Pain at the base of the thumb – where it joins with the wrist, usually caused by a very common condition, especially over the age of 50. It is more common in women, and it’s not carpal tunnel syndrome! 

The Answer is ARTHRITIS at the base of the thumb. 

What is Arthritis At The Base Of Thumb?

The word arthritis means joint (Arth-) inflammation (-itis). The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, or OA. Another name for it is a degenerative joint disease, or DJD. The ends of the bones that normally move smoothly against each other. Smooth cartilage in joints make this possible. The process of arthritis this cartilage causes joints wear out and no longer works as it was designed for.

In the worst case the most advanced, literally bone grinds on bone in arthritic joints!

The base of the thumb is where the thumb joins the wrist. The main joints involved in arthritis at the base of the thumb is trapeziometacarpal joint (also known as the carpometacarpal joints – joints thumb CMC).

This joint is formed by the so-called long bones in the thumb metacarpal and the wrist bone called the trapezium. Together these provide a useful part of the movement in your hand – gripping, pinching, rotating, opening jars, and write all these needs together to have a pain-free function. Arthritis can cause pain with all activities.

Different types of arthritis is more common in women than in men, and usually occurs before the age of 40. Fractures and other trauma to the joint of the thumb can put you at risk for developing arthritis in the future.

Arthritis At The Base Of Thumb

Arthritis At The Base Of Thumb

What Signs and Symptoms Of Arthritis At The Base Of Thumb?

Some patients with rheumatoid arthritis at the base of the thumb never have symptoms. Others experience crippling pain and severe at an early age.

Early symptoms of thumb arthritis is pain in the base of the thumb (the heel of your palm) with a pinch, opening jars, or after a long period of time to write. Changing lock or unlock the door knob may also be painful.

The weather changes (such as before the rain) can create pain in the thumb. Heavy repeated use can also cause a deep pain in the thumb. Arthritis gets worse, weaker and pinch strength strenuous activity is no longer necessary to make a painful thumb.

Patients with advanced arthritis may feel grinding / crunching sensation with even small movements of the thumb, and the thumb joints may start to look bigger, swelling, or “out of place”. The joint at the base of the thumb becomes very stiff at the moment.

Other joints further towards the end of the thumb can be looser and more challenged to offset the stiffness at the base of the thumb.

How Is The Diagnosis Made?

Arthritis at the base of the thumb is diagnosed by history (the story of how developing symptoms) and physical examination.

Base joint (CMC joint) is soft to the touch and you can often feel the crunching or grinding as the joint moves in a circular pattern. Swelling is usually present around the joint.

Other conditions in the same area may cause a similar appearance, such as tendonitis and arthritis in the other joints of the wrist and thumb.

X-rays are useful to confirm the specific joints involved with arthritis, although the joint appearance on x-ray may not correspond to how the patient feels.

There are a couple of x-ray view of the surgeon ordered by your hand that shows arthritis more clearly than instructed by your family doctor. Additional views expressed are very helpful in mild cases, where the diagnosis is not clear on a regular x-ray of the hand or wrist.

Swelling, pain, or abnormal movements of other joints nearby also can confirm the diagnosis of arthritis in the base of the thumb.

How Is Arthritis At The Base Of Thumb Treated?

Arthritis in the thumb base arthritis treated like elsewhere in the body:

  • limited movement or use
  • splint
  • anti-inflammatory medications (pills or creams)
  • heat treatment (warm / hot soaking water)
  • Cortisone (steroid) injections in the joint can provide some significant relief for several months. This can be done in conjunction with the above methods or after they have failed to provide pain relief.

After non-surgical treatments fail to provide adequate pain relief, surgery should be considered.

Need Consultation?  Please contact us by calling (65) 64762106 or Schedule an Appointment here on our website. Our professional orthopedic specialist, Dr. Kevin Yip, has more than 20 years experience. Be assured that you will be receiving professional treatments that suit your needs. Consultations are covered by most insurance.

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