Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments for

Thumb Arthritis

Have you ever paused to consider just how frequently you rely on your thumbs in your daily life? The joint where your thumb attaches to your hand, known as the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint, endures an incredible amount of stress over the years. This joint is engineered to provide your thumb with a remarkable range of motion, allowing you to perform various tasks with ease. However, this constant usage can take its toll, leading to a condition called thumb arthritis. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be required to address the progressing arthritis.

This guide, created by Michigan hand doctor Avery Arora, MD, is dedicated to enhancing your comprehension of thumb arthritis, covering its development, diagnostic procedures, and the available treatments. If you’re experiencing thumb discomfort and wonder if it’s arthritis, read on.


The CMC Joint

The CMC joint, often referred to as the basal joint of the thumb, is a pivotal component of the thumb’s anatomy. This joint links the metacarpal bone of the thumb with the trapezium bone of the wrist, enabling your thumb’s unique opposition movement, where it meets your palm.

The integrity of the CMC joint is upheld by a network of ligaments, which may become compromised in the event of a thumb sprain or injury. The joint surfaces are equipped with a protective layer known as articular cartilage. This resilient, cushion-like material ensures that the joint’s surfaces glide smoothly against each other.

As time goes on, due to various factors such as aging, genetic predisposition, and repetitive thumb use, this articular cartilage can gradually deteriorate. This deterioration sets the stage for the development of thumb arthritis, a condition that profoundly impacts the joint’s function and mobility.

What is

Thumb Arthritis?

Thumb arthritis is a degenerative joint condition that affects the base of the thumb. It occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joint wears away, leading to pain and stiffness in the thumb. This condition can significantly impact your hand’s function, making everyday tasks challenging. After all, our thumbs are one of the most important digits on our hand, so if they’re experiencing problems, we can understand how hard that may be for you.

What Causes

Thumb Arthritis?

There are several potential causes of thumb arthritis. It can result from everyday wear and tear on the joint, genetic factors, and overuse of the thumb. Understanding the causes is essential to prevent and manage this condition effectively.

Some examples of thumb arthritis causes include:

  • Aging: As you get older, the cartilage that cushions the joints naturally wears down. This can lead to arthritis in various joints, including the thumb.
  • Genetics: Some individuals may be genetically predisposed to conditions like arthritis. If your family has a history of arthritis, you might be at a higher risk.
  • Overuse or Repetitive Stress: If you engage in activities or work that requires repetitive use of the thumb, it can accelerate the wear and tear on the joint. For example, jobs or hobbies that involve gripping and twisting motions may increase the risk.
  • Trauma: A previous injury to the thumb, such as a sprain or fracture, can increase the likelihood of developing thumb arthritis later in life. The injury might disrupt the normal joint mechanics and accelerate the degeneration of the joint.
  • Gender: Women are more prone to developing thumb arthritis than men, possibly due to hormonal differences.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and lupus, can affect multiple joints, including the thumb, leading to arthritis.
  • Joint Instability: If the thumb joint becomes unstable due to ligament injuries or laxity, it can contribute to the development of arthritis.
  • Obesity: Excess body weight places added stress on the thumb joint, increasing the risk of arthritis.
  • Occupation: Some occupations that involve heavy or repetitive use of the hands, such as construction work or factory jobs, can increase the likelihood of thumb arthritis.

Signs and Symptoms of

Thumb Arthritis

Thumb arthritis manifests through various signs and symptoms, including:

  • Pain at the base of the thumb
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Decreased thumb mobility
  • Difficulty gripping or pinching
  • Aching or throbbing sensation

These symptoms can impact your daily life and hinder your ability to perform tasks that require thumb dexterity.


Thumb Arthritis

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s crucial to seek professional help from someone like Dr. Arora. Here at Arora Hand Surgery, we will perform a comprehensive examination and gather your medical history to diagnose thumb arthritis. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, may also be used to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment Options for

Thumb Arthritis

Treatment for thumb arthritis can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Non-surgical approaches may include:

  • Medications to manage pain and inflammation
  • Wearing a splint or brace to support the thumb
  • Physical therapy to improve thumb strength and flexibility

Thumb Arthritis

Surgery & Other Treatments

In more severe cases, surgery may be recommended to relieve pain and restore thumb function. Surgical procedures like arthroplasty or arthrodesis are designed to repair or replace the affected joint. Dr. Arora, our Michigan thumb arthritis expert, has extensive experience in performing these surgeries and will guide your care through the entire process.

Don’t let thumb arthritis limit your life. If you are experiencing symptoms of thumb arthritis, don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule an appointment with Dr. Avery Arora in West Bloomfield, Howell, Macomb, or Warren. Our skilled hand doctor is here to provide expert evaluation and treatment for thumb arthritis, helping you regain control of your hand’s function and quality of life again.

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Dr. Aroras office from my first call to schedule my appointment was friendly. Walking in the first day, I felt like I was in a nice atmosphere. Dr. Arora was EXCELLENT in taking great care of my hand injury. He was gentle and very understanding to the concerns I had about my hand. His expertise was admirable and I would recommend anyone with an injury to their hand to his office to be under his care. Because of him, I have healed faster than expected and will make an 100% recovery! Thank you Dr.

Jackie S.

I first thought I was going to have to have painful injections or surgery, but Dr. Arora suggested physical therapy may do the trick. I was doubtful, but I agreed to do it. Now, my pain is gone, and with the help of an ergonomic keyboard at work to keep my hands in the correct position, I am virtually pain free. The therapy strengthened my wrists and shoulders, and built more flexibility into my wrists.

Jerry T.

My experience with this doctor was positive from the outset. Dr. Arora was kind and spent a great deal of time with me. Staff was friendly. The office was nice and bright.

Ariel G.

Very friendly and helpful Great staff!!! Doctor Arora was very professional and did great work. I was very happy with everything!

L B.