Thumb sprain

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A thumb sprain is defined as an injury that involves stretching or tearing of the thumb ligaments. It is important to note that the thumb is comprised of 2 bones linked to the hand bone.

The injury can occur from a direct fall or sustaining any significant form of trauma. A thumb sprain is prevalent among those who engage in sports. Those who are physically active face the highest risk for the injury.

What are the indications?

Individuals who end up with a thumb sprain might not show any signs of the injury right away. Nevertheless, the injury can result to diminished capacity to hold or grip objects.

Some of the usual signs that might be present include:

  • Thumb pain if it is bent
  • Difficulty with thumb movement
  • Swelling of the thumb and tenderness of the touch
    Thumb sprain
    A padded brace or splint can cover the thumb to limit movement and allow the injury to heal.

Management of a thumb sprain

An individual with a thumb sprain can be managed in various ways. The treatment is usually based on the seriousness of the injured ligaments.

A thumb sprain might range from minor to severe and can be categorized as:

  • Level I – a sprain occurs if the thumb ligaments are stretched but not ripped
  • Level II – occurs if the ligaments are partly torn in which the function and range of motion are limited
  • Level III – occurs if the ligaments are fully torn which requires immediate medical and surgical care

The conservative measures for a thumb sprain include:

  • Adequate rest – any activity that worsens the injury must be avoided. This requires avoiding any physical activity until the symptoms settle.
  • Ice – apply a cold compress or ice pack to lessen the swelling and pain
  • Bracing or splint – a padded brace or splint can cover the thumb to limit movement and allow the injury to heal.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – these drugs can be given to lessen mild to moderation thumb pain.
  • Physical therapy – exercises are performed to restore strength and flexibility of the affected muscles.

In case the conservative measures are not effective, the surgical approach might be considered. The commonly used surgical options include arthroscopy and open reconstructive surgery.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on a thumb sprain is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications, register for a first aid and CPR course with Mississauga First Aid.

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