Why Is My Thumb Swollen? -- Causes
and Top 7 Natural Remedies
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Last updated November 16, 2017, originally published September 7, 2015
By Louise Carr,  Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Doctors and
Registered Nurses and other members of our Editorial Board.]

Did you know that your thumb is controlled by a grand
total of nine muscles, and all three major nerves in the
hand? Did you also know that the way the thumb moves is
so complex that medics have six terms just to describe how
the joint at the base of the thumb functions? As such a
mobile and highly used joint, it is little wonder that your
thumb often becomes swollen or sore. We use our thumbs
for a wide range of activities – texting, driving, sports,
typing…. and this can explain why the joint often becomes
overused and damaged. If your thumb is swollen, take a
look at the list of possible causes – you may be surprised.

What are the Symptoms of a Swollen Thumb?

The obvious symptom of a swollen thumb is your thumb
increases in size. It may get uniformly bigger or you could
see a bulge or a lump on one part of the thumb. The thumb
is difficult to move and to bend – it is stiff and may be
painful to the touch.

You may see bruising or discoloration on the thumb and
the surrounding fingers, particularly if the swollen thumb is
caused by trauma to the hand. You may experience
numbness or feel a tingling in the thumb and hand. In
addition, some conditions that cause a swollen thumb may
also cause a fever, chills, and fatigue.

What are the Causes of a Swollen Thumb?

Swollen joints occur when there is a buildup of fluid in the
tissues surrounding the joints. In the case of the thumb,
this buildup of fluid could be due to a number of reasons.
Forms of arthritis commonly cause swelling in the thumb
and fingers, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Joint
injuries and strain from playing sports or everyday
activities can cause ligament damage and even fractures,
which result in swelling. Insect bites or animal bites cause
swelling in the thumb. Paronychia and other infections of
the skin around the nails can also cause swelling in the
thumb where there nail is located.

We looked at recent scientific studies to find out why your
thumb may be swollen, and how you can restore movement
and lower pain using natural remedies and lifestyle

7 Remedies for a Swollen Thumb

1. Hangnail Infections Can Cause a Swollen Thumb

Paronychia is a skin infection that affects the area around
the nails and can result in a red, painful, swollen area
around the thumb or finger nail. This infection is often
caused by picking or biting a hangnail, or from aggressive
trimming or pushing back of the cuticle. For this reason you
can avoid a swollen thumb due to paronychia by taking
good care of the area around your thumbnail, regularly
trimming the nails and keeping them smooth, not biting or
picking the nails, and only using nail salons where the tools
are clean and the manicurists gentle. Paronychia can be
dangerous – if the swollen thumb and infection is not
properly treated it can lead to a permanently disfigured
nail, abscess, or the spread of the infection to the bones or
the bloodstream.

To help hangnails heal, after you have sterilized the area,
always wear a bandaid. The bandaid will be a barrier to
help prevent biting the area and re-introducing infection.

Aloe vera also helps to heal hangnails. Again, after
disinfecting the area, apply pure aloe. This helps to seal the
wound and prevent re-infection. ]

Do You Have a Swollen Skiers Thumb?

Skier’s thumb is the common term for an injury to the soft
tissue connecting the thumb bones. The condition was
originally called “gamekeeper’s thumb” as it was first
documented in gamekeepers in the UK who damaged their
thumbs by twisting the necks of hares. However, as the
injury is now much more likely to be endured by skiers, the
term changed.

In a 2015 study from the Norwegian School of Sport
Sciences, Oslo, Norway, the second-most frequent injury in
World Cup telemark skiers was the hand-finger-thumb (in
20 percent of the skiers). A swollen thumb is caused by
falling on an outstretched hand that is also holding a ski
pole, resulting in ligament tears.

This injury may also be sustained by motorists in auto
crashes where the thumb is resting over the steering
wheel. Skier’s thumb should be iced, and movement should
be minimized. See a doctor if you injure your thumb while
playing sport, or in an auto accident.

Treat a Swollen Thumb Caused by Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the median nerve at
the wrist gets compressed, resulting in itching, numbness,
burning or tingling in the palm of the hand, the fingers, and
the thumb.

You may experience swelling in the thumb or fingers when
you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, which is usually
caused by repetitive work tasks or sports. A 1998 study
from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
found hatha
yoga was more effective than a wrist splint for
treating carpal tunnel syndrome, although those people in
the control group were simply offered a wrist splint with
the choice of using it or not.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Cause a Swollen Thumb

Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that
can cause stiff and swollen joints – this condition may
affect the hands, resulting in swollen fingers and thumbs.
In fact, arthritis is a common reason for thumb swelling
and the swollen thumb can persist over a long period of

A 2002 study from the University of Maryland, Baltimore
found that alpha‐linolenic acid (ALA) as beneficial for
reducing pain, joint tenderness, swelling and stiffness.
Eating walnuts can raise your levels of alpha-linoenic acid.

Remedies for a Swollen Thumb Caused by Gout

Gout is caused by the build-up of uric acid in the joints,
which causes intense pain and joint swelling. It is most
common in the big toe but the thumb joint can also be

This is a particularly painful way to experience a swollen
thumb. Recent research in 2007 from the University of
British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada suggests that coffee
consumption can reduce the levels of uric acid in the blood,
and thus lower the risk of swelling due to gout.

However, the same link was not seen with tea, suggesting
that something other than caffeine is helping lower uric
acid levels.

Bursitis Causes a Swollen Thumb

Bursitis occurs when the bursae – fluid-filled sacs that
protect the bones and joints – become inflamed. This
inflammation can occur anywhere and is sometimes found
in the thumb joint. Bursitis is painful and the swelling can
be considerable.  

According to the National Health Service, UK, bursitis can
be treated with the PRICEM regime – protection, rest, ice,
compression, elevation, and medication.

You can also try to prevent bursitis and a swollen thumb by
protecting the thumb joint from repetitive movements and
injury, and also strengthening the muscles around the
thumb joint.

Remedy a Swollen Thumb as a Result of Tendinitis

Tendinitis in the thumb, where the tendons become
irritated, is another cause of swelling in the thumb. A 2011
study from The University of Nottingham, UK, and Ludwig
Maximilians University in Munich demonstrates that
curcumin in the spice turmeric can help to reduce the
mechanisms that cause this inflammation, which results in
the thumb becoming swollen.

The researchers suggest that further research into the
component of this popular Indian spice could help sufferers
relieve the pain and the swelling associated with tendinitis,
including in the thumb.

Texting Thumb: A New Cause of Swollen Thumb

Did you realize that your 100-a-day texting habit could
result in tendinitis and swelling in your thumbs? A 2014
study from the Pamukkale University Medical School and
other locations in Turkey shows that tendons in the hands
thicken and become irritated more easily than normal in
people who frequently use their thumbs to text.

The researchers looked at 149 people who regularly texted
using their thumbs and found that the greater the number
of texts, the thicker the tendon – and this could result in
swelling and pain. If texting is making your thumbs hurt –
stop. Call instead. Take a break and vary the hand you use
to text. Take regular breaks and carry out some thumb
stretching exercises to avoid a swollen thumb.

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