How to tell if your thumb is broken or sprained

If you broke your thumb, it will be very swollen and painful. If you broke it badly, it may look deformed meaning that it looks twisted or bent strangely. A sprained thumb will still look straight and you should be able to take it through its full range of motion. With a broken thumb, you may not be able to keep it straight, and may not be able to bend it fully. At Easy Orthopedics in Colorado Springs, we frequently see and treat the many varieties of broken thumbs and sprained thumbs.

Can you still move your thumb if it’s broken?

If you broke your thumb, you will still be able to move it some, but you probably won’t be able to extend and bend it fully. You may find that it is very swollen and you can move it a little, but not like the other thumb. But, depending on the break, you may be able to move it fully even if you broke it, it just may hurt a lot.

Should I go to the ER for a sprained thumb?

If your thumb is truly sprained then you don’t need to go to the ER. The ER is mainly set up for true emergencies, and while they can see your sprained thumb, you will likely end up spending hours and hours for them simply to put on a splint. Even if you tore a ligament in your thumb, the ER doctors won’t be able to tell you that. If you are concerned that you broke your thumb, it makes sense to get x-rays and see a hand surgeon or orthopedic surgeon. If you aren’t able to do that, going to the urgent care will be just as good as going to the emergency room.

Can a sprained thumb heal by itself?

A sprained thumb can heal by itself if it is truly a sprain. A sprained thumb is where the ligaments of the thumb stretch, or tear, but there are no breaks. Most small sprains will heal fine. What you have to watch out for is a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb. If you have this tear you will be able to bend your thumb sideways away from your hand more than the other side. A UCL tear sometimes requires surgery and always requires treatment from an orthopedic doctor or hand surgeon. 

I hope we were able to answer some of your questions about how to tell if your thumb is broken or sprained. If you would like us to evaluate your thumb and are in the Colorado area, contact us below to make an appointment.

Colorado Springs Orthopedic Surgeon House Calls Hospital Icon

Take the first step 

Colorado Springs Orthopedic Surgeon House Calls Health Icon 2

(719) 203 7552

Greater Colorado Springs