Broken Thumb: Symptoms, Treatment, Recovery

Jan 31, 2022

A thumb injury might seem minor or inconsequential, but a broken thumb can be severely painful and disrupt your daily life. With a broken thumb, you’ll find yourself unable to hold or pick up many objects. Lithia Springs Chiropractors are experts in pain relief, injury recovery, and yes, even broken thumbs. With comprehensive staff ranging from chiropractic to physical therapy, AICA Lithia Springs is poised to offer you fast, safe, and quality care for your broken thumb.

The thumb is composed of two major bones: the distal phalange extends from the knuckle to the tip of the thumb, and the proximal phalange from the knuckle down to the base of the thumb where your thumb connects to your hand. Your pain, treatment, and recovery will depend on where in your thumb the break has occurred. More serious breaks occur in the proximal phalange, where the thumb connects to the rest of your hand.

Symptoms of a Broken Thumb

Thumb breaks can occur in either part of your thumb: the base or the tip. Breaks can occur for many reasons, which will cover more in the next section of risk factors. Most people experience one or more of the following symptoms if they’ve broken a thumb:

  1. Difficulty Moving the Thumb
  2. Sudden and Severe Pain in the Thumb
  3. Swelling
  4. Tenderness to the Touch
  5. Thumb Appears Misshapen
  6. Thumb Feels Cold to the Touch
  7. Tingling and Numbness in the Thumb

IMPORTANT: If you or someone else cannot move their thumb and the thumb feels cold to the touch, seek medical help immediately as this may indicate a loss of blood flow to the thumb.

Thumb sprains and breaks might feel similar, but thumb sprains occur when a ligament or tendon in the thumb has been overstretched or tears. The outward symptoms of a sprain differ from a break in that sprains are often accompanied by bruising, lumps or bumps at the site of the sprain, or a lump or bump on the thumb joint.

Risk Factors

Broken thumbs are almost always caused by stress on the thumb. This could be from a car accident, a fall where you try to catch yourself, or from trying to catch an object.

Protective gear should always be worn in any sports activity to prevent breakage or another injury. You should be particularly careful if you frequently participate in any of the following sports or activities, as they are common reasons for thumb fractures:

  1. Football
  2. Baseball
  3. Basketball
  4. Volleyball
  5. Wrestling
  6. Hockey
  7. Skiing

Diagnosis of a Broken Thumb

Only a medical professional can accurately diagnose a broken thumb. Even if you think you know what has happened and how to treat it, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Broken thumbs are serious injuries that require immediate treatment, splints, and possibly surgery to correct and heal properly. Postponing treatment could have long-term negative consequences such as improper or prolonged healing.

In order to diagnose your broken thumb, your doctor will need to examine your thumb and run a few mobility tests to see how your thumb responds. These tests are likely to gauge your range of motion. Your doctor may also request or require X-rays or additional tests in order to adequately diagnose your break or determine what type of break you have.

Broken Thumb Treatment

Seeking treatment immediately is essential if you believe you’ve suffered a broken thumb. However, there are some emergency first aid tactics you can use to stabilize your thumb to prevent further injury or pain. Again, these are only actions to take while waiting for medical care. These will not heal your broken thumb.

  1. Apply ice or cold water to your thumb to reduce swelling
  2. Keep your thumb and hand stable using a splint (either homemade or store-bought)
  3. Keep your injured thumb above your heart to reduce swelling

Non-Surgical Options

Depending on the severity of the break will determine the treatment plan your doctor puts forth for you. If your break is not particularly severe or depending on where the break is located, you may be able to pursue non-surgical treatment options. This means your doctor can set your break to heal without any surgery. Because this process can be painful, your doctor will likely want to give you some pain medication or anesthesia in order to complete the process, which is called a closed reduction. After this, your thumb will be set in a case for about 6 weeks, during which time your thumb and hand will be immobilized while your bone heals.

Surgical Options

If your break is severe enough, your doctor might recommend surgical options to treat the break. Surgery is usually necessary if your break reaches the CMC joint or if there’s been lots of displacement of bones due to the fracture. The name for surgical correction of these issues is called open reduction. A hand surgeon will likely take on your case and complete the surgery.


Because broken thumbs can range in severity, it can take up to three months to heal from a fractured thumb. However, non-surgical treatment options, like closed reductions that result in wearing a cast, typically last around 6 weeks. In children, that time may be shorter as they heal faster. For surgical patients, you’re typically placed in a cast or splint post-surgery for 3 to 6 weeks. After this time period, any pins are taken out, and you’ll usually undergo some physical therapy to regain complete function in your hand.

There is an increased chance of developing arthritis in the injured thumb after surgery.

AICA Lithia Springs for Broken Thumb Treatment

Broken thumbs are serious injuries that require immediate medical attention. In order to avoid thumb fractures, take care to wear the proper protective gear when playing sports. The prognosis and treatment options for broken thumbs are usually non-surgical, and patients can benefit from physical therapy to restore proper function post-injury. Seeking medical attention immediately after an injury means that your healing from this injury should be a matter of weeks, and you should be able to regain the full functionality of your thumb.


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