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When Your Opposable Thumb Opposes You

When Your Opposable Thumb Opposes You

RA often brings to light things we take for granted.  Like, for instance, our opposable thumbs.

Our opposable thumbs are an evolutionary adaption that we acquired from our primate relatives.

The key to the opposable thumb is that it moves freely and uninhibited.

But not necessarily so, if you have RA.

For me, personally, I have a lot of issues with my thumbs.

I have a lot of pain, they get stiff and are hard to bend, and generally, they just don’t work as well as they did pre-RA.

Sometimes, I get so frustrated that I literally and figuratively want to wash my hands of them.  I literally want to wash my thumbs off of my hands.

Yeah, I know, that’s kind of twisted.

Because thumbs are great.  Truly, they are.  But when you are not able to move them freely and uninhibited, when they cause constant pain, they no longer seem evolutionary necessary.  Rather, they seem like an evolutionary pain in the butt.

I also find that when I have rain- or weather-related symptoms, my thumbs always seem to be included in that.

It’s funny, when I didn’t have RA, I took for granted how much my thumbs, and specifically our opposable thumbs, do for me.

Holding objects, no small task, is really the main ability that our opposable thumbs offer us.

So this explains why people with RA, including me, often have difficulties opening jars, cutting our food with knives, turning door handles, doing buttons, and the list goes on and on.

Granted, it’s probably not the thumbs alone, but a combination of pain, stiffness, and damage to the other joints of the hand as well, that create problems.

Some call the thumb the “digital underdog”; others say that mankind wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for our opposable thumbs.  That’s serious stuff.  Does the future of mankind rest on always keeping our evolutionary adaption that is the opposable thumb?

Given that, if your RA has spared your thumbs, you should be happy about that, because it’s no small deficit that is created when you don’t have full use of your thumbs.

If I could, I would give RA two thumbs down, but that’s no happening today, tomorrow, or any time soon…

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Shirley Sanders
    4 years ago

    My thumbs have been foobar as well.The ulnar collateral ligament in both thumbs ruptured. I had one surgically repaired. Within a few days of the surgery I had shingles, and then chicken pox. Not looking forward to getting the other thumb fixed !

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    4 years ago

    Shirley, sorry to hear about your thumbs, and the shingles and chicken pox. But thank you for reminding me what the ligament is called.

  • Melissa Davenport
    5 years ago

    I hear ya sister. My left thumb joint actually moved and is in a different position than my right thumb. No one knew what was wrong then or why it hurt so much. We know now.

  • Dorie Thompon
    5 years ago

    Thanks so much for this post, one of the 1st joints to be effected were my thumbs when i was only 19! So needless to say….i have been wanting to do away with my thumbs for a long time now. LOL but people like us really have problems with knifes and so honesty, we could not cut them off even if we wanted to. stupid RA ha ha morbid i know right

  • Cheryl Buhr
    5 years ago

    Great post. It’s funny that I’m reading this today as I’ve never had a problem with my thumbs until today! Lol. Woke up to big, fat, sore thumbs. So I, unfortunately, understand.

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