4 Tips for Thenar Muscle Pain Relief

What is the thenar muscle?

The thenar eminence is located on both hands and is commonly referred to as the ‘thumb pad’. The thenar eminence is comprised of 3 muscles: abductor pollicis brevis, flexor pollicis brevis and the opponens pollicis. 

MuscleOriginInsertionMovement
Abductor pollicis brevisTrapezium tubercle. Flexor retinaculum. Scaphoid tubercle.Lateral side of the base of the first phalanx of the thumb. Capsule of the metacarpophalangeal joint. Returns thumb back to palm.
Flexor pollicis brevisTrapezium tubercle. Distal flexor retinaculum. Radial side of the proximal phalanx of the thumb. Bends the thumb, allowing it to curl into the palm. 
Opponens pollicisTrapezium tubercle. Flexor retinaculum.Radial side of the metacarpal bone of the thumb. 
Opposition. Moves thumbs to touch the fingertips of the same hand.

The tension from these 3 muscles provide stability to the thumb joint, however too much active tension for an extended time in any muscle can cause thenar eminence muscle pain. 

Significance of the thumb

The image above is known at the ‘cortical homunculus’. This homunculus is a sensory map within the brain. The larger the body part on the map, the more sensitive the body part is. The body also has a cortical homunculus for motor processing. This map is for the movements of the body, and the thumb is also well represented on this map (not pictured). 

As seen on the image above, a large portion of the brain is dedicated to the sensations within the thumb. The thumb has a unique structure that allows it to be highly sensitive, flexible and have great strength, allowing for a multitude of purposes. The three muscles mentioned earlier allow the thumb to be opposable – a trait that is unique to humans. 

This opposability makes tasks such as typing, texting, drawing, playing instruments, or using tools easier. However, due to the unique structure of the thumb, it is predisposed to injury and fatigue fairly easily. We use our hands consistently, and repetitive motions or awkward positions for extended periods of time can cause stress and pain to this area. Repetitive motions such as typing or texting, sewing, video gaming, repeated use of hand tools, or writing may cause thenar eminence pain. This is commonly referred to as an overuse injury. Desk workers, gardeners, tradies using tools, musicians, artists or sports people are at higher risk of injuring their thenar eminence.

Home remedies for thenar muscle pain relief

Rest

Avoid doing tasks such as weeding, texting, sewing or anything else that triggers your thenar eminence pain for prolonged periods of time. Take breaks between activities to avoid these sustained postures that are contributing to your pain. You may attempt to switch hands for tasks such as texting. 

Heat therapy

Apply a heat pack to your thenar eminence. You may also wash your hands in warm water or let your hand sit in a warm water bath. The heat allows your muscles to relax and increases blood circulation in the area to allow for healing. Be wary in using too much heat as to avoid causing skin irritation or superficial burns to this area. It is generally recommended to apply heat for 10-15 minutes at a time. 

Stretches

  1. Against a flat surface, push your palms down and spread your thumb and index finger as far as you can. This stretch should form a diamond shape (or L and reverse L shape) between your two hands. You can also do this stretch at the bottom of a sink filled with warm water. Using warm water will help the muscles relax further. 
  2. With your palm facing upwards, grab hold of your thumb (with your other hand) and gently pull it to the floor. Hold this stretch 30 seconds, and then swap to stretch the other hand. 

See a soft tissue occupational therapist

If you are still experiencing pain, you should book in to see your soft tissue occupational therapist for thenar muscle pain relief. Massage techniques such as myofascial release and trigger point therapy can be provided to relieve thenar eminence muscle pain. Your soft tissue occupational therapist will discuss your occupations with you to come up with a plan to reduce the amount of repetitive postures your hands are in throughout the day, preventing further recurring pain. 

Book in to see a highly trained Soft Tissue Occupational Therapist at Urban Health HQ. You can make an appointment today or contact us by calling 0411 563 391 or email kristen@urbanhealthhq.com.au 

Published by Urban Health HQ

We are a health and fitness centre offering Occupational Therapy, Exercise Physiology, Personal Training and Group Fitness classes.

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