Milliken Hand Rehabilitation Center

Our Aging Thumbs

Take a moment to assess your posture.  Did you immediately correct the position of your neck, back, and shoulders?  Although keeping those parts of our body in good alignment is important, there’s another body part that is just as important.  They are something small, but undeniably useful.   They are the two short appendages on your hands; your thumbs.

Our thumbs do quite a bit of work; they are responsible for at least 40% of our hand function.

Take another moment to see how useful they are to you right now.  Imagine how you would function in your daily life without your thumbs.  They are so important that if you were to lose one of them in a terrible event, another finger would be sacrificed to create a “thumb” in a procedure called pollicization.

Our thumb joint, like any joint in our body can wear down prematurely.  It may be due to genetics, wear, and tear, or trauma.   We can’t change our DNA or undo past injuries, but we can minimize wear and tear.  And if you are like me, you like to have control over your body.

Thumb posture has the same philosophy as back posture.  Good back posture means maintaining the natural curves of our spine.  Good thumb posture means keeping the thumb bones in a “C” curvature during use.

Reducing forces, and thus injury, to our back means practicing the no BLT rule.  Not Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato, but Bending, Lifting, and Twisting.  That means the use of good back mechanics during lifting tasks.  Joint protection techniques for our thumbs have a similar philosophy of decreasing forces or stress to the thumb joint.  Joint protection techniques in its simplest form is just asking “how I can decrease wear and tear?”.  It is changing how you do things, but not stopping what you are doing.

Whether it is from an injury, recent surgery, chronic poor posture, or aging, recovery from a bad back requires adherence to a back exercise program.  Like our back, our thumbs have its own exercises to keep them in good shape.

It is inevitable that our thumbs will “mature” like the rest of our bodies and develop osteoarthritis.  However, early practice of thumb posture, joint protection techniques, and thumb stabilization exercises, will allow you to maintain your lifestyle as your thumbs mature.

The team at the Milliken Hand Rehabilitation Center is here to help your aging thumbs!