A thumb sprain occurs when a ligament is stretched or torn. It is usually caused by falling on an outstretched hand where your thumb is bent backwards away from your palm.
It can also be caused by a direct blow forcing the thumb to move in an awkward direction away from your hand. Individuals who engage in activities that require repetitive grasping are also at risk of a thumb sprain.
If you have a thumb sprain, you will likely experience the following:
- Pain at the base of the thumb
- Difficulty moving the thumb
- Difficulty grasping with the thumb and index fingers
- In severe cases, a lump at the base of the thumb
These symptoms may also be present with thumb fractures. Therefore, you should seek your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Will A Thumb Ligament Heal Itself?
A mild to moderate thumb sprain may heal on its own with home remedies such as rest, pain relievers, and mild exercises. However, proper guidance from health professionals will help you recover fully and faster.
In severe cases, you may be required to undergo surgery to reattach the torn ligament with the bone for your thumb to become stable again.
How Long Will My Sprained Thumb Take To Heal?
The healing of a sprained thumb depends on how severe the injury is. A sprain is classified into three grades:
Grade 1/Mild: The ligament is stretched with only microtears. This results in pain, swelling, and bruising. It could heal within 4 weeks.
Grade 2/Moderate: The ligament is partially torn. Aside from pain, swelling, and bruising, you will also have difficulty moving your thumb. This usually heals within 6 weeks.
Grade 3/ Severe: The ligament is fully torn. You may feel a lump at the base of the thumb and the thumb will feel unstable, very painful, and difficult to move. It may take more than 2 months for it to fully heal since surgery may be required to repair the torn ligament.
When Can I Return To My Sport Or Activity?
After a thumb sprain, your thumb may need to be immobilized for a few weeks to give it time to rest. You will need to refrain from doing activities with the injured hand. You may return to daily activities within 3 to 6 weeks provided that there is no more pain when moving the thumb.
However, if you underwent surgery for a severe thumb sprain, complete recovery and return to function may take several months.
How Long Does The Pain Of A Sprained Thumb Last?
A mild thumb sprain is commonly caused by repetitive motions. Most of the time, it is not painful and is often ignored. However, if adequate rest is not provided and repetitive movements are continued, it may progress to a moderate to severe sprain.
A moderate thumb sprain takes a longer time to heal than a mild injury. There is some discomfort and difficulty in moving the thumb. This may persist for a few days to a few weeks. Normal thumb movement may return within 6 weeks.
A severe thumb sprain can be extremely painful. You may need to have an X-ray to check for a presence of fractures. It usually requires surgery to repair the torn ligament. You may experience pain for a few weeks but this can be managed with prescribed pain medications.
If pain is persistent and does not get better with rest, ice, and pain medications within 3 days, seek the advice of your doctor immediately.
What Is The Best Way To Treat A Sprained Thumb?
Treatment of a sprained thumb depends on how severe the injury is. For any type of injury, rest is very important. Adequate rest will protect the injured thumb and will prevent it from getting worse and also prevent other injuries from occurring.
Make sure to have your doctor check your thumb for proper diagnosis and treatment. You may be given a thumb splint to prevent your thumb from moving and allow it to rest and heal. Placing ice covered with a towel on the thumb and elevating your arm while resting can help decrease pain and swelling.
If you notice a lump at the base of the thumb and if the pain is unbearable, go to your doctor immediately. This is indicative of a severe thumb sprain and/or a fracture.
An X-ray or a CT scan is needed to confirm a severe sprain or fracture. In this case, proper diagnosis is important and surgery might be needed to repair the injured ligament.
Dr Aarti is an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery) from Baroda Medical College (The Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda). Dr. Aarti has also completed her Masters of Medical Science and Technology from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.