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Adductor Pollicis Muscle: Thumb Pain

Image of human hands showing the adductor pollicis referred pain pattern.
The adductor pollicis muscle contributes to pain in the thumb pad and thumb.

The adductor pollicis muscle is one of the muscles that make up the web between the thumb and index finger. These muscles allow you to grip and hold small items between the thumb and fingers.

Dysfunction in the muscle contributes to pain at the base of the thumb and the area below the thumb, known as the thumb pad, but rarely the thumb itself. Writing, sewing, and playing musical instruments induce more pain.

The Location of the Adductor Pollicis Muscle


The adductor pollicis attaches to the base bones in the middle and index fingers. The muscle narrows and connects to the middle bone of the thumb.

The Adductor Pollicis Muscle Action Is Thumb Adduction


The adductor pollicis is one of four muscles that pulls the thumb toward the palm, which allows you to grip items like a pen.

Adductor Pollicis Muscle Pain And Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Pain is felt at the base of the thumb and the thumb pad that sits just below the thumb.
  • Pinching using the thumb and fingers is painful.
  • Gripping objects such as pens, pencils, and needles for hand sewing or knitting between the thumb and fingers causes pain and discomfort.

The adductor pollicis muscle pain affects the thumb pad, the base of the thumb, occasionally extending into the thumb. Pain may descend into the wrist.

You will feel the most pain near the joint at the base of the thumb. Moving the thumb toward the palm will cause pain, and at times that pain will be sharp. Pinching and gripping motions using the thumb and fingers will be uncomfortable and painful. You may also experience an aching pain, even when the hand is at rest.

The adductor pollicis muscle is affected and can have an effect on these conditions.


Other muscles that should be examined with the adductor pollicis:

Products I Use and Recommend For Hand Pain

Sombra Warming Gel  is recommended for relaxing muscles and relieving pain. It warms without the burning heat of other gels. An excellent choice for pain caused by trigger points, muscle/joint overuse and stiffness, and arthritis. Somba is excellent for those with chronic hand pain; it provides almost instant relief. (Not sold in stores)

Pain and stiffness in the thumb and thumb pad? The Mueller Thumb Stabilizer. will bring relief. This lightweight and adjustable brace provides support to the wrist and keeps the thumb stable. Recommended for people who regularly use a gripping or pinching-type motion.

If I could recommend one product that every house should have, it would be these Jar Grips. Hand and arm injuries often happen while straining to open jars and bottles. These are reasonably priced, last forever, and will save you from the pain of strained muscles.

If you have painful, stiff hands due to old injuries and arthritis, the REVIX Microwavable Heating Mittens will help relieve your discomfort. Clay beads and flaxseeds provide soothing heat and moisture, relieving pain and stiffness better than traditional dry heat heating pads. Two mitts are in the package.

The Causes Of Hand Adductor Pollicis Pain

    • Activities that require constant use of the thumb and fingers in a pincher motion.
    • Writing
    • Pulling weeds
    • Sewing, knitting, crocheting
    • Artistic painting

Occupations that contribute to adductor pollicis pain

    • Physicians
    • Physical therapists
    • Athletic trainers
    • Massage therapists
    • Musicians

Repetitive motions such as holding a pencil or using a pinching grip when pulling weeds are the primary cause of pain in the muscle.

Doctors, PTs, ATs, and MTs who often use squeezing and pincher grips to diagnose and treat various ailments experience pain around the thumb and wrist.

Musicians who play string instruments, violin, cello, and guitar, often experience pain in this muscle due to the constant movement of the thumb and fingers and the force supporting the weight of the neck of the instrument.

How To Avoid the Development of Trigger Points In The Adductor Pollicis

Moderation, exercises, and stretching will help keep your hands limber and pain-free. Take breaks from your activities and give your hands a rest. Stretch out your shoulders, arms, wrists, and elbows to relieve the stress of repetitive motions. Massage your hands and fingers. Find a small hard rubber ball like one to play the game of jacks and use it to roll the palms every day. You will be surprised how this helps. Go ahead and play a game of jacks; it will help keep hands and fingers limber and is excellent for maintaining hand and eye coordination.

Use finger bands and hand grips to exercise and strengthen your lower arms, wrists, hands, and fingers. Fitness and flexibility are essential to maintaining hand health!


Common Locations Of Trigger Points In The Adductor Pollicis Muscle


If you are experiencing pain in the area under the thumb and/or the lower part of the thumb, check for these trigger points.

Adductor Pollicis Self-Treatment Massage

Trigger points in the adductor pollicis are easily self-treated. Using the thumb and fingers of the opposite hand, start at the base of the thumb pad, and massage out toward the thumb. Do this on the palm side and the back of the hand. The pressure you apply should be enough to move the tissues below the skin but not so much as to be painful. Stop and apply pressure for 10-15 seconds to exceptionally tender spots, then continue the massage. When done with the massage, bend the wrist up and down and extend and stretch the fingers several times. Do this 2-3 times a day until the pain and soreness are gone.

Another suggestion is to find a small hard rubber ball, the size used to play jacks, and use it to roll the palm (do not use the ball on the back of the hand. Rolling the palm is an excellent exercise to reduce pain and maintain muscle flexibility in the hand.

TWD highly recommends The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. It is an excellent resource for finding and treating trigger points throughout the body.

The workbook will show you how to find and treat trigger points in the adductor pollicis muscle and other muscles in the arm and neck that likely contribute to your hand pain.

Trigger points respond best to several 1-2 minute treatments spread throughout the day. Continue treatments until pain and symptoms do not occur when pressure is applied to the area surrounding the Trps.

How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

The good news is that many notice a reduction in pain after 1-2 treatments. However, the pain will usually return. It is important to continue treating the area until you no longer experience pain when pressure is applied, which can take several days.

Interesting Facts

  • It is one of the muscles found in the web of the thumb.
  • It is one of the muscles that allow us to grip objects in our hands.

If you find trigger points in the adductor pollicis you will want to check these muscles for additional trigger points, known as satellite trigger points. (The muscles below will be added to the site at a later date)

  • Dorsal Interosseus
  • Abductor Pollicis Brevis
  • Flexor Pollicis Brevis

Muscles With Similar Thumb Pain Patterns



Clay, J. H., Allen, L., Pounds, D. (2015). Clay & Pounds' Basic Clinical Massage Therapy: Integrating Anatomy and Treatment (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Finando, D., Finando, S. , (2005). Trigger Point Therapy for Myofascial Pain: The Practice of Informed Touch (1st ed.) Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Muscolino, J., (2016) Kinesiology: The Skeletal System and Muscle Function (3rd ed.). Maryland Heights, Missouri: Mosby.

Image Credits: Dreamstime