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Skier's Thumb Treatment Self-Care at Home

If you suspect that you may have a skier's thumb, then home care should address the pain and swelling of your thumb. Take the following steps to reduce your pain and swelling.

  • Apply ice to the thumb for 35 minutes at a time, up to 4 times per day. Do not apply ice directly to your skin. Continue to use ice until the pain stops. (You should see your doctor as soon as possible after the injury and then follow a doctor's directions for ice therapy.)
  • Avoid movement of the thumb as much as possible. The loose application of an ACE wrap or commercially available wrist brace in the neutral position will help immobilize the thumb. This will help lessen your pain.
  • Take acetaminophen for pain relief or ibuprofen for anti-inflammatory action. Avoid both of these over-the-counter drugs if you have stomach problems and cannot tolerate them.
  • The most important aspect of home care is to ensure that the injury is fully evaluated by an emergency doctor, orthopedic surgeon, or your primary care physician in the first few days.

Medical Treatment

If the doctor determines that you have a skier's thumb, then referral to an orthopedic or hand surgeon will be the next step. The orthopedic surgeon will determine when your thumb needs to be reexamined. At that time, your options for surgical versus nonsurgical therapy will be discussed.

Typically, partial injuries to the ligament are immobilized for several weeks, while complete rupture of the ligament usually requires surgical repair.

Surgery

If you elect to have surgery, then operative exploration and ligament repair using something called a "suture anchor" will most likely be performed. After the operation, your hand may be placed in a lightweight cast to hold your thumb still while your ligament heals. You will have to remain in this cast for some time based on your orthopedic surgeon's preferences, although some surgeons now advocate early gentle motion.

If you have an associated fracture with your skier's thumb, then it may be treated with a modified cast. Surgical stabilization of the fracture might be needed if a piece of bone has broken off.

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