Thumb arthritis is a condition that occurs when the joint at the base of the thumb becomes damaged or wears down. This can cause pain, swelling, and difficulty with activities that require the use of the thumb.
There are several treatments for thumb arthritis, including:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce pain and inflammation.
2. Splints or braces:
These can help stabilize the thumb and reduce strain on the joint.
3. Occupational/certified hand therapy:
Exercises and stretches can help improve the range of motion and strengthen the muscles around the joint.
Corticosteroid injections can help reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the damaged joint. This can include joint fusion or joint replacement surgery.
Though there are several different types of thumb arthritis…don’t confuse thumb PAIN with “I have thumb arthritis and I can’t do anything but wait until it’s so bad, I need surgery.”
What should you know about treating thumb arthritis?
The key to fixing thumb pain is getting to the root cause of the problem.
Did you know that thumb pain can be caused by neck issues?
YES…I’ve fixed many of those types of problems but it requires a thorough evaluation and treatment.
Let’s get back to thumb arthritis.
If you have gotten X-rays and been told you have thumb arthritis – this article is for you.
Arthritis in its more basic explanation is that the joints have changes in congruency. What causes the pain is not always the “arthritis” itself but rather what happens because of arthritis.
The thumb joint falls out of alignment and doesn’t sit where it should. Causing one to lose motion over time.
The muscles get too short in certain areas and other muscles work too hard causing more pain.
The thumb sits on top of the wrist which then can cause other wrist issues that then affect the thumb even further.
Going forward, we can’t make the bones go “backwards to not having any damage”, but as therapist, we can work with you
● to get rid of the pain
● increase how well you can use your hand
● prevent it from getting worse
Thumbs are important and should NOT be ignored because the thumb does 50% of the work of your hands. When it’s painful, loses motion, and can’t function properly, there are many things that you can not do.
Medications can help in the ACUTE stages but you really need to ask yourself how long you want to continue to take pills. NSAIDs have their side effects.
Splints or braces that stop the thumb from moving or protect the thumb have its use as well. Especially helpful in the acute stages. The key to splints is that they do not block more than they need to otherwise it will cause other problems down the line. When STOP wearing them is also important so that you don’t continue to lose motion and strength.
Can occupational/hand therapy help with thub arthritis?
Occupational therapists and certified hand therapists can help you determine the need for splints, which ones are the most effective, and how long to use the splints or braces. They can help you to regain motion, joint congruency, and achieve pain-free motion – before needing to consider injections and surgery.
Most people come to us here at Hands-on Therapy after trying pills, splints, and injections. We work with them to avoid unnecessary surgery.
We also work with those after surgery – mostly after they have not received the results they hoped for from another therapy center.
Injections can help when it’s extremely painful but I normally recommend pairing it with therapy to get the best possible results. That way, you don’t need to consider multiple injections. Injections fail when you can’t keep your results.
There’s a time and place for everything; sometimes, surgery is required. I recommend surgery to my clients when the pain is constant, they can’t keep their gains in therapy, and they can’t do the things they enjoy doing.
Age is also a consideration since not everyone is a candidate for surgery.
Finding a great hand surgeon is key to having a successful joint replacement or fusion. Then going to the best-certified hand therapist can help you achieve all your functional goals without pain.
If you found this article helpful – please share! Someone you know might have thumb pain and not know what to do.
If you are suffering with thumb pain – whether it’s arthritis or it just hurts…request a free Discovery Visit and speak with our specialist.
Written by Hoang Tran
About the author – Hoang Tran; an expert in hand therapy
Hoang Tran is a certified hand therapist, the owner of Hands-on Therapy Services, and the author of the book “The Hands-On Approach”. She loves helping people with hand, neck, and shoulder problems because she knows how bad and debilitating they can get if not addressed and treated properly (once and for all!).
The aim of her Miami occupational therapy practice is to bring patients back to full functionality, without pills, injections, or surgery. Occupational and Physical Therapy are both offered at Hands-On Therapy by our experienced therapists who provide a comprehensive approach to your care.
If you are struggling with hand and wrist pain, including
or any other hand condition, speak with one of our specialists for FREE by signing up for a 30-minute Discovery Visit here! Talk to our specialist first before booking any paid session. We like to ensure that we can help you before taking you on as a client.
PS. Seven step by step tips that you can start right away to recover quicker after hand, wrist or shoulder surgery. Click for the After Surgery Guide.
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.