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Thumb Pain

A thumb pain can have an adverse impact on all those activities that involve use of hands. Go through the article to know more about thumb pain causes, symptoms and treatment.
The joint at the base of the thumb is also known as basal joint. The thumb joint has a complicated structure that consists of bones, ligaments, tendons and nerves. It has high mobility too. As a result, it is under a lot of stress, which makes it susceptible to injury and disorders. Initially, a thumb pain is felt around its base area which later on moves towards the wrist. In worst cases, it may affect the forearm as well. The pain tends to get aggravated with the use of the thumb and hand. Other prevalent thumb pain symptoms include swelling and stiffening that makes gripping and wrist movements difficult. When the nerve in the area gets irritated then the pain is accompanied by numbness and tingling.

Thumb Pain Causes

Thumb pain occurs when any of its structural components suffer some kind of injury. The injury could be traumatic or non traumatic. A traumatic injury can cause fractured bones or sprained ligaments. On the other hand, a non traumatic injury happens due to overuse of the thumb. This often causes wearing out of the cartilage. This degeneration of cartilage increases friction between the bones and leads to serious inflammatory condition. This is known as osteoarthritis. Similarly, when the tendons in the area become swollen and irritated then it leads to De Quervain's tendinitis. This gives severe thumb pain when gripping. Carpal tunnel syndrome is another health disorder that arises due to repetitive motion of the thumb. Excessive movement of the thumb puts an additional amount of pressure on the median nerve present in the wrist. The painful symptoms arise when the compressed nerve gets irritated. A thumb knuckle pain can be a warning sign of arthritis. This is more common in people who are above the age of 40.

Thumb Pain Treatment

Basically, the treatment is based upon thumb pain causes and severity of the symptoms. When the pain is minor, then resting the thumb and wrist by avoiding repetitive movements is helpful. In cases of fractured bones or dislocated bones, one needs to use a splint to provide adequate support to the affected joints and ensure faster healing. In other cases like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, arthritis, doctors recommend use of splint only during the night.

For a temporary relief from a moderate thumb joint pain, anti-inflammatory medicines are prescribed. When a thumb tendon pain and swelling becomes severe, corticosteroid injections are administered to reduce them. As the thumb pain and swelling go down, physical therapy helps a lot in restoring the normal functioning of the sensitive joint. People suffering from tendinitis, arthritis or osteoarthritis find it highly beneficial, as it reduces the stiffness and weakness of the joint and add strength and flexibility.

If non surgical methods of treatment fail to cure thumb pain, then the damaged joint is repaired by surgical means. There are various types of surgeries that are performed for thumb pain treatment and it depends on the underlying cause. In a surgical treatment for arthritis, two adjoining bones are often fused together in order to enhance the stability of the joint. If the joint is badly damaged due to osteoarthritis, then joint replacement surgery is done. In carpal tunnel syndrome, the entrapped nerve is often released surgically. For De Quervain's tendinitis, surgery is used to make sufficient room for the irritated nerve. After a surgical treatment, the affected hand is kept in splint or cast for around 6 weeks. It is followed by a rehabilitation program with the help of physical therapy, so that the thumb can regain its strength and mobility.

As the causes of thumb pain can badly affect your normal life activities, you must not ignore this problem for a long time. In the first two days, you can try out home treatments like application of ice pack or heating pad on the painful site. However, if it does not improve with this, then visit a doctor for further treatment.
By Bidisha Mukherjee
Published: 9/3/2010
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