My Health Stuff · Quick Updates

The Thumb Thing

For YEARS I have had a weird thumb issue. Every now and then my thumb seems to cramp up or get tendinitis of some sort, and becomes excruciating for quite a few days. My husband is always wondering if it’s my phone, but I don’t think it is. I didn’t have texting available when I started getting these issues when I was in junior high (didn’t have a phone). I was a prolific writer, of mostly therapeutic fiction and poetry, and it’s the thumb on my right hand only. It would happen mostly after lots of writing. Now, while I definitely say it’s aggravated by my phone, it seems to happen after painting. I have no idea why. I’m going to have to ask Joleen on Monday. I’m going to attempt to splint it so that I don’t injure it more accidentally… ugh. Typing is going to be interesting for my homework.

Any ideas?

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6 thoughts on “The Thumb Thing

  1. You must get tired of my comments. I just try to help people however I may, especially when that person has enough on their plate already. I guess that’s partly because of my own curiosity partly out of empathy. So please forgive me, and tell me if you want me to stop.

    My first thought was carpal tunnel syndrome, but that usually affects more than the thumb. So I got to thinking about you saying it might be tendonitis. I found the following on the Johns Hopkins Medicine Library website:

    DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis – The most common type of tenosynovitis disorder characterized by the tendon sheath swelling in the tendons of the thumb.

    Trigger finger/trigger thumb – A tenosynovitis condition in which the tendon sheath becomes inflamed and thickened, thus preventing the smooth extension or flexion of the finger/thumb. The finger/thumb may lock or “trigger” suddenly.

    I hope Joleen finds a solid answer for you.

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    1. I never get tired of comments! (Well, at least the ones that show people care in some way… I’m sure if I got spam I’d get annoyed hehe.) I do really appreciate all the info and perspectives you’ve been able to provide.

      I do get carpal tunnel symptoms occasionally, but they tend to be deep and straight thru the middle of my wrist. My left arm ended up getting severally knotted up, making it excruciating to move any part of my hand/wrist for weeks (the IV for my surgery went in that arm and I think the anesthesia relaxed the cramps, it was better when I woke up). I actually thought that was carpal tunnel, but the pain was primarily on the sides of my wrist, so Joleen decided to look for another cause and found the knots (they were deep).

      I hadn’t heard of tenosynovitis. That definitely sounds like it could be it. Sometimes when this happens my thumb will kind of lock in the bent position. I’ll have to see if Joleen might know if that could be it or if she had other ideas. I have tried NSAID regimens for it (without a doc, just been in them so many times I know how) without success, and it sounds like this tenosyvitis wouldn’t respond as well. At least Joleen should know which doc I’ll need to see.

      Thank you for researching it for me! I’ve never even tried and it’s just become “normal” for me. Thank you for taking the time to look and for reminding me that it’s not a good idea to just “get used to” pain 🙂

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      1. Have you ever tried applying a hot rag or compress to your thumb several times a day? That in itself may help relax the muscles/tendons causing the cramps and pain. I’m pretty good at researching things, so if you ever need me to check on something for you, don’t hesitate to ask. BTW, who is Joleen? A nurse? A friend? Just curious.

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        1. Thank you! I was pretty good at the whole research thing, but school took over! I’m working on balancing my schedule back out, which is not something I’m good at sticking to 😛

          Joleen is my physical therapist (degree holding) and Pilates instructor (full training, with 500 hours of experience before certification). I see her once a week, so I run a bunch of stuff past her. She gives me her opinion (even if it’s just an educated guess) and will help me with which doc to see. And she’ll fix what she can in the office when necessary.

          She agreed it was probably either tenosynovitis or tendonitis. Apparently, they’re treated the same way (essentially): ice, rest, bracing, antiinflammatory meds if necessary. Bracing seems to be helping, mostly, so hopefully I won’t need to ice (I find it uncomfortable even when it helps an injury). After the flare (or if it still won’t get better) I’m going to try heat to maybe help prevent it. Since I’ve been getting these flare-ups so often for so long, though, I think it’s a chronic issue at this point. But there doesn’t seem to be cause for concern, it just hurts.

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          1. Sorry for not answering sooner. I’ve been a bit out of it with a sinus infection. DO NOT apply heat. Whether it’s tendonitis or tenosynovitis, heat will only make the inflammation worse. Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendon; tenosynovitis is an inflammation of the sheath around the tendon. If this is a recurring issue you may have to do the one thing I bet you don’t want to do and that is surgery. But a good ortho doctor will probably put you in a splint (not a brace) for 4-6 weeks first. Here’s an ortho sight that has some info on the tenosynovitis (although they call it tendinosis). It also shows a simple graphic of a test to determine if it’s tenosynovitis. Just copy and paste the following if it doesn’t come thru as a link. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00007

            BTW, how is your ear doing? I noticed you said you had another ear infection. The description sounds yucky. My standard treatment for an earache (which I sometimes get from getting water in my ear while showering, as well as occasionally from sinusitis) is to soak a cotton ball in hydrogen peroxide, tilt my head and squeeze a few drops in my ear. Leave the head tilted for at least 30-60 seconds. The popping/fizzing seems weird at first but it doesn’t hurt. Tilt your head in the opposite direction to drain out the peroxide. You can repeat if you feel like you need to. Then I soak another cotton ball in alcohol and repeat the procedure to dry out any excess moisture.

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          2. I followed Joleen’s instructions and iced it until it stopped hurting, then applied great so the circulation would resume. It got a LOT better. I’m not wearing the brace anymore (which is pretty much just like all the splints I’ve ever seen for thumbs, so I don’t know what would be different). It’s recurring, since I was 12, but sporadically. It’s because I have hyperflexibile joints, so I get overuse injuries easily. Definitely not anywhere near bad enough for me to consider surgery.

            Putting hydrogen peroxide in my ear aggravates my infections, and they get more clogged and worse 😦 I tried it before the surgery. Right now, both hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol would be absolutely miserable to put in my ear! I have little cuts, and the bubbling from the hydrogen peroxide always hurts in my ears 😦 my problem is inflammation, so I have antiinflammatory ear drops that also contain an antibiotic. I have to get it killed off quickly, I don’t want another round of all this drama!

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