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How Serious is a Sprained Thumb? Getting Diagnosed in DFW

  • Category: Injuries
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Jay Woody, MD
How Serious is a Sprained Thumb? Getting Diagnosed in DFW

One moment, you're playing your favorite sport or going for a run, and the next, you're nursing a thumb injury. While some thumb sprains are minor and respond to treatment at home, others are more serious and require surgery to reach a full recovery.

But do you have a sprain, or is something else causing your thumb to hurt? Learn about sprained thumbs, including the severity of these injuries and their symptoms. Then, stop by your nearest Legacy ER & Urgent Care for help.

Sprained Thumb Grades – How Severe is the Injury?

The severity of a sprain is based on the degree of ligament damage. If you have a mild sprain without severe damage, you can heal by engaging in sprained thumb self-care. On the other hand, you can end up with chronic complications if you don't treat moderate or severe sprains. Go over the categories to see when sprained thumb treatments are recommended.

  • Grade 1 Thumb Sprain (Mild)

    • A mild sprained thumb is diagnosed when the ligament is overstretched but remains intact. Symptoms include bruising, tenderness, and swelling at the site of the injury and throughout the thumb. You also might experience discomfort, although some people don't notice any pain with a mild thumb sprain. Most people recover within two weeks with sprained thumb self-care.
  • Grade 2 Thumb Sprain (Moderate)

    • You'll be diagnosed with a moderate sprain if you overstretch and partially tear the ligament. Moderate and mild sprains share many of the same symptoms, such as bruising, swelling, tenderness, and pain. However, the symptoms are more significant with a moderate sprain and might include limited range of motion and loss of some function while the injury heals. People who receive medical treatment typically heal in four to six weeks, although it can take 12 weeks in some instances. Non-surgical methods are typically used for treatment, but surgery is needed in more severe cases.
  • Grade 3 Thumb Sprain (Severe)

    • Completely tearing or rupturing the ligament results in a Grade 3 sprain. Severe sprains can cause significant swelling, tenderness, bruising, and pain. Also, the thumb joint may feel unstable or loose, and you'll have trouble using your thumb to grasp things or complete tasks. If you rupture the ulnar collateral ligament, it can cause a bump to appear on your thumb as well. It typically takes a few months to recover fully, and you might need surgery to repair the ruptured ligament.

Sprained thumb

Diagnosing a Thumb Sprain

GIt'setting an official diagnosis is essential to determine if you have a sprain, break, or strain. First, you'll discuss the cause of the injury and the symptoms you're experiencing. While thumb sprains are often associated with skiing injuries, you can also injure your thumb by playing sports, falling, or engaging in other activities.

Next, you'll undergo a physical exam and additional testing. That might include an X-ray to rule out a bone fracture and an MRI or musculoskeletal ultrasound to see the extent of the ligament damage.

After receiving the results, your doctor will recommend a non-surgical or surgical treatment plan. Failing to treat thumb sprains can cause significant complications, such as chronic instability, weakness, and arthritis. These complications can cause long-term pain and mobility issues.

Sprained Thumb Self-Care vs. Professional Treatment

If you have a mild thumb sprain, you can try to treat it at home by following the PRICE protocol: protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Sometimes, though, you need additional help when dealing with minor injuries. Go to urgent care if your symptoms worsen or remain the same after 48 hours.

Also, visit the ER if you have signs or symptoms of a moderate to severe thumb sprain, such as:

  • Bump on the thumb
  • Loose, unstable, or weak thumb
  • Loss of function
  • Significant pain, bruising, and swelling

Legacy ER & Urgent Care

DFW-Area Sprained Thumb Treatment

Legacy ER & Urgent Care is here to meet your medical care needs by providing affordable pricing and quality care. As part of Intuitive Health's innovative hybrid model ER and urgent care system, patients are only billed for the level of care they receive from professional and highly trained medical staff. With six facilities located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, emergent and non-emergent care are accessible and transparent, focusing on superb customer service.

Legacy ER & Urgent Care has six convenient locations in the DFW area: