Our thumbs are incredibly important to our daily existence. A mobile healthy thumb gives us the ability to interact with the world. Without full use of a thumb, we lose a significant amount of ability with our hands. Pain in the thumb can be incredibly disabling and change ones quality of life.
Most thumb pain falls into 5 categories:
1. Wear and tear osteoarthritis, usually affecting the end or base of the thumb.
2. Tendinitis that affects the wrist/base of the thumb, with pain that can radiate up the forearm.
3. Carpal tunnel nerve related pain frequently can cause numbness, tingling, and pain in the thumb.
4. Chronic irritation of the flexor tendon can cause trigger finger of the thumb resulting in the thumb getting stuck in a flexed position.
5. Inflamed mid portion of the thumb can occur in inflammatory arthritis conditions such as RA, Psoriatic arthritis, gout, or related conditions.
Most of these conditions can be diagnosed with a focused physical exam and judicious use of imaging such as xray and ultrasound. It’s not uncommon for someone to have more than one of the above problems if they have chronic thumb pain. Treatment is different for each, and all are treatable with non-surgical modalities, including occupational therapy, splinting, topical medications, and regenerative injectable treatments. The key before starting treatment is to first use a practical and scientific approach to diagnosis.
We all need the use of our thumbs. If yours is causing pain, you may have one of the above conditions and may benefit with treatment so you can continue using your hands appropriately.