Finger and Thumb Pain

By Sydney CBD Osteopath Dr Abbey Davidson

Do you suffer from Finger and Thumb Pain?

Our fingers and thumb play an important role in our daily lives, and because of this, pain in the fingers and thumb are very common. Pain in the fingers (phalanges) and the thumb (pollex), can sometimes originate from the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder or neck, and often take a prolonged time to heal because of the amount we use our fingers and thumb on a daily basis.

Finger and thumb complaints can be caused by a number of factors, including (but not limited to) overuse, trauma, anatomic differences, ageing and systemic disease.

What are the common causes of finger & thumb pain?

Some of the common causes and conditions affecting finger and thumb pain include:

  • Mallet Finger
  • Football/Jersey Finger
  • Boutonniere Deformity – Central Slip Tear
  • Volar Plate Injury
  • Ligament Sprain (finger/thumb)
  • Flexor Pulley Injury
  • Dupuytren’s Contracture
  • Trigger Finger
  • Game Keeper’s/Skier’s Thumb
  • Bowler’s Thumb
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Psoriatic Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis

What are the common structures which contribute to finger and thumb pain?

The common structures that contribute to pain in the fingers and thumb include:

  • Joints
  • Bones
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments
  • Muscles
  • Nerves

What can I do to help myself if I experience finger and thumb pain?

With finger and thumb complaints, self-help is really dependant on the cause of the complaint.

With injuries related to a recent trauma, and fracture is not believed to have occurred, try to apply ice indirectly to the region (20 minutes on, 20 minutes off) and resting the region. In some circumstances, resting may involve splinting or strapping the effected finger or thumb, as this provides an opportunity for the injured structure to heal and decrease swelling/inflammation. We advise similar icing and resting techniques for injuries which have been caused by overuse.

In more chronic finger/thumb complaints such as arthritic condition’s, anti-inflammatory gels and medication may be prescribed for you, aiming to reduce swelling inside effected joints. Some activities which involve the effected joint may be advised to be avoided or modified.

When should I see a health practitioner for my finger and thumb pain?

You should book an appointment with a health practitioner, such as an Osteopath, Chiropractor or Physiotherapist, if you have pain in your fingers and thumb for a prolonged period of time, if the pain becomes more intense, or you experience redness, swelling or deformity.

What can a health practitioner do to help with your finger and thumb pain?

A health practitioner will gather a history, timeline and medical history of your finger or thumb complaint, and will also do an assessment of your hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder and/or neck to try and determine what is causing your pain. Treatment will be based on information gathered from case history, assessment of these regions and provocative testing, and in some cases, further investigation may be required and you may be referred for some imaging or blood tests.

Hands-on therapy will be tailored to your individual injury, with the main focus being on maintaining range of motion in the effect joints, and decreasing pain and muscular tension. This treatment may be focused locally on the finger/thumb, or at other contributing regions.  Stretching and exercise prescription and strapping/splinting of the region may also be performed to continue progress after a session.

For more information on other conditions of the arm, hand and wrist, click on the following links:

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