Some of the most common types of thumb injuries include bone fractures, ligament sprains, bruises from impacts, tendon injuries and tendinitis, and damage to the skin of the thumb. Athletes are far more likely to incur thumb injuries, though others can also injure the thumb during daily activities. Falls are one of the most common causes of such injuries, and overuse of the thumb can lead to problems as well. Accidents that lead to impacts such as automobile accidents can also lead to thumb damage, and in many cases, such injuries are accompanied by other conditions that affect the hands or arms.
A thumb fracture is one of the more common injuries, and it occurs when the thumb bone cracks. This crack can be very minor, requiring only minimal treatment, or it can be more severe and require intensive treatment that may involve surgery. Minor fractures can be treated with the RICE treatment; RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. These actions help promote blood flow to the affected area, and they help reduce swelling and pain. Allowing the injury to rest for a significant amount of time and preventing it from moving can help the bone heal on its own. More severe fractured thumb injuries may require surgical treatment to help keep the bone intact.
A thumb sprain occurs when the ligaments that connect bones in a joint become overstretched, torn, or otherwise damaged. Such thumb injuries may lead to swelling, and pain is likely in the affected area. Like other minor to moderate injuries, the RICE treatment is often enough to allow for healing of the sprained thumb ligament, though more severe sprains may require more aggressive treatment. A doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications or painkillers to help treat the injury and keep pain to a minimum.
Tendinitis can affect the thumb as well. This condition occurs when the tendons that connect muscles to bone become inflamed, leading to pain in the joint. Inflammation can be caused by a number of different conditions, including overuse; improper use; an injury or trauma to the thumb; or bursitis, which occurs when a fluid-filled sac called a bursa becomes inflamed. Treatment for tendinitis also often includes the RICE treatment, but if the condition is severe or chronic, it is important to visit a doctor. More aggressive treatments may involve injection of steroids or even a surgery to address the inflamed tendon.