A sprained thumb is an injury to a ligament, which is a soft tissue that connects bones to each other at the joints to keep it stable, as opposed to a thumb fracture (break) which is an injury to the bone. The ulnar collateral ligament is the most injured ligament in the thumb. This particular ligament connects the thumb to the hand on the side closest to your index finger.
Many times, thumb sprains will result from sports injuries or falls. For example, skiing results in many thumb injuries, as does basketball and other contact sports. You may fall and try to catch yourself, bending your thumb in an awkward position. In skiing, ski poles are a big cause of a sprained thumb, typically when the pole doesn't release from the hand when you fall. The best way to avoid this is to never place your hands in the strap on the ski pole, and try to let go of the pole when falling rather than gripping it.
So, is it a sprained thumb, a broken thumb or simply a jammed finger? Here are 5 signs that you have sprained your thumb:
However, these symptoms may also ring true if you’ve broken your thumb. A jammed finger may result in some simliar symptoms, including pain and stiffness, but many people suffer from jammed fingers and are still able to use and move their fingers.
Immediately after injuring your thumb, until you can get to a doctor's office, elevate and ice the injured hand. Wrap it in a bandage so that your thumb cannot move until the doctor can examine you.
The best and safest way to determine the severity of your injury is to visit a hand surgeon as soon as possible. He or she may take x-rays to see if any bones are broken. If a ligament is torn, it may be treatable with a cast or splint. Or, you may need surgery. The sooner you can visit a medical professional, the better your recovery will be. If you delay treatment for too long, it's possible that damage to your thumb could be permanent.
A sprained thumb can be treated with a brace or cast and will likely take 3-6 weeks to fully heal. If your sprain is severe, you may need surgery. Every patient is different, so visit a hand surgeon to determine the best treatment for your injury. Learn more about thumb sprains and other upper extremity conditions at www.HandCare.org.