A ligament is a strong band of tissue that connects our joints and bones. We have ligaments to keep our bone-in position and they stabilize our joints too. When that strong band of tissue becomes overstretched or torn in our fingers then we experience thumb sprains. A thumb sprain is often seen due to falling on the outstretched hand and the thumb is forcefully bent backward. Your thumb may feel weak, unstable, bruising, tenderness, swelling, and pain. You may find it difficult to grip objects in your hand.
The ulnar collateral ligament is the most common ligament to be injured in the thumb. While this is a super strong band of tissue that allows us to grasp and pinch things, it is also attached to the middle joint of the thumb.
Sprained fingers and thumbs are common in athletes especially those which require throwing and catching like football, baseball, and basketball. You can get a sprained thumb in several ways. The first way is through an injury like falling on the ski slopes while holding your pole. The other way is a chronic injury that happens over time. This injury is called a “gamekeeper’s thumb” or “skier’s thumb.”
Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Thumb Sprains
Your treatment is dependent on the severity of your injury. The most common treatment is “RICE” which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. We will ask for you to not use your wrist for a minimum of 48 hours. While resting apply ice (not directly on the skin) for 20 minutes several times a day. Next, reduce the swelling in your wrist by wrapping it with a compression bandage. Finally, as you’re resting elevate your wrist higher than your heart. This is an important step, especially at night. Anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen or Tylenol can be used to reduce your pain and inflammation.
To allow the thumb time to heal, you will be asked to wear a splint or cast. Depending on the severity of your sprain you may need surgery to fully repair stability to the joint.