Arthritis of the thumb is an extremely common condition of the hand. Like most arthritic conditions, Basal Joint Arthritis is a degenerative condition that comes with aging. Continue reading to learn more about:
- What Basal Joint Arthritis is
- Symptoms of the disease and its diagnosis
- Treatment options available
What is Basal Joint Arthritis?
Basal Joint Arthritis refers to the degeneration of the joints found at the base of the thumb. The Basal Joint is made up of the collection of bones where the wrist connects to the thumb. This is a common spot for arthritis based on thumb/ wrist wear-and-tear over time. In our practice, we find this condition is more commonly diagnosed in women between 50-70 years of age, which is consistent with the national average. Though injuries to the thumb can contribute to the disease, it is more commonly caused by repeated use. This aging leads to the breakdown of cartilage around the affected bones.
What are the Symptoms and how is it diagnosed?
Thumb arthritis can be extremely painful to those who sufferer from it. Symptoms of the condition include pain and swelling at the base of the thumb, stiffness, reduced strength/grip and loss of strange of motion in the thumb. These symptoms make it difficult to complete a number of everyday tasks, from typing on a computer to opening a pickle jar.
Based on your symptoms, your hand specialist will perform an assessment on your thumb and wrist to determine the diagnosis. The physician’s assessment can include indicating pain with various thumb movements and holds or the presence of grinding in the joint. X-rays will also be taken to determine if the bones show signs of deterioration.
What are my treatment options?
Basal Joint Arthritis can either be treated conservatively or with surgery depending on the severity and progression of the condition.
Early interventions of thumb arthritis include: icing the area daily, taking anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections and using a splint. Splinting the thumb and wrist will limit the movement of the joint, allowing time for the inflammation to die down and the joint to rest. The splints are generally worn at night when thumb activity is not required. Occupational therapy may also be recommended as a pre-surgical component to recovery.
If more conservative treatment options are unsuccessful or if the disease has progressed too far at diagnosis, surgery may be necessary to minimize the symptoms of arthritis. Depending on how the condition has progressed, there are a few options for surgical procedures that your surgeon may perform, including: fusing the joint, or removing a portion of the joint. After surgery your hand surgeon will likely recommend occupational therapy for recovery. In therapy, your OT will work on range of motion, strength and prevention techniques.