‘Spraining’ your thumb is when you injure the ulnar collateral ligament, which is the main ligament in the middle of your thumb. This usually affects your ability to grasp or pinch objects and can lead to long term weakness in the joint and arthritis.
A thumb sprain is usually caused by falling onto your outstretched hand, or if you fall during skiing when your hand has been strapped to a ski pole (also known as skier’s thumb).
These include swelling, tenderness, pain, and finding it difficult to hold an object between your finger and thumb.
Your specialist will examine the thumb to diagnose whether the ligament is fully or only partly torn and may also X-ray the bone to check whether it’s broken.
Non-operative treatment: this can involve having a cast or splint to immobilise your thumb joint until it has healed (4-6 weeks). You can also apply ice (crushed in a towel) several times a day to reduce swelling.
Surgery: you may need to have a procedure to reconnect the ligament to the bone and remove or replace any bone fragments using pins or screws. Usually, you will need to wear a cast for around six weeks afterwards while the thumb ligament heals.
Important: This information is only a guideline to help you understand your treatment and what to expect. Everyone is different and your rehabilitation may be quicker or slower than other people’s. Please contact us for advice if you’re worried about any aspect of your health or recovery.