Thumb tendinitis can make daily tasks that are normally taken for granted difficult. You may have pain while writing, typing or even develop texting tendinitis.
Thumb tendinitis is typically caused by overuse of the muscles that move your thumb. Stretching, range of motion and strengthening exercises can reduce pain and weakness caused by thumb tendinitis.
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If you suspect you have this condition or have thumb pain that interferes with your daily activities, see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. In addition to tendinitis, thumb pain can be a result of more serious conditions, such as a broken bone, as explained in an April 2013 article published in the journal American Family Physician.
1. Passive Stretching
Thumb passive stretches are performed using your uninjured hand to move the injured thumb, as recommended by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust. These exercises should not be painful. If you experience pain, you are stretching too far.
Holding your thumb with the fingers of your uninjured hand, slowly move your painful thumb into position until you feel a gentle pulling sensation.
Hold this position for five to 10 seconds; then relax. Repeat each stretching position three times and perform the entire routine two to three times each day.
- Using the opposite hand, lift your thumb up as if you are hitchhiking.
- Bring your thumb out to the side as if you are grabbing a cup.
- Bend your thumb down toward the base of your pinky finger.
2. Range of Motion
Range-of-motion exercises help prevent stiffness of the thumb joint that can develop with thumb tendinitis. For these exercises, move your thumb into each position as you are able without pain, as advised by Harvard Health Publishing.
Bring your thumb back to the side of your hand between each movement. Perform each position 10 times, two to three times each day.
- Lift your thumb up toward the ceiling.
- Touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of each finger.
- Move your thumb out to the side.
- Bend your thumb into your palm.
Read more: Finger Dexterity Exercises
3. Isometric Strengthening
Isometric exercises generate muscle force without changing the position of your thumb. These exercises help maintain thumb strength without further straining your inflamed tendons.
- Apply gentle pressure to the back of your thumb with the index and middle fingers of your uninjured hand.
- Slowly lift your thumb toward the ceiling while pressing down with your fingers to match the resistance of your thumb lifting. Your thumb should not move.
- Hold for six seconds; then relax.
- Repeat five times once daily.
Apply resistance to the front, outside and inside of your thumb using the same technique to strengthen muscles that move your thumb in each of these directions.
4. Resistance Exercises
Once you are able to perform isometric exercises without pain, you may be ready to progress to resistance exercises.
Resistance putty can be used to strengthen muscles that move your thumb in all directions. Perform each of these movements 10 times:
- Press your thumb down into the putty.
- Loop the putty over your thumb and lift up toward the ceiling.
- Loop the putty around your thumb and pull it out to the side.
- Place the putty between your thumb and the base of your index finger and press in toward the side of your hand.
Work up to three sets in a row, two times per day. As your strength improves, use stronger putty.
Seek Medical Attention
See a medical professional before attempting thumb exercises if your pain is the result of a direct injury. Seek immediate attention if your thumb appears deformed, will not move or feels numb.
Exercises may worsen some conditions, such as a broken bone. See your doctor if your thumb pain persists longer than a few days or if it interferes with your ability to do daily tasks.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.