Skiers thumb is an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament of the middle thumb joint (aka MCP joint). There are different degrees of injury. Today we are talking about the steps you would expect once your treatment has begun.
“When can I …?“ Then follows - play sport or get back to work or yoga or the gym?
If the UCL tear is partial and things are improving (your thumb is more comfortable) then we can discuss how to get you back to sport or work safely. When the tear is larger, then it’s important to allow enough time for ligament healing before it’s stressed too much. The decision is made based on how safe the activity is for your thumb. If it’s a team sport the first step is to get the OK from your coach.
From our perspective we want to ensure your thumb is protected well. We hand therapists are a innovative lot so can make you a splint to wear for your particular sport or activity. Photo This is usually taped in place or worn under a glove. Then you get to try it out in a training session.
“I’ve been wearing a splint for 6 weeks - what next?”
Ligaments usually take about 6 weeks to heal enough to take more load and need less support. But this does vary. A bigger tear will need longer recovery time and can be quite irritable for a while. We usually start weaning you from the splint at 6 weeks and see how you thumb goes. There may be some activities you decide to wear your splint and then it’s taken off again. That’s OK and you get to make the decision with some guidance from us.
“My thumb’s still hurting - is that normal?”
In a word, yes, specially when there is a bigger injury. We can help you with techniques to settle that grumpy joint, using heat, massage, taping techniques, or making a neoprene support. We show you ways to unload your thumb too. Sometimes your thumb just needs some TLC.
“How do I get my strength back?”
We will have already talked to you about exercises as these start even when you are in your splint. Once your thumb is feeling better, you can get into strengthening your thumb and hand. Photos We use stress balls, exercise putty, elastic bands and other tools to get your thumb back happily playing it’s part when you are using your hand.
There are a couple of more severe injuries to the UCL for our next blog. So read on.