Our thumbs are one of our greatest assets, and they allow our hands to perform an almost endless array of tasks and functions. Thumb sprains or other thumb injuries can immediately jeopardize our ability to use our hands to the fullest extent possible, and so there is no such thing as an insignificant or minor injury to the thumb. This is why you must never hesitate to head to a hand doctor if you feel you have sustained injury to any part of the hand, but especially the thumb.
We are often told that sprains are a minor issue, and so we don’t panic if someone says, “it is probably just a sprain.” This is not the best advice when it involves any part of the hand. The hand and wrist are a delicate balance of bones, nerves, cartilage, tendons, and other tissues, and if one small area is damaged, it offsets the rest of the hand. When you sprain your thumb, it is a very serious matter and should be dealt with immediately – even if it does not seem like a major issue.
Of course, we should understand what is meant by a “sprain” to better understand why a thumb sprain is serious.
Sprains are simply a tearing or over-stretching of the ligaments or tendons that connect muscle to bone. They happen when that limb or digit is put under extreme force or pressure, and is bent to an unnatural degree. In the case of the thumb, a sprain is often due to falling or sports injuries.
For example, we may fall and jam the thumb into the ground or another resistant surface. This forces the thumb into an unnatural position, often an extreme one. Not only do we feel immediate pain, but it also usually puts too much pressure on two main ligaments in the thumb – the ulnar collateral and/or the radial collateral ligaments.
These stabilize and support the movement of the thumb joint and when they are sprained, they prevent you from moving the thumb comfortably, smoothly, and without pain. There is often immediate swelling, and this is a key indicator that you must get to a doctor. (Med-Health.net, 2015)
Diagnosing and Treating Thumb Sprains
Your hand doctor is going to X-ray the hand to be sure that there are no broken bones, and they will then do a few tests to determine which ligaments are damaged, and to what extent.
The treatment can range from casting or splinting, but if the ligaments have been torn, they tend to require surgery to reattach them properly, and in some cases a reconstruction may be required. Should you delay in seeking treatment, surgery is often the only remedy for what is known as a “chronic” sprain injury. This is often accompanied by weakness of the hand and pain when attempting to use the thumb.
Don’t delay if you sustain a sharp force or falling injury to your thumb. The faster a sprain is dealt with, the better the long-term outcome for this essential digit.