrist. For some, the pain can feel like a dull but constant ache while others complain of sharp pain resulting during movement of the wrist or thumb. If the hand is used regardless of the injury, it can worsen and result in pain which travels up the thumb-side of the forearm. The area may become red, swollen, and warm to the touch as a result of inflammation. The swelling may cause a hindrance to movements. In cases where severe tearing of the tendon has resulted, movement may be extremely difficult or impossible. In this case, a trip to the doctor is in order immediately.

How to Treat Thumb Tendonitis

There are a few steps that should be taken to ensure the thumb heals as quickly and efficiently as possible. The first step is to immediately cease moving the hand as soon as pain starts. This step is not always possible if the pain develops gradually. As soon as the pain is enough to become bothersome, such as springing up whenever the wrist or thumb is moved, then one should stop moving the hand and allow it to rest. During this resting period, apply a bit of ice to the area. A simple ice-pack can be made by filling a zip-top bag with ice and wrapping paper towel or a hand towel around it. Ice should be applied for ten to twenty minutes to reduce swelling. After the swelling goes down the wrist may then be immobilized. Ace bandage is a great way to immobilize the thumb and wrist without causing an overly stiff feeling, but a wrist brace may also work. After the wrist is secure, the final step is to elevate the wrist and allow it to rest. One should avoid using the injured hand/wrist at all costs until the tendons have been given a chance to heal properly. In most cases, normal functionality can be resumed seven to fourteen days later. In more severe instances, one may have to wait a period of a month before resuming regular activity.