What is repetitive stress injury of the thumb?

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Repetitive stress injury can cause damage to the joints, resulting to impaired ability to perform daily tasks and even pain. The small-sized joints in the thumb are usually susceptible to repetitive stress injury. There are certain activities that require repetitive movement of the thumbs or using hand tools can lead to the development of these injuries.

Trigger thumb

Trigger thumb is basically a condition involving popping or catching of the tendon that bends the thumb as it glides through the sheath. Constant use of the tendon that bends the thumb can cause swelling of the tendon sheath, gradually limiting the gliding motion of the tendon. In severe cases, the thumb becomes locked in a bent position.

Repetitive stress injury
Arthritis is triggered by the breakdown of cartilage which serves as a padding in between the bones in a joint.

Activities that necessitate monotonous gripping such as extensive usage of hand tools can instigate trigger thumb. The condition can be trouble-free or cause pain on the palm side of the base of the thumb. Trigger thumb can get better on its own with rest. A splint is oftentimes used to prevent thumb joint movement for up to 6 weeks or longer until the symptoms improve. In some cases, the trigger thumb can be treated with steroid injections. Steroid injections can help relieve the symptoms. As for severe cases, it would require surgery to open the sheath to allow the tendon to smoothly glide.

Basal joint arthritis

Arthritis is triggered by the breakdown of cartilage which serves as a padding in between the bones in a joint. The joint at the base of the thumb is prone to arthritis. Even though mild arthritic changes can occur as an individual starts to age, repetitive stress on the thumb joints with activities that involve forceful pinching can lead to premature wear and tear of the joint.

As a repetitive stress injury, this form of arthritis can be treated conservatively with splinting, activity modification and anti-inflammatory medications. Severe cases of cartilage breakdown can cause the bones in the thumb to rub together, drastically affecting daily tasks. Surgery might be required to replace the damaged joint in order to reduce pain and improve the function. If you want to learn more how to provide relief, click here.

Injury to the ligament

The ligaments basically attach bone to bone and provide stability to the thumb joints. Take note that these structures are prone to injury. As time passes by, repetitive stress can cause the ligaments to stretch or tear, making the thumb less stable. This can drastically affect the pinching strength and make fine motor skills difficult to perform.

De Quervain disease

The tendons attack the muscles to the bones in the thumb. The movement of the thumb entails these tendons to glide through the slippery tunnels called as sheaths. This repetitive stress injury can lead to the inflammation in these sheaths. De Quervain disease is caused by overuse of the tendons that move the thumb away from the hand and up into the hitch-hiking position. Pain often occurs along the back of the thumb and down into the thumb side of the wrist and the affected area can also end up swollen.

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