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Abductor Pollicis Longus Pain: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

What is Abductor Pollicis Longus and What is its Function?

The Abductor Pollicis Longus muscle which along with two other muscles helps with motion of the thumb. Assisting the Abductor Pollicis Longus in facilitating thumb movements are the Extensor Pollicis Brevis muscle and the Extensor Pollicis Longus muscle.1 When the extensor indicis is added to these muscles, then they form a group of muscles called the deep extensors. When it comes to its attachment in the proximal part it is attached to the bones of the arm, namely the radius and the ulna. Abductor Pollicis Longus also attaches to the interosseous membrane. Distally, this muscle attaches to the base of the first metacarpal bone. This muscle is located immediately underneath the supinator muscle. In some cases these two muscles merge together. In the Abductor Pollicis Longus muscle present are the posterior interosseous nerve and a portion of the deep branch of the radial nerve. Blood to this muscle is supplied by the Posterior Interosseous Artery. As mentioned the main function of the Abductor Pollicis Longus is to assist in the movement of the thumb which is to flex and extend. This muscle also is responsible for assisting in flexion of the wrist.

Abductor Pollicis Longus Pain

Signs and Symptoms of Abductor Pollicis Longus Pain

Some of the Signs and Symptoms of Abductor Pollicis Longus Pain are:

  • The individual will feel pain at the base of the thumb extending into the thumb
  • Any use of the thumb will be painful
  • The individual will have difficulty and pain in performing normal tasks like gripping a glass of water or other objects like pens or needles.

What Can Cause Pain of the Abductor Pollicis Longus Muscle?

Below mentioned are some of the activities which may lead to Abductor Pollicis Longus pain:

  • Repetitive activities in which the thumb is in a pincer motion like writing for long hours without resting
  • Doing activities which involves putting downward pressure on the thumb such as when massaging also may cause Abductor Pollicis Longus pain.
  • People who do crocheting or sewing with the hands for extended period of time can also damage the Abductor Pollicis Longus muscle leading to pain.
  • Artists who do activities like painting a picture for prolonged periods of time can also develop it.
  • Musicians who play instruments like guitar or a violin in concerts for long periods of time can suffer from Abductor Pollicis Longus pain.

Risk Factors of Abductor Pollicis Longus Pain or Injury

Below mentioned are some medical conditions which can be caused due to a Abductor Pollicis Longus muscle injury:

What is the Treatment for Abductor Pollicis Longus Pain?

If an individual injures the Abductor Pollicis Longus muscle and has pain and difficulty moving or using the thumb then the following treatment options and exercises may do a world of good in treating the condition and providing pain relief. Conservative approach is the first line of treatment for Abductor Pollicis Longus Pain.

Cold Therapy for Abductor Pollicis Longus Pain:

Biofreeze: This is a form of treatment for pain relief in the thumb. The recommended treatment is known as Biofreeze. It is a pain relieving gel and is a form of cold therapy and is best for new onset injuries to the Abductor Pollicis Longus causing thumb pain and is also recommended as a maintenance treatment for injuries caused due to overuse injuries. The benefits of cold therapy over utilizing heat are that this therapy cools the area faster and prevents development of swelling. In a recent study it was found out that Biofreeze and similar treatments were found to decrease the pain twice more than using just ice and other pain relief methods and the pain relief was much longer lasting. This gel can be used by gently rubbing it in the area in front and back of the thumb for pain relief.

Ice Wrap: This is also a form of cold therapy for pain relief from a dysfunctional Abductor Pollicis Longus causing thumb pain. For this the most recommended is the Ice Wrist Wrap. This not only provides pain relief but also has adjustable compression which also helps with the swelling. Applying Biofreeze and then using this wrap may be extra beneficial.

Heat Therapy: Heat can also be used as a form of treatment for pain in the thumb caused due to Abductor Pollicis Longus muscle injury. Sombra Warm Therapy Gel is widely used as a mode for pain relief. This gel has been proved to relieve pain for long periods of time. This gel warms up the area and helps with inflammation and relieves stiffness and pain. This is normally used for pain caused due to arthritis but can also be used for a Abductor Pollicis Longus muscle pain. This gel needs to be applied in the painful area about three to four times a day. One thing that needs to be understood here is that heat and cold therapy do no go along together and hence if you are using cold therapy for pain relief then it is recommended not to use this gel.

Thumb and Wrist Support to Treat Abductor Pollicis Longus Pain: Another way of obtaining pain relief is by utilizing wrist and thumb supports to immobilize the area allowing it to heal. Braces or supports not only provide support to the wrist but also maintains the stability of the thumb. One should select the brace or support which is light in weight and is not uncomfortable to the hand. Supports and braces are of great help for people who do prolonged writing or spend a lot of time painting pictures.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 24, 2019

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