Common with aging, thumb arthritis occurs at the base of your thumb, known also as the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint. Pain is the most common symptom, occurring when objects are grasped or pinched, or if the thumb is used to apply force. If you have persistent pain or swelling or stiffness at the base of your thumb, it’s time to see a specialist. The orthopedic physicians at OSI can help, returning your ability to do all the little things – like opening that pesky pickle jar – without pain.
What causes it?
Prior injury or trauma can cause thumb arthritis, but its occurrence is generally related to aging. It is also more common in women than in men. Accompanying joint damage can result in bone spurs, which produce noticeable lumps on your thumb.
How do you know you have it?
The symptoms of thumb arthritis revolve primarily around pain and include:
- Tenderness at the base of the thumb
- Aching following prolonged use
- Pain accompanying gripping or pinching, such as when turning a key or snapping your fingers
- Loss of strength when grasping
- Restricted motion
- An enlarged, bumpy appearance
While arthritis of the thumb can be painful, your OSI physician can recommend treatments to reduce symptoms and improve range of motion.
How we fix it
OSI orthopedic specialists are board-certified and can treat your thumb arthritis. A painful affliction indeed, thumb arthritis keeps you from doing things you normally didn’t bother to think about. Your physician will ask about your symptoms, previous injuries, or any activities that make your condition worse. Additionally, you may undergo the following to determine the best course of care:
- X-rays: X-rays may show joint deterioration, bone spurs or calcium deposits that have developed.
- Tinel’s Test: As many people presenting thumb arthritis also exhibit symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, your physician may suggest this test to check for nerve damage.
Thumb arthritis, in its early stages, will respond to nonsurgical interventions:
- Icing the joint at the base of the thumb several times a day (5-15 minutes)
- Anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin, ibuprofen) to reduce swelling
- A protective splint will provide support by limiting thumb movement and allowing the joint to rest
- Steroid injections into the joint to provide relief
If your pain is persistent and not relieved with nonsurgical options, your OSI doctor will discuss outpatient surgical approaches that include:
- Fusing the joint bones together
- Removing part of the joint and reconstructing it