Base of Thumb Arthritis / CMC Arthritis / Basal Joint Arthritis
What is Base of Thumb Arthritis?
The bones in your thumb and palm of your hand are connected by the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint at the base of your thumb.
Thumb arthritis occurs when the cartilage that covers these bones wears away.
Cartilage is the smooth, rubbery coating that acts as a cushion and allows your thumb to move smoothly and painlessly.
As the disease progresses, bone can grind on bone, causing joint damage and painful bone spurs called osteophytes that can form in the place of cartilage.
What Causes Base of Thumb Arthritis?
There is no one cause of thumb arthritis, but several factors increase your risk of developing it, including:
- Increasing age, especially over 65
- Gender – women are more likely to get arthritis
- Being overweight
- Family history of arthritis
- Previous thumb injuries
- Repetitive stress to the hands, whether occupational or recreational
- Genetic defects in the cartilage or hand
- Diseases that alter the normal function of cartilage, such as rheumatoid arthritis (though osteoarthritis is the most common form of thumb arthritis)
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Base of Thumb Arthritis?
Common symptoms of thumb arthritis include:
- Pain, swelling or tenderness at the CMC joint (the base of the thumb)
- Stiffness at the CMC joint, especially first thing in the morning or after periods of inactivity
- A crunching, clicking, or snapping sound, known as crepitus, when moving the thumb
- Weakness at the CMC joint
- Decreased range of motion and pain while doing routine activities such as opening jars, turning a key or doorknob, grasping an object, or snapping your fingers
- A bumpy or bony appearance at the base of your thumb
Most often the pain develops slowly over time, but it can appear suddenly.
Concerned about signs & symptoms of thumb arthritis? Book a physiotherapy assessment today.
How is Base of Thumb Arthritis Treated?
Treatments for thumb arthritis include:
- Medications such as over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, topical creams and gels, or doctor-prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroid injections
- Surgery – if surgery is necessary after other less invasive treatments have not helped, physiotherapy is an important part of rehabilitation
Physiotherapy for Base of Thumb Arthritis
Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that has been proven to reduce arthritis pain.
The goal of physiotherapy for thumb arthritis is to prevent the progression of the disease, reduce pain, regain strength, and increase joint mobility, function, and quality of life.
Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy for thumb arthritis can include:
- Stretching, strengthening, and range of motion exercises
- Activity modification and functional retraining (learning new ways to do daily tasks to make it easier on your CMC joint)
- Splinting, bracing, or compression gloves
- Patient education so you can feel in control of your condition
- Cross-disciplinary pain-relieving therapies such as:
Can Base of Thumb Arthritis Go Away on Its Own?
Unfortunately, no. There is no cure for thumb arthritis, but with proper treatment, the disease can be managed effectively and progression stopped or delayed.
If you have thumb arthritis, there are things you can do to make daily living easier, including:
- Minimizing activities that put stress on your thumbs, such as tennis or knitting
- Applying heat and cold therapy
- Using assistive devices such as jar openers, key turners, and large zipper pulls; using larger pens; using kitchen utensils and tools with larger handles
- Replacing doorknobs with levers that you push down on, not turn
- Wearing a brace, sleeve, or glove for support while sleeping or while doing repetitive motions during the day
Can You Prevent Base of Thumb Arthritis?
The best way to prevent or reduce the chance of developing thumb arthritis is to maintain a healthy weight and eat a non-inflammatory diet (avoid processed and refined foods and sugar).
Book a Physiotherapist Consult for Base of Thumb Arthritis Today
Concerned about symptoms of thumb arthritis? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.