Arthritis (Thumb)

  • Introduction

  • Conservative Treatment

  • Surgical Treatment

The thumb is a vital digit as it is responsible for 40 percent of hand function. The thumb’s primary functions consist of pinching, grasping and gripping, and it is necessary for activities like writing, texting and buttoning pants. Motion and strength in the thumb are necessary for everyday living and over time the thumb can suffer from symptoms of arthritis, which is inflammation around joints. There are several forms of arthritis that affect the thumb with the most common being basal joint arthritis. Arthritis is caused by degeneration of the joint cartilage, and the term “basal” is simply referencing the base of the thumb.

Arthritis of the thumb is most often due to normal wear and tear that comes with aging, more specifically when the cartilage begins to deteriorate at the base of the thumb joint. The cartilage becomes thinner creating direct contact between the bony surfaces which causes friction. When this occurs the joints begin to feel pain, swell and grow progressively weak; making normal activities increasingly difficult.

To help ease the swelling and pain of arthritis, heat and ice can be applied. A 15-20-minute application of ice or heat also helps with flare-ups or swelling. A slight adjustment to daily activity and the addition of over the counter medications, specifically non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can help with symptoms associated with arthritis. A splint or brace provides support to the thumb which helps to provide relief from pain. Lastly, injections of cortisone can be administered; which will provide pain relief for a few months.

Our Physicians whom specialize in conditions of the hand and upper extremity

In the event that nonsurgical measures are no longer effective, surgical treatment may be considered. There are several procedures that can be utilized to relieve pain. The most common are joint fusion whereby the joints are fused together, eliminating pain, but unfortunately also limiting motion. Another procedure that is removal of part of the joint and reconstruct it with the application of a tendon graft or other material. These interventions have a high success rate for most patients.

Our Physicians whom specialize in conditions of the hand and upper extremity

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