Thumb sprains can be rather painful, affecting your thumb's mobility and your ability hold objects properly. In serious cases, the ligaments that support the thumb may be seriously damaged, requiring professional attention. Patients in the greater Atlanta, GA area that suffer from skier's thumb can count on Dr. Steven Bailey at The Hand Center at Crawford Plastic Surgery. He can provide expert treatment of this condition to restore the strength and movement of your thumb.

What Is a Thumb Sprain?

A thumb sprain refers to a case in which the thumb is bent beyond its normal range of motion. This results in damage to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb. In many cases, a thumb sprain is the result of the thumb being bent backwards.

Thumb sprains are common among skiers, which is why the condition is sometimes referred to as skier's thumb. It's been estimated that thumb sprains comprise up to 10 percent of all skiing injuries. The condition is also known as a UCL tear and gamekeeper's thumb.

Symptoms of Thumb Sprains

Some of the most common symptoms of thumb sprains include:

  • Soreness at the base of the thumb
  • Swelling of the thumb
  • Bruising around the thumb
  • Changes in grip strength
  • Pain in the wrist

Causes of Thumb Sprains

Any kind of incident that results in bending the thumb in an awkward manner can result in a thumb sprain. This includes slips and falls, auto accidents, bike accidents, sports injuries, and so forth.

Thumb Sprain Diagnosis

When diagnosing thumb sprains, it's important for doctors to ensure that other structures of the hand were not damaged or injured during the accident. Dr. Bailey will conduct a full physical exam of the patient. This will include a discussion of the incident that caused the sprain, as well as questions about when symptoms first appeared.

X-rays will be taken to ensure that there are no broken bones in the hand or thumb. If fractures are detected, this will alter the ideal approach to treatment.

Treatment of Thumb Sprains

Many thumb sprains can be treated at home without additional medical care. This at-home care will often involve proper rest, ice packs to alleviate pain and swelling, and anti-inflammatory pain medications to help address soreness. Patients can wear a wrist brace to help keep the thumb stable and prevent pain.

If damage to the UCL is significant, ligament repair surgery will be required. To reattach a ligament, a suture anchor may be used. If there are fractures in addition to ligament damage, the surgery will be modified to address these matters. Following surgery, the patient's hand will be placed in a cast to ensure proper healing.

Recovery after Surgery

After undergoing thumb surgery, patients will want to avoid placing stress on the treated hand. Patients should follow their surgeon's post-op instructions closely to avoid serious side effects and complications. The amount of time the patient will be in a cast will depend on the nature of the injury and the recommendations of the surgeon.

Contact The Hand Center at Crawford Plastic Surgery to learn more about thumb sprains and the treatment options available.