The condition of sprained thumb is typical to contact sports, especially to the sport of skiing. That is why, it is also known as 'Skier's thumb'. If the sprain causes the thumb to bend in the direction of the thumb nail, then there is nothing much to worry about.
However, if the thumb bends in such a way that it faces the index finger, and is pulled down towards the wrist then this indicates a serious injury.
How to Know if You have Sprained Your Thumb
The symptoms that occur after a thumb gets sprained are prominent enough to notice. The affected person may feel a sharp pain when the thumb is bent backwards, and pain in the web of the thumb when moved. When the thumb is sprained, few moments later, a swelling could be visible over the joint that lies at the bottom of the injured part. The swelling may be painful when touched or moved, and it might feel warm to touch. Bruising develops in a few days.
Over time, a lack in rigor or strictness (laxity) or instability in the affected joint could also surface. If the symptoms of laxity and instability seem to be too severe, then this might be indicative of a total rupture of a ligament of the affected thumb. Such cases usually require surgery for treatment.
What You Can Do?
☞ As it is with most kinds of injury, immediately after the incident, apply ice compression to the injured thumb. Ice the area for about 10-15 minutes, 4 times a day. Keep doing this for about two days. This method helps lower the temperature of the injured area, and reduce swelling. Never apply ice directly to the skin. Always wrap it in a towel, and then proceed with the compression. Also, do not ice the area for too long lest it may cause nerve damage.
☞ The next thing to be followed is to give ample amount of rest to your hands. Do not take up any kind of activities which might aggravate the condition of the thumb sprain. Avoid lifting heavy objects or bending your thumb. Elevating the digit gently helps in draining any fluid that may have gotten accumulated in the affected area. This reduces swelling. Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are generally recommended by a doctor in order to reduce the pain and inflammation. One may also avail anti-inflammatory gel to relieve pain.
☞ Wrapping the injured thumb with an elastic compression bandage may help in reducing the swelling and supporting the thumb. If in case, the sprain is severe, then the doctor may use bandage, cast, or splint for keeping the thumb completely immobilized until it heals. It is recommended to keep wearing the splint or cast at all times, until the swelling and tenderness subside.
☞ Doing some exercises that are formulated for thumb injury helps in regaining and increasing the original range of motion of the thumb. These exercises are best performed under the guidance of a professional therapist. Generally, the workouts consist of thumb extensions, thumb flexion, and hand grasping. Other than these, swimming, jogging, and stationary bicycling may also be helpful in treating the thumb injury.
☞ The cause of the injury influences the time of healing. If the sprain has occurred due to overuse of the thumb, then it normally takes about 2-4 weeks for the symptoms to subside. However, if an accident is behind the spraining of the thumb, then the recovery period will vary according to the impact of the injury. For a first and second degree sprain to subside, it normally takes 3-6 weeks. A third degree one usually requires a surgery, and complete recovery may take several months.
If you have gotten your thumb sprained, it is advisable not to return to sports or any other physical activities until the symptoms have started to show signs of retreat. Returning too soon may make the condition worse, and delay the recovery time. Only when you notice that you can use your thumb without any pain, and that you have gotten your thumb's normal range of motion, take it as a cue that it's time to get back to your usual activity.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.