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Bowler’s thumb is a condition caused by repeated pressure or friction over the ulnar nerve of the thumb, often caused by bowling, rowing or garden. Here’s a look at the symptoms and treatment.

Bowler’s thumb is a condition resulting from repeated pressure or friction over the ulnar nerve of the thumb. This leads to compression of the nerve which can cause tingling or numbness to the thumb.

Causes of Bowler’s Thumb

As the name suggests, bowler’s thumb is often the result of frequent ten pin bowling with a tight thumb hole that applies too much pressure to the nerve.

It can also be the result of other activities such as rowing, gardening with secateurs and martial arts. Repeated pressure to the nerve can cause damage to the nerve. This leads to symptoms even when there is no pressure applied to the nerve at the time.

Signs and Symptoms of Bowler’s Thumb

• Pain on the inner side of the thumb.

• Tingling sensation in the tip of the thumb.

• Numbness in the thumb.

• Pain when using or pinching the thumb.


Your hand therapist will discuss your treatment options and provide a program which will address your concerns. This may include a splint to protect the nerve, modification or avoidance of the suspected aggravating activity and nerve gliding exercises.

In some cases where the condition is severe or does not respond to conservative management, surgical options may be considered such a nerve transfer or neurolysis (removing the fibrotic tissue surrounding the nerve).

Your therapist can discuss with you and your GP to arrange a referral to a surgeon if required.

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, or any other issues with the hand, arm or fingers, please feel free to get in touch with the Hand Therapy Group here, we would be more than happy to help.