What causes a thumb dislocation?
Thumb dislocations are usually caused by bending the thumb backward (hyperextension) beyond its normal range.
A forceful trauma (e.g., sports injury or fall) to any of the figure joints can result in finger dislocation (movement of bone out of its original position). The thumb consists of only two joints, whereas the other four fingers consist of three joints, which allow it to bend forward, downward, and sideways. These joints are:
- Interphalangeal (IP) joint: It is located closest to the fingernails.
- Metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint: It is located at the base of the thumb.
Thumb dislocations are usually caused by bending the thumb backward (hyperextension) beyond its normal range. They are the most common type of hand injuries that happen in athletes playing football and basketball while catching or blocking the fast-moving ball.
Although a thumb dislocation is not a medical emergency, delaying its treatment might increase the swelling in the finger, making the treatment difficult.
How do you know if you have a dislocated thumb?
Observe for the following signs and symptoms to know if you have a thumb dislocation:
- A dislocated thumb is crooked and swollen.
- There may a bruise or cut on the dislocated thumb.
- Moving the dislocated thumb is extremely painful.
- The dislocated thumb may feel abnormally loose or unstable.
Your doctor will ask you about how the thumb injury occurred, so look at your thumb and confirm the diagnosis. He/she might order an X-ray of your thumb to observe if there is any associated fracture.
What is the reduction of a thumb dislocation?
If your thumb dislocation is not severe, the doctor can immediately fix it by externally manipulating and putting your bone back in its original position. This is known as a closed reduction. Before they do this, you might get a local anesthetic medication to numb your thumb and an analgesic to ease your pain.
During the procedure, the doctor will gently restore your thumb to its correct position by gently pushing or pulling it. The procedure will vary depending upon which of the two joints (interphalangeal [IP] and metacarpophalangeal [MCP]) are dislocated. The doctor will perform another X-ray to confirm the success of the reduction procedure.
What is done after the reduction of a thumb dislocation?
Once your thumb is back in its normal position, it will be wrapped in a splint or spica cast for three to six weeks.
Your doctor will look at the repeat X-ray of your thumb and will confirm the restoration of your thumb joint to its normal position.
Your doctor will teach you some exercises to be performed at home to restore the normal strength and range of motion in your thumb.
If you continue to have severe thumb pain after closed reduction or if your injured thumb is loose and unstable, you may require surgery to fix your dislocated thumb. The reduction is performed by opening your thumb, and the method is known as open reduction.
Will a dislocated thumb heal itself?
- Following the reduction of the dislocated thumb, the spica cast and thumb exercises will help your thumb heal fast.
- You can return to your sports and likewise activities only after your doctor confirms that your dislocated thumb is stable.
- If a dislocated thumb has been operated upon (open reduction), it requires three to six weeks to heal completely only after which you can return to your sport.