The following thumb taping techniques are designed to support the thumb and reduce stress on the thumb during activity. They can be used for both the treatment and prevention of thumb injuries.
You should discuss the suitability of these thumb taping techniques with your physiotherapist prior to using them. Generally, they should only be applied provided they are comfortable and do not cause an increase in pain, discolouration, pins and needles, numbness, swelling, itchiness or excessive redness of the hand, wrist, fingers or thumb.
What sort of tape should be used to tape my thumb?
There are many different tapes and bandages available for use by physiotherapists and patients. However, when the purpose is to restrict undesired motion, adhesive, non-stretch (rigid) sports tape is generally the most appropriate. (For thumb strapping 25mm is usually the most appropriate size, although 38mm is often used with it cut or torn so that it is half of its original thickness). This should always be used in combination with hypoallergenic tape as an underlay, such as Fixomull.
Benefits of Thumb Taping
When used correctly, thumb taping techniques can:
- Aid healing of thumb injuries.
- Allow an earlier return to sport or activity following injury.
- Reduce the likelihood of injury aggravation.
- Prevent thumb injuries (such as a sprained thumb) during high risk activities or sports (such as football, basketball, rugby, skiing etc.).
Indications for Thumb Taping
It is generally beneficial to tape a thumb in the following instances:
- Following certain thumb injuries – Thumb taping may be beneficial following certain thumb injuries (such as a thumb sprain). This should be discussed with the treating physiotherapist as certain thumb injuries should not be taped – such as some fractures.
- To prevent injury or injury aggravation – Thumb taping may be beneficial during sports or activities that place the thumb at risk of injury or injury aggravation (such as ball or contact sports).
When should I avoid Thumb Taping?
Thumb taping should be avoided in the following instances:
- If you have certain injuries such as some fractures (this should be discussed with the treating physiotherapist)
- If you have a skin allergy to sports tape
- If the taping technique results in an increase in symptoms such as pain, ache, itchiness, discolouration, pins and needles, numbness, swelling or excessive redness of the wrist, hand, fingers or thumb.
- If you have sensory or circulatory problems
Weaning off thumb tape in general activity is usually recommended as strength, range of movement and function improves and symptoms reduce. In these instances though, taping during high-risk activity (such as some sports) is usually still recommended.
Thumb Taping Techniques
The following taping techniques may be used to provide support for the thumb and are particularly beneficial following a sprained thumb, or, to prevent a sprained thumb. Generally it is recommended that the area is shaved 12 hours prior to taping (to prevent painful removal of hairs and skin irritation). The skin should be cleaned and dried, removing any grease or sweat. Low irritant Fixomull tape should be applied as an under-wrap to reduce the likelihood of skin irritation with rigid sports tape over the top of this.Some or all of these taping techniques may be applied to tape the thumb and provide the support required for the individual.
Place a strip of tape around the forearm, just below the wrist (figure 1). This should be applied gently to prevent circulatory problems and is used as a fixation point for the other taping techniques.
Figure 1 – Anchor
Keeping the wrist and thumb in a neutral position (wrist should be bent backwards slightly – about 30 degrees), start the tape at the level of the anchor on the front of the wrist by following the black arrows (figure 2). Conclude this taping technique at the level of the anchor by firmly following the white arrows (figure 2). Do 1 – 3 side loops slightly forward or backward of each other depending on the amount of support required.
Figure 2 – Side Loop
Keeping the wrist and thumb in a neutral position (wrist should be bent backwards slightly – about 30 degrees), start the tape at the level of the anchor on the front of the wrist by following the black arrows (figure 3). Conclude this taping technique at the level of the anchor by firmly following the white arrows (figure 3). Do 1 – 3 front loops slightly forward or backward of each other depending on the amount of support required.
Figure 3 – Front Loop
For detailed information about how to apply a back loop for additional thumb support ‘Become a Member’.
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Thumb to Index Finger Buddy Taping
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Complete Thumb Taping
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Removing the tape
Care should be taken when removing the tape to avoid injury aggravation or skin damage. Blunt Nosed Tape Scissors should be used. The tape should be removed slowly, pulling the tape back on itself with pressure placed on the skin as close as possible to the line of attachment of the tape.
Generally tape should be removed with 48 hours of application or sooner if there is any increase in pain or symptoms (including skin irritation or itchiness).
Thumb Taping Summary
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Physiotherapy products for Thumb Strapping
- Fixomull (Low Irritant Underlay Tape)
- Rigid Sports Tape
- Blunt Nosed Tape Scissors
- Adhesive Tape Remover
To purchase physiotherapy products to assist with thumb strapping click on one of the above links or visit the PhysioAdvisor Shop.
Other Taping Techniques
Find a Physio
Find a physiotherapist in your local area who can help with Thumb Taping.
- Read about Thumb Sprains
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