A sprain is an injury to your ligaments, which are the soft tissues that connect bones together in your hand, wrist, and arm. Sprains result from an abrupt stretch of a joint beyond its natural range of motion, causing overstretching or tearing of the ligament. It can also be caused by impact to the hand or wrist such as falling on an outstretched hand. If you have sprained your thumb, you will experience pain and tenderness at the inside base of your thumb where it meets your palm. Sprained thumbs are quite common during activities like baseball or golf where you use that finger to grip a club or bat. An article from the University of Idaho with tips on how to wrap a sprained thumb and other first-aid measures when you sprain your thumb.
How To Wrap A Sprained Thumb
- If you have a sprain, you will first want to stop the pain in your thumb. If you are using a cold pack, apply it to the area and cover it with a sterile bandage. If you are using an ice pack, place it in the freezer for 15 minutes, then apply it to the area and cover it with a sterile bandage.
- Wrap your thumb in an elastic bandage and then secure it with tape.
- Apply an ice pack to your thumb (or wrap it in an elastic bandage) for 15 minutes every hour until your thumb feels better or until you can get medical attention.
- If you have a sprain, avoid bending your thumb in the opposite direction of the sprain. The ligaments that are stretched can be damaged if you bend them too far in the opposite direction.
- Elevate your hand and arm above your heart for at least 20 minutes every hour until you can get medical attention or until your thumb feels better. (This will help reduce swelling.)
- Some people also apply an ice pack to their thumb every hour for 15 minutes, but this is not necessary and may make it hurt more.
- If you have a sprain, avoid using a splint or any other device on your thumb until after the swelling goes down and you can see a doctor or a medical professional see if they can release the ligaments and stop your pain. This is because these devices may cause more damage than good by overstretching them further than they should be stretched while they are being used to treat an injury like a sprain of the thumb!
What To Do If You Sprain Your Thumb
- Stop the activity to allow time for the injury to heal.
- Rest the injured area and elevate it to help reduce swelling, pain, and range of motion loss.
- Elevate your thumb so that there is no pressure on it and try not to use it at all until it has healed.
- Ice the thumb using a bag of frozen peas or an ice pack wrapped in a paper towel, held in place with an elastic bandage or splint (make sure you do not freeze your fingers).
- Take over-the-counter painkillers every 4 hours as needed for pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication for muscle stiffness (do not give aspirin or anti-inflammatory medication containing ibuprofen). If you are taking aspirin or another NSAID, check with your doctor about how long you can take them before having surgery.
Telltale Signs Of A Sprained Thumb
- Pain or tenderness at the base of the thumb, or around the middle knuckle
- Extreme tenderness in the area of the joint
- Swelling and bruising to the base of your thumb
- Tenderness in the web between your thumb and index finger on the same hand
- A feeling that your hand is swollen; also a noticeable difference in size between your two hands
- Difficulty gripping with a hand like you can’t get a good grip on something; also difficulty reaching with fingers (like when you bend your wrist and grip a pencil).
Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers For A Sprained Thumb
- Aspirin: Aspirin is a common pain reliever used by many people to ease pain in their joints. It is also widely used by athletes to prevent injury during physical activity. Aspirin works by blocking the production of prostaglandins, chemicals that cause inflammation and pain. However, aspirin can also cause bleeding and ulcers if taken in large doses, as well as interfere with blood clotting and anesthesia.
- Ibuprofen: Ibuprofen is available over-the-counter (OTC) for adults who are experiencing mild to moderate pain. Ibuprofen can be purchased in the form of tablets or liquid form for adults who have experienced sprains or strains that do not require surgery. The drug can be taken with food or water to reduce nausea, although it can cause stomach upset if you take it at too high a dose.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Acetaminophen is a common OTC remedy for headaches, muscle aches, and stomach aches when you don’t want to deal with a prescription or over-the-counter medication side effects such as drowsiness or upset stomachs from anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or aspirin. Acetaminophen can be purchased in liquid form for those who may not be able to swallow pills, although it should never be taken at the same time as other medications if you are taking any prescription drugs since acetaminophen can dangerously lower your blood levels of other drugs.
- Aspirin, Ibuprofen, or Acetaminophen with a muscle relaxant: A combination of aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen can be taken to help relieve pain and inflammation in the joint. Muscle relaxants work by relaxing the muscles that surround your joints, allowing them to move more freely without pain or discomfort. You can buy a muscle relaxant over-the-counter in tablet form for adults who have experienced minor sprains or strains but do not require surgery. Muscles can become stiff and injured if they are not allowed to move freely after an injury, which causes pain and tenderness at the injury site.
- Glucosamine: Glucosamine is a nutrient found naturally in the body that has been shown to help speed up the healing process of your injured joint. It is available at most health food stores as a supplement for those with arthritis or other types of joint pain caused by injuries such as sprains and strains from physical activity like baseball, golfing, skiing, and tennis. It can also be used by those who have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis when cartilage tissue inside your joints wears down due to lack of use over time.
A thumb sprain is a very common injury among athletes and sports enthusiasts, especially baseball players. You can treat a thumb sprain at home with over-the-counter pain relievers and a simple wrapping technique. If you don’t treat a thumb sprain properly, you may end up with a more serious injury that requires professional medical attention.