With any dislocated join, including the thumb, Mayo Clinic recommends seeking immediate medical care. First aid providers should splint the joint without attempting to bend it or force it back into position. Application of an ice pack helps to reduce swelling and pain while transporting the patient to the doctor.
Doctors generally order X-rays to confirm the joint is dislocated and that there are no fractures, according to KidsHealth. If the bone does not move back into the joint on its own, the doctor performs a reduction to return it to its normal location. The doctor fits a splint or cast to the thumb to prevent the bone from dislocating before it heals. If the injury is severe, doctors sometimes recommend surgical correction.
Once the patient returns home, the University of Minnesota Medical Center recommends keeping the injury elevated above the heart to reduce swelling. Following the doctor's directions for hand exercises helps to speed healing and preserve function. As the thumb heals, the patient should avoid sports and physical education classes until he receives the doctor's release for these activities. The doctor provides instructions for use of over-the-counter or prescription medication to control pain. While most patients experience full recovery from a dislocated thumb, the process takes up to 18 months for the swelling and discomfort to subside.