Amelia Grant

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Author: AmeliaGrant

7 Unexpected Reasons Why Your Thumb May Ache

Opposable thumbs are one of the biggest advantages humans have over many other animals. These fingers allow us to grab objects and better manipulate the environment. But due to this, our thumbs are also susceptible to overuse and wear and tear, which can ultimately cause thumb pain.

We use our hands quite frequently. A lot of times, what happens with our hands and especially our thumbs is that we use them incorrectly as tools which can result in chronic pain.

Thumb pain and hand pain are two extremely common types of pain. Everyone has nearly a  40 percent of lifetime risk of developing hand arthritis, and that’s just one of the causes of thumb pain. Hand arthritis is also linked to aging. Women are also at higher risk than men, possibly due to the fact that they are more susceptible to some of the conditions that provoke thumb pain. Let’s review some of those causes:

1. Unhealthy thumb habits
Most conditions that provoke thumb pain stem from repetitive, unhealthy thumb movements. There’s a whole host of actions that can lead to issues such as wearing gloves too tight to protect from winter’s chill, picking up bags using your thumb, using smartphones all the time, and wearing thumb rings.

To prevent overuse, type with other fingers or use voice recognition software for texting or sending emails on your phone. It’s little things that are important to rethink in order to change some harmful behaviors since we’re doing many of these unconsciously.

2. Thumb arthritis 
Arthritis is one of the most common reasons for thumb pain. Osteoarthritis impacts the bottom thumb joint, causes wear of the cartilage and makes the bones rub together, contributing to pain.

Thumb arthritis often is characterized by pain at the base of the thumb, where the thumb joins the wrist. Pain is often worsened with gripping, pinching, or grasping activities and is often better with rest.

This type of arthritis causes discomfort in all of the daily activities that we do. Many people also experience sharp pain.

In addition to thumb pain, osteoarthritis might provoke swelling, tenderness, or loss of strength. Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune type of arthritis that damages the joints, can have similar symptoms.

3. Carpal tunnel syndrome
Although carpal tunnel syndrome is typically accompanied by wrist pain, you might experience pain or numbness that radiates to the thumb and the first few fingers.

The carpal tunnel is a narrow pathway in the wrist surrounded by ligaments and bones. It contains the median nerve. With carpal tunnel syndrome, that nerve gets compressed. That’s why people with this condition may feel some pain and numbness in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and ring finger.

4. Ganglion cysts 
If you have a ganglion cyst on or near your thumb, you may feel pain when you move the joint. This type of cysts result from accumulated synovial fluid (a liquid that keeps joints lubricated). With a ganglion cyst, people develop a lump under the skin.

Ganglion cysts are always non-cancerous and can go away on their own. If the pain is severe and affects joint mobility, you may need further treatment.

5. De Quervain’s tendinosis
This condition is named for the physician who first described it. De Quervain’s tendinosis occurs when the tendons that go from the wrist to the thumb get swollen or constricted if the sheath around them is swollen.

People with this condition may experience pain, swelling, tenderness, decreased strength and decreased range of motion.

6. Tears and fractures 
It’s obvious that if you break your thumb, it will ache. This is more likely to happen during winter, with black ice leading to falls. You may need to keep the bone immobilized in order for it to heal. Keep in mind that untreated thumb breaks can lead to arthritis later. You can also get a sprain, which is a stretching or tearing of ligaments.

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