top of page
  • Writer's picture Sporty Healthy Habit


Do you know that the thumb conducts 50% of your hand functions? During daily activities, we cannot recognize the importance of the thumb. But when it gets injured, all our tasks cease. Do you wonder what conditions cause painful thumbs?

Figuring out what causes thumb pain is quite tricky. You have to rule out which part of the thumb hurts, how the pain feels, and how much time you experience this pain. Do you want to know about treatment options?

hand pain relief
hand pain relief

In severe cases, surgery is the only possible treatment. But hand therapy using Stress ball adults and grip strengtheners give beneficial results at home. Five common conditions that cause painful thumbs.

  • Tendonitis

Have you heard about De Quervain's tendonitis? It is the inflammation of the tendons that lift the thumb upward. These tendons lie in a compartment on the radial side of the wrist. When there is friction on the tendons, they become swell and cause pain.

  • Trigger thumb

The flexor pollicis longus tendon is responsible for the bending and flexion of the thumb. When this tendon gets stuck in the thumb pulley, it causes clicking, catching, or locking of the thumb joint. This condition provokes pain and swelling of the thumb.

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel is the pathway on the palmar side of the wrist for the median nerve and tendons of the hand muscles. The pressure rises when the tunnels get inflamed, which pinch the nerve. Symptoms include tingling sensation, numbness, and pain.

  • Skier's thumb

The ulnar collateral ligament gets injured when someone falls on an outstretched hand. If it is not appropriately treated, the muscles become weak. The tasks like pinching or picking become difficult. Such a condition is called a skier's thumb.

  • Arthritis

Degenerative changes occur with growing age, and the thumb also becomes a victim of it. The carpometacarpal joint is responsible for the opposition of the thumb. In arthritis, the wear and tear of CMC joints cause discomfort while doing opposing movements.

How do you treat thumb pain?

There are several reasons for thumb pain. Mostly it happens from overuse, while at the same time, injury or arthritis is the reason. Whatever the cause is, you can get rid of it. Treatments options available for thumb pain include:

Home remedies

In mild cases, thumb pain can be treated by home remedies. Such treatment has unbelievable results in reducing pain, swelling and inflammation. It includes

  • Resting

  • Icing

  • Splinting

  • Pain killer


If the pain and swelling persist, medical treatment is helpful for short time relief. It includes:

  • Topical analgesics are used to get relief.

  • Steroid injection at the joint site also reduces pain in case of arthritis.

  • Surgery is the last option to treat damaged tendons.

Hand Therapy

One of the best, highly effective treatment options for thumb pain is using different therapies and techniques to ease the pain.


Stretching and strengthening exercises have a significant role in regaining pain-free hand movements. Let's have a look at the most effective practices.

  • Stretching

Gently stretch the wrist flexors and extensors to get relief. It extends the inner and outer muscles of the forearm. Stretch that we can do are:

  1. Wrist flexion

  2. Wrist extension

  3. Wrist extension and flexion

  4. Pronation and Supination

  • Strengthening

When the pain persists long, muscles weaken, and movements like grasping and pinching become difficult—strengthening exercises with the help of tools like grip strength help to regain strength.

  • Distraction

It is the easiest way to get rid of swollen and painful thumbs. Distraction is used in the case of arthritis, as degenerative changes affect the base of the thumb.

Our priority is to gain a pain-free range of motion. Move your thumb ten times, side to side or back and forth, four times a day.


Massaging helps to release knots, tension, and trigger points. The continuous pain causes muscles to tighten and hence stresses the affected area. You can use the stress ball adults use for this purpose.


Apply firm pressure to the webbing space between the thumb and index finger. This helps to relieve pain in the base of the thumb.

How to get rid of thumb tendonitis?

Thumb tendonitis causes inflammation and tendon pain that help lift the thumb. In everyday tasks, the movement of the thumb plays a significant role. So it's necessary to treat it as soon as possible. Early treatment helps to recover within 4-6 weeks.

You can get rid of thumb tendonitis by following methods:

  • Immobilize the thumb and wrist with the help of a splint or brace.

  • Apply icing to reduce inflammation and swelling.

  • Prevent overuse of the thumb.

  • Avoid side-to-side movements of the thumb.

  • In severe cases, surgery is the only option to cure tendonitis.

How to diagnose and treat thumb arthritis?

If you feel stiffness, pain, and swelling at the base of your thumb, you probably have arthritis.


Proper diagnosis is made before starting the treatment. It can be done by X-ray, CT scan, or MRI, which shows.

  • Bony spur

  • Loose joint spaces

  • Cartilage wear and tear

It is also diagnosed by applying pressure on the base of the thumb, which provokes pain. One of the best ways to diagnose thumb arthritis is to hold the joint and move the thumb against the wrist bone.

The grinding sounds, or sounds of rubbing bones, are easily felt along with pain—all of this help to diagnose arthritis before moving toward treatment.

Treatment options for arthritis

Arthritis can cure arthritis if diagnosed early; otherwise, surgery is performed in severe cases. Its treatment protocol includes:

  • Medication

Over-the-counter, topical, and painkillers are used to ease the pain.

  • Immobilization

Spinning the joint at night helps decrease pain and provides proper joint positioning.

  • Hand therapy

Different exercises and techniques are used to reduce pain and inflammation.

  • Injections

If medications and therapies won't work, the corticosteroid is injected into the joint.

  • Surgery

Surgery is the last treatment option, including osteotomy, joint fusion, trapeziectomy, or arthroplasty.

How to prevent thumb pain?

There are many causes of thumb pain. But fortunately, you can prevent thumb pain by following simple guidelines.

hand exercise
hand exercise
  • Never overuse your thumb.

  • Give rest to your thumb whenever possible.

  • Do icing for 20-30 minutes; this reduces inflammation and swelling.

  • Prevent pain-provoking activities like grasping or gripping movements

  • Always use a night splint

  • Keep thumb moving with gentle stretching

  • Used alternative methods to perform heavy tasks

Note: Never take ibuprofen during the first 48 hours of the injury.

Final Verdict

The incidence of thumb pain is increasing nowadays. But there are many effective ways of treating thumb pain with hand therapy instead of surgery and medication. All you need to know is the proper diagnosis and stage of the problem.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page