Basal Joint Arthritis

Basal joint arthritis, also known as thumb arthritis or carpometacarpal (CMC) joint arthritis, is a condition that affects the joint at the base of the thumb. It causes pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility. Here’s some patient information regarding basal joint arthritis:

1. Symptoms: The common symptoms of basal joint arthritis include pain, swelling, and tenderness at the base of the thumb. The pain may worsen with thumb movement or gripping activities. There may also be a decreased range of motion, difficulty pinching or gripping objects, and the development of a bony bump or deformity at the base of the thumb.

2. Causes: Basal joint arthritis occurs when the cartilage in the joint that connects the thumb to the wrist wears away over time. The exact cause is often unknown, but it can be associated with aging, previous thumb injuries, repetitive thumb motions, and genetic factors.

3. Diagnosis: A healthcare professional can diagnose basal joint arthritis through a physical examination and may request imaging tests like X-rays to assess the extent of joint damage and rule out other conditions.

4. Treatment: Treatment options for basal joint arthritis can include:

  • Conservative measures: Initially, non-surgical approaches are usually recommended. These may include resting the thumb, using splints or braces to support and immobilize the joint, applying heat or cold therapy, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers to manage pain and inflammation.
  • Medications: In some cases, prescription medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections, may be prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Hand therapy: A hand therapist can provide exercises to improve thumb strength and mobility and teach techniques to protect the joint during daily activities.
  • Assistive devices: Using assistive devices like adaptive utensils or tools with larger handles can reduce stress on the thumb joint.
  • Surgical intervention: If conservative measures are ineffective or the joint damage is severe, surgery may be considered. Surgical options include joint reconstruction, joint fusion, or joint replacement, or joint denervation.

5. Recovery: Recovery from basal joint arthritis depends on the severity of the condition and the chosen treatment. While arthritis cannot be cured, appropriate management can help alleviate symptoms and improve function. Recovery after surgery may require a period of rehabilitation and physical therapy to regain thumb strength and mobility.

It’s important to consult with a board certified hand surgeon at OrthoSouth to receive an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan based on your specific condition and symptoms.

This article is provided courtesy of Daniel Fletcher, MD