Thumb Arthritis (Basal Joint Osteoarthritis)

Basal joint arthritis is a type of osteoarthritis affecting the base of the thumb. As we age, this frequently used joint loses cartilage, which can lead to inflammation, pain, and decreased range of motion. Genetics or injuries may also contribute to the wear and tear of the basal joint. Thumb arthritis is a common condition, and several treatment options are available.

What You Need To Know About Thumb Arthritis

What is Thumb Arthritis?

Thumb arthritis is arthritis affecting the basal joint, located at the base of the thumb, where the metacarpal bone meets the trapezium bone. When the cartilage at the ends of these bones begins to wear away at the thumb, inflammation and pain may result.

Thumb arthritis can seriously impact daily life, as the thumb is necessary for nearly every manual task, from writing to opening a jar to buttoning a shirt.

Getting relief from thumb arthritis symptoms starts with quality care. Schedule an appointment with Resurgens Hand & Wrist experts to learn more.

What Causes Thumb Arthritis?

Thumb arthritis may be caused by some combination of aging, injury, genetic predisposition, repetitive motions, and wear and tear that occurs during normal use of the hand. As with other forms of osteoarthritis, basal thumb arthritis develops when the cartilage between the bones of a joint wears away.

Thumb Arthritis Symptoms

There are many signs of thumb arthritis. The first sign of thumb arthritis is usually pain at the base of the thumb when you try to pinch or grab an object during daily activities, like turning a key or hooking a bra. A grinding sensation may be felt when the thumb is moved. Other symptoms of thumb arthritis include swelling and pain, reduced range of motion, or a bony bump at the base of the thumb.

How is Thumb Arthritis Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose your basal joint arthritis, a Resurgens physician will review your medical history and perform a thorough physical exam. Diagnostic imaging like X-rays are often used to assist in the diagnosis. These images will assess joint misalignment (subluxation), joint space narrowing, osteophyte formation, and the condition of the cartilage.

Thumb Arthritis Treatment

There are many treatment options available for basal joint arthritis. These include cortisone injections, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), the use of a splint or brace, exercise, and modification of daily activities. If these options are not successful, thumb arthritis surgery may be recommended.

Non-Surgical Thumb Arthritis Treatment

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) at over-the-counter or prescription-strength can be used as appropriate. Topical anti-inflammatories and compounds that include them have also begun to be used with some success.

During activities involving extensive thumb movement, patients can wear a spica splint around the wrist and thumb to keep the joint stable. Corticosteroid injections may be used at infrequent intervals if needed.

Surgical Thumb Arthritis Treatment

If non-surgical options do not yield acceptable results, thumb arthritis surgery may be considered. The goal of surgery is to keep the metacarpal and trapezium bones from rubbing against one another. This may involve removing all or part of the trapezium, or fusing the bones together. The reconstruction or replacement of ligaments to stabilize the thumb may also be involved.

Postoperative care requires immobilization of the joint for 5 to 6 weeks, followed by physical therapy for up to 3 months. Most patients improve steadily following surgery and report satisfaction with their results.

Resurgens Hand & Wrist Center is Georgia's largest and most trusted thumb arthritis provider. Schedule an appointment to learn more about your basal joint osteoarthritis options.