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How to treat a jammed thumb

A jammed thumb — or as some people call it, a mallet, baseball finger, or a skier’s thumb — happens when the tip of the thumb gets squashed by or against something. A lot of people get their thumbs jammed while doing sports, when they hit someone or something, typically a ball or the ground.

The proximal interphalangeal joint, which sits in the middle of the finger, may have become injured, but a stretched ligament, typically the collateral ligament, or a broken bone also often explain why a jammed thumb is so painful. After a thumb has become jammed, it typically gets red, enlarged, and it hurts while moving.

Jammed thumb: What should I do now?

When you want to treat your injury you should first see how badly it is injured by trying to move the thumb. If your jammed thumb is too painful to even think of moving it, it usually means that it is broken. If you're able to move your thumb, this typically means you only twisted it a little bit. However, in both cases you should take care of your injury.

How to heal a jammed finger or thumb

The treatment for a strained thumb is to take an ice cube, put it in a cotton cloth, and hold it against the injury. You can also soak a cloth in icy water and apply it to the finger or thumb. Keep cooling the jammed thumb for 10 to 15 minutes until the pain eases a little bit. Subsequently, you can wrap your thumb in a bandage or a splint to stop it from becoming worse. Some people also take pain killers to lessen the pain.

If none of these above-mentioned suggestions work, you should go to the doctor’s as soon as possible. He or she will take an X-ray to determine whether the bone is really broken or not. Doctors typically use bandages or splints to make sure that the ligament heals properly and stays in the right place. This is extremely important if the collateral ligaments are torn apart. In the worst case, the ulnar collateral ligament is entirely broken and you will require surgery. Luckily, this rarely happens.

How long will it take to heal a jammed thumb?

Typically, jammed thumb injuries heal on their own after a while, though usually not quite overnight. If a bone is broken or a joint is dislocated, however, you will need medical attention for proper treatment and your recovery is likely to take several months.

While your jammed thumb is healing, ask your doctor for further instructions. Finger-stretching exercises may help, but don't start doing them on your own without your doctor's green light. The doctor can also refer you to a physical therapist, and give you tips on speeding your recovery up.

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