Thumb arthritis

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When there is thumb joint pain it can result to arthritis which is also known as basal joint arthritis where there is pain and swelling of the affected area. If pain and swelling persists, there is change in the flexibility and strength of the thumb and difficulty performing regular activities at work or at home.

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Thumb arthritis is common with the normal aging process and happens when the cartilage wears off from the ends of the bones that form the joint of the thumb which is also known as the carpometacarpal joint.

Thumb arthritis causes severe pain, swelling and there is a decrease in the range of motion and strength thus there is difficulty in performing simple tasks such as opening jars and turning doorknobs.


  • There is a decrease in strength usually when pinching or gasping an object
  • Stiffness, swelling and tenderness can be felt at the base of the thumb
    Thumb arthritis
    Stiffness, swelling and tenderness can be felt at the base of the thumb
  • A decreased range of motion
  • The joint at the base of the thumb becomes enlarged


  • Rest the thumb and minimize using it in order prevent the condition from getting worse.
  • Use adaptive equipment such as key turners, jar openers and zipper pulls which are designed to be used by individuals with limited strength on the hands. It is also recommended to replace traditional handle for doors which can be grasped easily with the thumb with levers.
  • Apply alternately cold and warm compress on the affected area. Apply the cold compress on the affected area for at least 15 minutes several times throughout the day to help lessen the pain and swelling. This should be followed by heat in order to loosen the stiff joints and lessen pain.
  • The thumb is sometimes stiff in the morning, thus it is ideal to take a shower or soak the hand in warm water upon waking up in the morning.
  • Take the prescribed pain medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen in order to help lessen the pain and inflammation.
  • Using braces and splints can help support the thumb and rest the joints and lessen the pain. Immobilize the thumb using a spica splint that has a support for the thumb in order to prevent making the condition getting worse. Use braces that are soft yet rigid with plastic frames. This can be worn as a resting splint at night or it can be used while engaging in some activities
  • Perform exercises for the thumb in order to maintain the full range of motion such as bending and straightening the thumb, rotating the joints and applying resistance.
  • A physical therapist can help with hand exercises in order to help maintain the range of motion and eliminate the symptoms of arthritis.
  • Massage the muscles around the thumb area in order to prevent from becoming tight or place a golf ball or tennis ball on top of the table and roll the hand over it.

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