My Thumb Hurts – What’s Wrong?

thumb pain

Thumbs are such wonderful things we generally just take them for granted. When your thumb hurts is when you really notice just how much you use it. There are many conditions that can cause thumb pain.  This blog will highlight some of the most common problems and help to answer the question- My thumb hurts – what’s wrong?

While this information can be used to help narrow down what the problem might be, it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of a doctor or therapist before beginning any treatment. Treating your symptoms with the wrong diagnosis can not only delay proper treatment, it may also make the condition worse.

Four common conditions that can cause thumb pain are:

  1. CMC joint arthritis
  2. deQuervain’s tenosynovitis
  3. Gamekeeper’s or Skier’s thumb
  4. Trigger thumb

The following chart is an easy-to-use tool to lead you to what might be the cause of your thumb pain. Answer the “Where does it hurt?” question in the chart to see what might be the cause of your thumb pain.


Where Does It Hurt?

You Might
Have This

Try This Splint

At the base of the thumb where the thumb meets the wrist. Painful when pinching or gripping, especially holding small objects like pens or tool handles.

CMC joint arthritis: arthritis of the base of the joint of the thumb that provides the thumbs mobility.

3pp ThumSling

Along the side of the thumb when moving it into the hitchhiker position or when bending the hand towards the little finger. Pain may “shoot” along the thumb side of the forearm.

de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis: inflammation and tightening of the tendons that extend the thumb.

3pp ThumSpica or 3pp Ultra Spica

Pain in the middle joint of the thumb where it attaches to the hand. Difficulty grasping or holding objects. Pinching is painful and hard to do.

Gamekeeper’s or Skier’s Thumb: injury to the ligament that stabilizes the thumb for pinch and grip.

ThumSaver MP, 3pp Ultra Spica or 3pp ThumSpica

A “popping” pain when bending or straightening the end of the thumb. Thumb sticks in a bent position and has to be pulled straight.

Trigger Thumb: a narrowing of the tendon covering or a bump on the tendon that limits motion.

Oval-8 Finger Splint



2 Responses to My Thumb Hurts – What’s Wrong?

  1. katherine andrew says:

    Hi the pain and stiffness is in the first joint in my right thumb not the basal joint. What can I do? Thanks I appreciate your blog.

    • Gwolfe says:

      Hi Katherine,

      We are sorry to hear you are having a problem with your thumb. Please know that while we provide information on certain conditions and can describe what a splint might do to alleviate your concern, we cannot provide you with a diagnosis. You may want to review our full list of blog topics related to the thumb at to see if one describes the problem you are having. Please also consider discussing the information with your health care provider to make certain of a diagnosis and to recommend the best treatment for you.

      If you are not able to discuss your concern with a health care provider near you, you may want to utilize the Arthritis Today “Ask an Expert a Question” service at–a/ask-expert-question.php.

      To find a health care provider with expertise in conditions related to the hand, please revisit out Contact Us page and view the links on the bottom to find a physician or therapist near you who may be better able to help you find a way to successfully treat your thumb problem.

      I hope this information is helpful and that you are able to determine how best to relieve the discomfort you are experiencing.

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