Thumbs Down for Thumb Pain

A photo of Dr. Nekita Sullivan, owner of Yoga Therapy Bar
Dr. Nekita Sullivan
February 22, 2024
Thumbs Down for Thumb Pain

Thumbs Down for Thumb Pain

Thumb pain is relatively common and can result from various causes. The prevalence of thumb pain may be associated with the frequent use of the hands and fingers in daily activities. Common activities like typing, texting, using a mouse, and gripping objects can put strain on the thumb and surrounding structures. Additionally, certain conditions such as arthritis, tendonitis, and overuse injuries are known to contribute to thumb pain. While occasional discomfort may be normal, persistent or severe thumb pain should be evaluated by a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment. If you're experiencing persistent or worsening thumb pain, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. Ignoring or neglecting ongoing pain can lead to further complications, so seeking professional advice is essential for proper care. However, here are some common causes of thumb pain:

Overuse or Strain: Excessive use of the thumb, especially in activities like texting, typing, or gaming, can lead to muscle strain or overuse injuries.

Arthritis: Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can affect the joints in the thumb, causing pain, stiffness, and inflammation.

Tendonitis: Inflammation of the tendons in the thumb can result from repetitive movements or overuse.

Trauma or Injury: Sprains, fractures, or other injuries to the thumb can cause pain and discomfort.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel can lead to pain and discomfort in the thumb, fingers, and hand.

DeQuervain's Tendoniits: This is a condition that involves inflammation of the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist, causing pain at the base of the thumb.

Infections or Abscesses: Infections around the thumb or in the nail bed can cause pain and swelling.

Nerve Compression: Pinched nerves, such as the radial nerve, may cause pain in the thumb.


Some groups of people who might commonly experience thumb pain include:

Office Workers/Typists: Individuals who spend long hours typing on a computer or using a mouse may develop thumb pain due to repetitive motions and prolonged periods of gripping.

Gamers: Video gamers who use controllers or keyboards extensively may experience thumb pain, especially if they engage in prolonged gaming sessions.

Texters/Smartphone Users: Constant texting or smartphone use, especially with repetitive thumb movements, can contribute to thumb pain.

Athletes: Sports that involve gripping, catching, or using the hands extensively, such as basketball, volleyball, or weightlifting, can lead to thumb injuries and pain.

Manual Laborers: People involved in manual labor or activities that require heavy use of the hands, such as construction workers or mechanics, maybe prone to thumb pain.

Musicians: String musicians or those who play instruments that require repetitive hand movements, such as guitarists or pianists, may experience thumb pain.

Individuals with Arthritis: Those with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can develop thumb pain and stiffness due to joint inflammation and degeneration.

Gardening Enthusiasts: People who spend a lot of time gardening, especially activities that involve gripping tools, may experience thumb pain.


Hand therapy can be a beneficial approach for addressing thumb pain, especially when it is related to conditions like injuries, overuse, arthritis, or other musculoskeletal issues. Hand therapy is typically provided by occupational therapists or physical therapists who specialize in treating conditions affecting the hand and upper extremities. Here are some ways hand therapy may be helpful for thumb pain:

Assessment and Diagnosis: Hand therapists can conduct a thorough evaluation to identify the specific cause of thumb pain. This may involve assessing range of motion, strength, and identifying any underlying issues.

Customized Exercise Programs: Hand therapists can design individualized exercise programs to improve thumb strength, flexibility, and coordination. These exercises may focus on both the thumb and the surrounding hand and wrist muscles.

Splinting: Hand therapists may recommend or custom-create splints to provide support to the thumb and limit certain movements during the healing process. Splints can help reduce pain and inflammation and promote proper alignment.

Pain Management Techniques: Hand therapists may use various techniques such as manual therapy, massage, or modalities like ultrasound to help manage pain and reduce inflammation.

Activity Modification and Ergonomics: Hand therapists can provide guidance on modifying activities or ergonomic adjustments to reduce strain on the thumb during daily tasks or specific activities that may contribute to pain.

Education: Patients receive education on proper hand and thumb care, including strategies to prevent further injuries, self-management techniques, and advice on adaptive devices or tools that can make daily activities easier.

Joint Protection Techniques: Hand therapists may teach joint protection techniques to help individuals with arthritis or inflammatory conditions manage their thumb pain more effectively.

Functional Training: Hand therapists often focus on functional activities related to daily tasks or specific sports and work requirements, helping individuals regain and enhance their hand and thumb function.

It's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional, preferably one specializing in hand therapy, to determine the most appropriate interventions based on the specific cause of your thumb pain. Hand therapy can be an integral part of a comprehensive treatment plan to alleviate symptoms, improve function, and promote long-term hand health. Dr. Nekita Sullivan is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and certified hand therapist. She has 20 plus years of experience. Yoga Therapy Bar is proud to offer hand therapy services in downtown Clemson, virtually, and off-site to Upstate residents of Clemson, Central, Liberty, Easley, Pendleton, Anderson, Seneca, and Greenville. Physical Therapy services are 1 hour in duration one-on-one. Pricing options include a flat fee for one treatment or a package fee for multiple treatments.  No referral is needed.  There are no insurance limitations.  Appointments are available the same week. Email Dr. Nekita Sullivan at for details. You can also check us out on the web at and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Linked In. #physicaltherapyClemson #handtherapyClemson #clemsonphysicaltherapy #clemsonyoga #yogaclemsonsc #Pilatesclemson#yogaphysicaltherapy#physicaltherapyyoga #physicaltherapyclemsonsc #bodyandmind#holistic #thumbpain #thumbarthritis #handpain