How do I Treat a Sprained Thumb?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 17 January 2020
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To treat a sprained thumb, you typically have to deal with the symptoms while you wait for it to heal. After seeing a doctor to make sure your thumb really is sprained and not broken, you can usually treat your thumb at home with rest, hot and warm compresses, and a splint. Pain relievers also may help keep you comfortable as you heal. As an added benefit, anti-inflammatory pain medications perform double duty to not only relieve pain, but also reduce inflammation.

If you think you have a sprained thumb, there are home remedies for relieving pain and preventing further injury. You may do well, however, to seek a doctor’s evaluation when you believe you have a sprain. A doctor can examine your thumb and make sure you have not sustained a more serious injury. Once a doctor confirms that you do, in fact, have a sprain, you may then move on to treating it at home.

The thumb will heal on its own given time, but this doesn’t mean it won’t be painful. To deal with the pain, you may take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. These medications provide a two-fold benefit. First, they serve to help you stay more comfortable while your thumb heals. Second, anti-inflammatory drugs help to reduce the swelling and inflammation in your sprained thumb.


It is also important to rest a sprained thumb so it can heal, which means you will need to avoid activities that could cause you to re-injure your thumb or make the injury worse. For example, you will likely need to avoid such activities as tennis and basketball. In fact, you may do well to avoid using the hand with the injured thumb at all. Trying to write or type with the injured hand may prove painful and could serve to prolong your healing time. Instead, you may be better served by asking a loved one to help you accomplish the things made more difficult by your injured thumb.

You may also find that applying heat and cold help the healing process as you treat your thumb. You may, for example, alternate between applying cold and warm compresses to the area — you may use a hot compress on your thumb for about 30 minutes and then follow up with a cold compress for another 30 minutes. This sort of treatment may help with reducing the swelling and may also provide at least some relief from discomfort.

Keeping your thumb immobile may also help it heal faster and prevent further injury. You may apply a soft splint to your thumb that prevents excessive movement but does allow for some mobility. A rigid splint will keep the thumb from moving at all. Your doctor may advise you on which splint is best to use in your particular case.


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Post 4

I sprained my thumb a while back while lifting weights. I used cold compresses and let it rest and my thumb pain stopped. I went back to the gym yesterday and felt a lot of pain in the same thumb while lifting. Does this mean it's not healed?

I hope that I don't have to stop lifting because of this. I need to get back to my routine but I don't want to push it and really hurt my finger either.

Has anyone else experienced something like this? Do you have any tips for how I can keep lifting without causing pain and injury to my thumb?

Post 3

@ddljohn-- You must have a relatively minor sprain. My sprained thumb symptoms were quite severe. My thumb was swollen to twice its size and it was throbbing with pain. I was sure that I broke it. I got an x-ray and it turned out to be a sprain. It still took a while to heal though. I did RICE for a few days (when I remembered to anyway), and wore a splint for a few weeks to be on the safe side. I remember having to keep my hand up too because if I let it sit below my heart for too long, it would swell up again. It was kind of weird.

I think I'm not very courageous though. My boyfriend broke his thumb and didn't even wear a splint! It's not a good thing to do actually, but his tolerance for pain was admirable.

Post 2

I sprained my thumb a few days ago. After I put an ice pack on it, I went to the pharmacy and picked up a finger splint. I had some pain before I put the splint on but not after. Using a splint is great because it keeps the finger immobile while it heals. So it's not possible to use the finger and injure it further. I think my thumb is going to be perfectly fine in a few days and I can take the splint off.

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