Pain at the base of your thumb?

by Louise McQuaid
Pain at the base of your thumb can be a sign of wear and tear leading to Osteoarthritis
Early signs of wear and tear in the thumb
Early signs of wear and tear in the thumb
  • Do you have pain at the base of your thumb?
  • Do you have difficulty opening jars or sorting out money in your purse?
  • Is it difficult to lean on your hand to push up from a chair?
  • Do you notice swelling around your thumb, stiffness in the joints or tightness in the muscles? 
  • Do your thumb joints look larger than they used to look?
  • Do you notice you are protecting your thumb from movements you know make it more painful?
If you experience these signs then you may be developing the early signs of wear and tear in the joint which can lead to Osteoarthritis.
The Joint at the base of the thumb is called the CMC joint (carpometacarpal joint). It is formed where the thumb bone nearest the wrist meets the trapezium bone of the wrist. The CMC joint is particularly prone to developing osteoarthritis (OA) because it is used in over 70% of hand movements and 100% of pinching movements.
It is designed to be very mobile and relies on the stability of the supporting thumb muscles for its strength and alignment.
When these supporting muscles are not strong or do not work in harmony the way they are supposed to, extra pressure is placed on the joint surfaces at the base of the thumb leading to increased stresses in the joint. 
Initially the joint becomes inflamed and may be described as having developed capsulitis but as the extra stresses continue, the joint can then show some degenerative wear and tear associated with osteoarthritis.
Often people describe their thumb muscles in the web space as tight and tender and the joint itself may become swollen or enlarged.
In later stages of osteoarthritis the thumb may look like a letter "Z" and feel very loose 
Hand Therapy at Hand Kinetics can help to manage CMC joint instability or osteoarthritis of this joint in many ways.
  • Release techniques for the tight muscles 
  • Joint mobilisation techniques
  • Exercises to reactivate then strengthen the supporting muscles of the thumb

Often advice and education regarding functional use of the hand/thumb, and provision of taping, splints or braces to rest, support, protect and re-train the thumb can help to alleviate symptoms and slow down progression of the arthritis.
If you have any pain in your thumb it is important to have it checked out right away. Don't suffer on in silence and come and see your local Hand Therapist for a few sessions to learn how to manage the condition and gain some relief and control over your symptoms.
Help prevent it from getting worse and keep yourself strong and functional

Tel: 028 417 67238


15 The Avenue, Burren, Warrenpoint. Co. Down. BT34 3XJ

0044 28 4176 7238
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