Frequently Asked Questions about the Thumb

What is Arthritis of the Thumb?

Arthritis is a problem that causes inflammation and cartilage loss within the joint. There are several types of arthritis, the most common type, osteoarthritis, or wear-and-tear arthritis, occurs commonly in the thumb.

Arthritis of the thumb usually occurs at the joint found at the base of the thumb, where the thumb meets the wrist. This joint, called the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint, is important when trying to grip or pinch. Thumb arthritis is more common in women than men, and increases in frequency over the age of 40 years.

What are symptoms of Thumb Arthritis?

Common symptoms of thumb arthritis are:

* Pain at the base of the thumb
* Swelling at the base of the thumb
* A grinding sensation when moving the thumb
* Difficulty gripping
* Pain when opening jars, turning keys, etc

What are the treatments for thumb arthritis?

The treatments for thumb arthritis include:

Thumb splints

A splint can rest the arthritic joint, and relieve the inflammation associated with thumb arthritis. The splint should be worn during activities that aggravate your symptoms.

The thumb splint is the most common brace to use for this purpose, but in those with more severe symptoms, a more significant brace may be needed. In these cases, a thumb spica brace is appropriate. The thumb spica brace is more supportive to the thumb, but more awkward to use in your daily activities.

Anti-inflammatory medications

A simple anti-inflammatory medication is often a good first step in the treatment process. You should talk to your doctor to discuss the safety of these medications, and the appropriate dose. Often, these medications can relieve symptoms of thumb arthritis.

What else can cause thumb pain?

There are other potential causes of thumb pain that need to be considered, especially if simple treatments for some arthritis do not help. Possible causes of thumb pain include:

* Carpal tunnel syndrome
* Trigger thumb
* Tendonitis