What is an Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Sprain of the thumb?
A UCL Sprain is the most common ligament injury in the thumb.
This ligament is a strong, thick tissue that gives the thumb stability and prevents the middle thumb joint from moving excessively side-to-side.
The ligament can tear, either partially or fully, if the thumb is pulled forcefully out away from the hand. This commonly occurs with skiers if the ski pole yanks the thumb into extension or with falls if the force of the body comes down onto the fully extended thumb.
Pain, tenderness and swelling following an injury in the middle thumb joint where the thumb meets the palm.
In a more severe sprain, he thumb will pull too easily to the side. When reaching for larger objects, the thumb will feel as if it collapses and there will not be a secure grip as the thumb swings open without any stability.
Common Treatments may include:
Use of a thumb brace, splint or orthotic at all times (like a cast) until the ligament has healed (typically, about 5-6 weeks following injury)
In severe sprains, surgery may be required to repair the torn ligament.
Following the immobilization period, treatment may include:
Regaining mobility of the joints that had to be immobilized.
Gradually regaining strength in the hand and arm.
Use of Heat and cold
Use cold packs for acute pain or swelling.
Use heat packs to control more chronic pain or relax the muscles.
Wearing compression or Isotoner gloves at night may help control swelling and provide a comforting, neutral warmth.
Modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation to reduce inflammation and pain.
Scar management techniques if surgery was required.
Techniques to reduce swelling such as using a compression glove.