How to Stop a Thumb Injury Before it Starts

As a professional massage therapist, the single biggest risk you face to your career is damage to your hands, wrists, and thumbs. Damage in the hands and wrists can limit the techniques you are able to do and make performing any massage therapy work painful. Pain in the joint at the base of the thumbs is one of the top reasons massage therapists’ careers are cut short.

The good news is there is a great deal that you can do to limit the damage from repetitive use and prolong your career.

The thumb is responsible for about half of the workload of the hands, making it subject to various forms of damage and arthritis from overuse and injury. The thumb consists of three bones linked by two joints, all riding in a “saddle” joint, which allows for a greater range of motion than the other fingers. There are four strong, gross motor muscles and four smaller, fine motor muscles in the thumb, which contribute to the mound called the Thenar Eminence, or the “heel” of the thumb.

While damage can occur to any of the joints of the thumb, the most common is damage to the carpometacarpal joint, which carries a heavier portion of the workload. Osteoarthritis is common in this joint, especially in postmenopausal women or after a soft tissue injury.

Symptoms of problems in the carpometacarpal joint typically involve:

  • Pain in the web space between the thumb and first finger.

  • Pain in the thenar area around the base of the thumb.