If your thumb hurts and you didn’t jam it or injure it in a specific way, this article may help you diagnose the problem.
The four most common causes of thumb pain are:
- Thumb arthritis
- Trigger thumb
- Thumb Tendonitis
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
Past age 65, 75% of patients have arthritis. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t take much pressure or trauma to cause an arthritic thumb to start hurting.
You may or may not have lumps and bumps or deformity as a result of the arthritis – sometimes it just hurts, with a deep aching pain inside the thumb.
The pain can be anywhere along the thumb, from the base of the thumb, near the wrist, to the end knuckle of the thumb, out by the thumb nail.
Other signs of arthritis include a crunching or grinding sensation you feel when you move the thumb, or pain that gets worse in the mornings or when you pinch or twist things.
Most arthritic thumbs feel better when you hold the thumb still or take a break from strenuous activity.
If the pain is on the palm side of the thumb, at the middle knuckle, your problem might be stenosing tenosynovitis, or trigger thumb. One tell-tale sign of this thumb problem is “triggering”, sticking, locking, or catching in the thumb.
It’s sometimes worse in the mornings, and the thumb either locks into a bent position at the end knuckle, or stiffens up to the point where you can’t bend or straighten it out all the way anymore.
Some people with chronic (long lasting) trigger thumb only have pain and stiffness, and remember a time when they had locking and “sticking” several months earlier.
Thumb and Wrist Tendonitis
Tendons that move the thumb travel from the top side of the forearm, across the wrist, and attach to the top of the thumb.
You may have pain shooting anywhere along this area with this form of tendonitis.
This cause of thumb pain comes from inflammation along the tendons that extend the thumb into a hitchhiker’s position.
It’s often common in new moms who lift their babies repetitively, and may be called mommy thumb. The official name is DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis (dee-qwer-vane’s).
If you have this tendonitis, you may have pain shooting along the top of the thumb, near the wrist, and into the back side of the forearm.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The carpal tunnel is a tight passageway on the palm side of your wrist that carries tendons and a major nerve into your hand. Compression, or pinching of this nerve can cause thumb pain, especially at night.
Usually numbness goes along with carpal tunnel syndrome. If you don’t have any numbness at all, chances are you don’t have carpal tunnel syndrome.
Patients with carpal tunnel syndrome will usually have tingling or numbness in the thumb, pointer finger, middle finger, and part of the ring finger.
For more detailed information
Click here to download a more detailed article about these four causes of thumb pain.
Carla Martin says
The knuckle at the end of my thumb, near the thumb nail, is catching. I had carpal tunnel surgery on that hand in March of this year. This problem started about 2wks ago. What can I do for this? Currently it is not painful, only annoying. I have been diagnosed with Oesteo arthritis.
Carla: This is most likely a trigger thumb. It can happen after carpal tunnel surgery from some extra swelling left over from the surgery. This can usually be cured with a steroid shot in the thumb tendon sheath. Please mention this to your surgeon.