Hitchhiker’s thumb vs. normal-Understanding the difference

There are countless times when we have been impressed by extra-ordinarily flexible bodies of amazing dancers. We appreciate them and envy them while seeing their performances live or on YouTube. Besides stretching exercises and yoga, the flexibility of a person’s body also depends largely on their joint-structure which cannot be altered. However, you would be surprised to know that like our bodies, the flexibility levels of our thumb(s) may also vary.

Hitchhiker’s thumb vs. normal

Some people have thumbs that are so stretchable that they can be bent backwards to a far greater extent than most of us. Such thumbs are known as ‘the Hitchhiker’s thumb’. Because this trait is present only in a handful of people, it is perceived as extraordinary and referred to as the opposite of ‘normal’. Otherwise, there is nothing abnormal or worrisome about having a thumb with additional flexibility.

A more formal name for Hitchhiker’s thumb is distal hyperextensibility. Medical experts explain that the hinge-joint which allows our thumb to bend actually controls this condition. This joint is called the distal interphalangeal joint and when it hyperextends, it allows the thumb to stretch backwards. Depending on the degree of hyperextension, Hitchhiker’s thumb may bend up to 90 degrees. People whose distal interphalangeal joint does not hyperextend beyond the standard range, their thumb remains relatively straight or ‘normal’.

Unlike enhanced body flexibility which may allow you to excel in activities like dance and gymnastics, there is no significant benefit of being born with additional thumb flexibility. However, there are no disadvantages to it as well.

What about thumbs with a flexibility range in-between?

There are certainly not only two rigid categories for the type of thumbs human beings are born with. Some may have varying levels of flexibility falling between the two extreme ranges. All have different levels of flexibility for no other reason that their muscles and joints are naturally designed to be in that way.

Fun Fact:

Some people may have both these types of thumbs, one in each hand!

If you are one of them, which one is your favorite in the Hitchhiker’s thumb vs. normal comparison?

Personality myths about Hitchhiker’s thumb vs. normal

There are several myths about the shape of a person’s hand, feet, fingers etc. indicating the type of personality they have. Just for amusement purposes, we will be sharing what these myths say about personality traits of people who possess a Hitchhiker’s thumb vs. a normal one.

It is said that people with extremely flexible thumbs also have a flexible personality. They easily adjust in new environments and respond positively to change. They are also believed to be creative people who find unique ways of dealing with constraints that occur in everyday life.

Those who possess a straight thumb are said to have rigid personalities who won’t compromise on pre-agreed terms. However, they are also categorized as people who would stand by their words and fulfil a commitment or promise.

Since the majority of the people have their thumbs falling in between the two extremes-not absolutely straight but not a 90-degree bend as well, therefore, there are many more myths depending on how much your thumb is inclined and the degree of its flexibility or stiffness.

Causes of Hitchhiker’s thumb

The reason for having a Hitchhiker’s thumb is mainly genetic.

There is a gene in every human’s body that determines the extent to which the thumb is able to bend, hence the name ‘Bendy Thumb Gene’.

This gene has different variants called alleles. There is an allele which may produce a straight thumb and simultaneously one which may result in a Hitchhiker’s thumb. The end result depends on which alleles the fetus receives from each parent, and how dormant or recessive they are. If the hitchhiker thumb allele is received from both parents, the baby will definitely be born with that trait. However, if any one of the parents transferred the normal thumb gene, it is highly unlikely (but not impossible) for the baby to be born with Hitchhiker’s thumb because then this allele would become recessive or comparatively weak.

How a person who received straight thumb alleles may end up having a Hitchhiker’s thumb in certain cases is beyond the scope of this article. However, if you are interested you may read relevant articles.

As mentioned above, having a Hitchhiker’s thumb vs. a normal one is nothing to be proud or unhappy about. The flexibility of your thumb does not enhance or reduce its ability to perform any functions. Neither does it cause any pain, suffering or medical problem for the owner. It is merely a physical trait, just like curly hair vs. straight, varying eye colors and height in different people, and therefore should only be treated as such.

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