When our son, Ryan was young, his favorite book was “Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb” by Al Perkins. We read it to him over and over, and over again. It is a fun, rhythmic read.
In fact, it became so embedded into my brain, that anytime the subject of ‘thumb’ is brought up, the line, “Hand, hand, fingers thumb, dum, ditty, dum ditty dum, dum dum,” rolls through my head…and then gets stuck there.
The Importance of Thumbs
Turns out that thumbs are pretty important. In general though, I never really gave much thought to my thumb. Until recently. One morning I noticed that my thumb seemed to be a bit sore. It was stiff and resisted bending. At first, I couldn’t remember hurting it, but as I thought about it, a seemingly insignificant incident came to mind. I was washing dishes and one of our heavier dinner plates tried to slip out of my hand. I attempted to catch it with my left hand, but it pulled my thumb down before hitting the sink and breaking. Dang, I really loved that plate. I resumed washing dishes and didn’t think any more about it. Until a few days later – when I woke up with a sore thumb.
When I realized that my thumb would need some help, I consulted my daughter, who is an expert on ‘all things muscle’. She immediately worked on it and encouraged me to continue with icing, stretching and massaging. I already had the ice packs, but quickly ordered a package of rubber-finger bands to help stretch all my fingers and, of course, my thumb. Following her advice, I am beginning to see improvement.
A friend of ours who is a fellow beekeeper also discovered the value of his thumb. One day while he was doing a woodworking project for one of his bee boxes, he almost cut the tip of his thumb off. He was rushed to the hospital, and thankfully the doctors were able to re-attach it. Healing is slowly progressing. Though he still has no feeling in the tip, he has been able to regain quite of bit of thumb function. While working in his bee yard one day, he mentioned that due to the numbness in the tip of his thumb, his grip on items is not as secure as he would like, but is hoping for continued improvement.
Some Fun Thumb Facts
While learning about thumbs, I have discovered a few interesting facts about this digit. One thing that makes them so unique and appreciated is that they have something called a ‘Sellar joint’, it’s in the shape of a saddle which allows our thumbs to move back and forth, side to side, and up and down. It’s what makes it opposable. Very handy.
Another fun fact is that the thumb has its own pulse due to the princeps pollicis artery located in the thumb. That means it is a good idea to avoid using your thumb when checking someone’s pulse.
As fabulous as thumbs are, they do have limits. According to an article by healthline.com, using your thumb to swipe and tap on a smartphone may overwork your thumb and tax those limits. The recommendation is to take frequent breaks while texting and ice when needed. Alternating which hand you use for texting can also help reduce thumb strain.
Livestrong.com offers a variety of helpful exercises from the University of Washington School of Medicine designed to improve both the range of motion and strength of your thumbs. They say that even though it may be painful initially, performing regular exercises to improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles can reduce pain and swelling.
So to sum it all up, a good ‘Rule of Thumb’ would be: try not to overdo, but ice if you do.
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