Thumb is the most important digit on your hand. Without it, holding a cup of coffee, tools, or utensils becomes almost impossible. Its opposable function allows us to grasp and manipulate small objects like a needle and thread with precision.
Dull and achy pain at the base of the thumb with decreased range of motion are symptoms of thumb basal joint arthritis. This joint is also known as the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint. It is a saddle-shaped joint formed by the metacarpal and trapezium bones, which allows the thumb to move up, down, across the palm and gives it the ability to pinch. Basal thumb arthritis is aggravated by movements such as opening jars, turning door knobs or keys, and holding a pen.
Basal joint arthritis is a common type of degenerative arthritis and one of the most frequently seen orthopedic conditions in females 40 years of age and older. With time and age, the smooth cartilage covering the end of the basal joint wears out, resulting in direct contact between the bones, degenerative disease, and basal thumb arthritis symptoms.
Most individuals can tolerate mild discomfort from joint arthritis. However, if you have thumb pain due to basal thumb arthritis at rest or at night, it is time to receive an examination by a hand surgeon. He can potentially help you prevent mal-alignment of the basal joint and thumb collapsing into the palm (see picture courtesy of Dr. Noel Henley).
In order to slow down the progressive cartilage destruction associated with basal thumb arthritis, non-surgical treatment options such as rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, splinting, therapy, cortisone injection, and activity modifications can provide you with significant pain relief. On the other hand, surgical option for basal thumb arthritis is reserved for those with severe conditions who did not receive pain relief with conservative measures.
In any case, the thumb carpometacarpal joint or thumb basal joint examination is the first step in obtaining pain relief from basal thumb arthritis, regaining hand function, and getting back to daily activities. Life is too short to spend it in severe pain. Don't lose sleep over this type of arthritis, which is treatable. Let me or my hand surgery partners at MDWestONE help you. Call us today at (402) 390-4111 for a same-day appointment.
Dr. Izadi is a hand, wrist, and elbow orthopedic specialist at MD West ONE.