Some Different Causes of Thumb Pain

1. Stress fracture / fracture of the scaphoid bone. This bone is at the very base of the thumb (more so in the wrist) and helps form the base of the wrist. The scaphoid has a limited blood supply, so if the artery is damaged, the bone may die (avascular necrosis). Therefore, suspicion of injury to the scapoid requires imaging and correct management. Management may include bracing and surgery.

2. DeQuervain’s Syndrome. This is where the tendons on the back and side of the thumb become irritated / pathological / painful. A tendon loading program may be quite beneficial. Intermittent bracing may be required in intense cases.

3. Osteoarthritis. The cartilage of the carpal bones (wrist) and phalanges (bones in the thumb) may weaken and thin. Inflammation and bony spurs may result, contributing to the pain. Gentle movement, strengthening and medication may assist. Bracing or sugery may be warranted in severe cases.

4. Ligament injury. The ligaments which stabilise the thumb bones may become torn during sports or workplace injuries. Bracing and progressive strengthening may be required.

5. Infection. The hand has a plethora of small blood vessels, so any cuts needs to be covered and treated correctly to reduce the risk of infection. Signs of infection may include redness, swelling, heat and oozing. Infection may be internal, such as in the joint capsules. Infection may be treated with medications and surgical wash out.

Other thumb injuries exist as well, so a careful examination can assist in pin-pointing the diagnosis. At Destiny Health, we triage a range of thumb and wrist injuries and communicate with specialists as needed.

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