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What are the Thenar?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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The thenar muscles are found in the palm of the hand as well as the base of the thumb. The fleshy part of the palm is referred to as the thenar eminence because these muscles lie directly beneath this area. They work primarily to allow the thumb to move in a variety of directions. The muscles included are the abductor pollicis brevis, flexor pollicis brevis, adductor pollicis, and the opponens pollicis.

The abductor pollicis brevis lies just beneath the skin and makes up the majority of the thenar eminence. The role of this muscle is to abduct the thumb. When a muscle is abducted, it is basically moved away from the center of the body. The muscle also helps to extend the thumb.

The next is the flexor pollicis brevis, which works to allow the thumb to flex and rotate. It begins in the wrist and ends in an attachment to the thumb. The median nerve provides the nerve supply for this muscle while the radial artery provides the blood supply.

The adductor pollicis works to adduct the thumb. Adduction is the opposite of adduction, so this muscle moves the thumb toward the sagittal plane of the body. The adductor pollicis consists of two different heads, called the oblique and transverse heads.

The opponens pollicis is a small muscle that helps to oppose the thumb. This action of opposition allows the tip of the thumb to touch the other fingers at their tips. The opponens pollicis inserts into the entire metacarpal bone located in the thumb.

There are a variety of medical conditions which can cause pain in the muscles of the hand, including the thenar muscles. Tendinitis is common in this area due to frequent use of small equipment, such as cell phones. Carpal tunnel syndrome and fibromyalgia are other conditions known to affect this muscle group.

Treatment for pain associated with the muscles of the hand depends upon the specific ailment present as well as the severity of the condition. Exercise and medications are often prescribed to treat the pain. A medical professional should be consulted with any type of unusual pain in this area of the body in order to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

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Discussion Comments
By OeKc05 — On Aug 12, 2011

Carpal tunnel syndrome caused me to change professions. I went from working at a computer all day to teaching so that my condition would not return after the surgery.

My tendons in my carpal tunnel that join my arm to my thumb and fingers had swelled, and my median nerve that provided feeling to my fingers and thumb was under lots of pressure. Because of this, my fingers felt numb and achy.

My doctor told me that if I continued to agitate the area, my thenar muscle group could start to waste away. He injected cortisone into the area to lessen the swelling, but I knew I would have to make a major lifestyle change to stop it for good.

By shell4life — On Aug 12, 2011

I never knew that the thumb had so many muscles attached to it! I thought that just one main muscle operated it until I read this.

Now that I think about it, the thumb can move in so many different directions. It is understandable that it would need more than one muscle to allow for its broad range of motion.

I have really long fingers, and my thenar eminence covers a larger area than it does in most people. Because of this, my thumb juts out really far and seems almost detached from my hand at times, especially when I move it all around.

By Perdido — On Aug 12, 2011

During a particularly busy week at my job, I developed tendinitis in my thenar muscles, as well as in the rest of my hand. Repetitive clicking of the mouse and typing stressed my hand to the point of swelling and soreness. I could not stop and give the area the rest it needed, so I had to wait until the weekend to get relief.

First, I applied ice wrapped in a towel to the area. I left it on there for about twenty minutes. Then, I wrapped my hand in a compressive bandage. This helped with the swelling and forced me to rest my hand.

Two more times throughout the day, I removed the bandage and applied ice again. I dried my hand and wrapped it back up, and I slept with the bandage in place. By Sunday night, the swelling and soreness had gone away.

By seag47 — On Aug 11, 2011

I experienced painful tendinitis in my hand, including my thenar muscles. I developed it after hours of gardening when my muscles weren’t used to this activity, because I hadn’t done it in months.

I took advantage of a cool day in summer to finally weed and trim around my plants. I used gardening shears to trim the toughest weeds, and the repetitive contractions of my hand muscles caused a lot of soreness the next day.

Also, I yanked up a lot of grass and smaller weeds by hand. Gripping and pulling hard over and over really got to my underused hand muscles.

All I could really do was take an anti-inflammatory medicine for the pain and rest my hands. I learned that I need to take it slow next time and just do a little bit until my muscles build up a tolerance.

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