The thumb is the most important finger on the human hand and the most used one as well. It would be impossible to grip things without an opposable thumb. Obviously, the continuous and extensive use of the thumb is bound to cause thumb injuries at some point of time. Though, you may be commonly experiencing thumb pain, the underlying cause may be different. The course of your treatment would depend upon the cause of thumb pain.
What Causes Thumb Pain
Skier's thumb occurs due to an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament. This is a large ligament and a common point of thumb injuries. Spraining of this ligament leads to a condition called skier's thumb. Swelling and difficulty in moving the thumb are the main symptoms of skier's thumb. Moreover, you will experience an excruciating thumb pain when gripping things.
This is the newest and the most common of all thumb pain causes. Mostly, it's the younger generation that is affected by this condition. 'Blackberry thumb' is the name given to thumb pain resulting due to excessive use of thumb for texting purpose. The repetitive use of thumb for the purpose of text messaging or operating other PDAs often results in injury to ulnar collateral ligament.
Thumb pain arising from injuries while playing a sport or due to an accident is often chronic and lasts for several months. Here again, the cause is injury to ulnar collateral ligament. Since, these injuries are often of serious consequence, the ligament takes time to heal. As a result, the person has to endure thumb pain for a long time.
Thumb arthritis is the cause of chronic thumb joint pain. Just like any other joint in body, arthritis also affects the thumb joint. This is one of the thumb joint pain causes which makes the thumb stiff, thereby making any movement impossible. Cortisone injections may be recommended as a treatment option. Surgery is advised in extreme cases.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is often the cause of numbness in thumb accompanied by pain. The condition arises due to the compression of the median nerve at wrist, between the carpal bones and the transverse carpal ligament. This causes the thenar muscles of the thumb to go numb. The numbness does not limit to thumb alone, but also spreads to the first three fingers as well as the majority of the hand. Since, inflammation of the tendon sheaths is the cause behind carpal tunnel syndrome, flexibility exercises of tendons relieves the thumb pain to some extent.
A fractured bone is the common and most painful of all causes. A broken bone often leads to throbbing pain in thumb, even if you don't move it. The broken bone can be held in place with the help of metal screws, pins, or plates. Surgery is only advised if the broken bone results in muscle loss.
De Quervain's Tendinitis
De Quervain's tendinitis is the inflammation of tendons that attach to the thumb near the wrist. These tendons are covered with a tissue called synovium, which facilitates movement of the thumb on the side of wrist. Tendinitis may occur in pregnancy or it may originate from rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, it may result from overuse of tendons. The inflammation often irritates adjoining nerves and causes pain. A person may also experience numbness in the region where the thumb meets the wrist.
Thus, thumb pain causes are myriad and there is a great difficulty in diagnosis of the correct cause. However, X-Rays can help diagnose the accurate cause of thumb pain. Isometric exercises are considered to be of great help in treating thumb pain.