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Broken thumb

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A broken thumb typically involves the first metacarpal bone of the hand. Most cases arise at the base of the 1st metacarpal, right above the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint.

If an individual is suspected with a broken thumb, it is vital to seek prompt medical care.

What are the signs?

The indications of a broken thumb typically include the following:

  • Intense thumb pain
  • Swelling around the base of the thumb
  • Reduced or inability to move the thumb
  • Deformed appearance of the thumb
  • Significant tenderness
    Vertebrobasilar insufficiency
    If an individual is suspected with a broken thumb, place an ice pack to lessen the swelling.
  • Numb or cold feeling

Most of these signs might also be present in a serious case of sprain or ligament tear.

Management of a broken thumb

First aid

If an individual is suspected with a broken thumb, place an ice pack to lessen the swelling. Immobilization with a splint is also necessary.

Make sure that the injured hand is raised above the level of the heart. This helps lessen the swelling and bleeding.


In case the damaged bone fragments did not move significantly out of position or if the fracture is in the center of the bone shaft, the doctor can set the bones without surgery. The procedure can be painful; thus, sedation or anesthesia is used.

A spica cast is used for up to 6 weeks which holds the thumb in place as the bone recuperates.


If there is significant displacement of the bone or the fracture involves the CMC joint, surgery is required to reset the bone.


If a spica cast is used, it is worn for up to 6 weeks. Oftentimes, children do not need to use it that long.

In case surgery was performed, a cast or splint is used for 2-6 weeks. At this point, any pins inserted are taken out. Physical therapy is necessary to restore movement of the thumb.

Depending on the seriousness of the injury, it might take up to 3 months or even longer to recover full function of the hand.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on a broken thumb is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize the signs and how it is managed by taking a standard first aid course with Red Deer First Aid.

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