Joint Arthritis: 5 Main Causes Of Thumb Joint Pain

Thumb Joint Pain

Pain at the Base of Thumb

If you are suffering from thumb joint pain and you are ignorant about it, then you should stop now. Even the tiniest parts of your bodies like the thumbs require attention too. It might happen that you don’t know what causes these conditions to your body but being ignorant about the pain can make your life difficult in the later days because initially, these symptoms may be an indicative of some serious disease or injuries.

Thumb joint pain can typically make your everyday activities difficult. As we all know that one of the basic purposes of hand is gripping and with joint pain in your thumbs, it becomes practically impossible to grip things. The process is not only painful but also inconvenient. Pain at base of thumb is an obvious reason for which the elementary day to day activities become a hassle. 

Thumb Joint Pain

If you are suffering from joint pain and are unaware of the possible causes, then the obvious question that you need to ask yourself is whether the pain is caused by De Quervain’s Tendinosis, basal joint arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and Rheumatoid arthritis or from any other injury. Yes, these can all be the possible causes for a tiny thumb injury. This is why no injury should be neglected.  Here are the five possible causes of thumb injury listed below:[1]

Joint Arthritis

Joint arthritis can be defined as arthritis at the base of your thumb where the thumb and wrist meet. Though pain at the base of the thumb while gripping or pinching an object is the first and foremost sign of thumb arthritis, but there are other signs as well that can’t be neglected.

The various symptoms for joint arthritis range from discomfort, tenderness, aching at the base of the thumb and swelling as well as stiffness at the base of the thumb to limited range of motion in the joint, loss of strength in the thumb joint and bony-looking enlarged joint at the base of the thumb known as bone spurs.

CMC joint arthritis mainly occurs with ageing but previous trauma or injury to the thumb can also be a cause. There can also be other possible causes like specific hereditary conditions such as malformed joints and joint ligament laxity or obesity and diabetes that can lead to joint arthritis.

It is named for the bones at the base of the thumb, i.e. the carpal of the wrist and the metacarpal which is the long joint bone of the thumb. The pain in this arthritis may range from mild to extreme, and so initial steps are inevitable to prevent surgery. So it’s always better to treat pain at the base of the thumb early with some simple initial measures. [2]

Thumb Arthritis


Several types of injuries can be responsible for the pain at the base of the thumb. There are finger, wrist and hand injuries and there are fractures like sprains or other possible causes that can lead to thumb joint pain. Trauma or injury can cause swelling such as sprain or fracture to the wrist.

The symptom can range from swelling, tenderness and bruising to weakened ability to grasp items between the index finger and the thumb. You should consult a doctor immediately after an injury to prevent the worse after-effects. 

There can also be other injuries like the flexor or the tendon injuries or the extensor tendon injuries that can cause extreme pain. The flexor tendons are lengthened strands of connective tissue that connects the small bones of the thumb and fingers to the muscles in the forearm. The most common causes for this are cuts and sports injuries.

Flexor tendons are also likely to rupture spontaneously with rheumatoid arthritis. On the other hand, extensor tendon injuries are classified into mallet finger and boutonniere deformity. Other hands and finger injuries that can lead to thumb pain include fractures and dislocations. Thumb sprain can also be the reason.

Thumb sprain can be due to the overuse of thumbs and is mainly due to wear and tear of ligaments. Ligaments are soft tissues structures that connect two bones to make a stable joint. Whenever you fall you generally extend your arms to reduce the impact from hitting the ground. This can lead to stretching the thumb hence causing injury.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

Also referred to as CTS, Carpal tunnel syndrome directly impacts the wrist and also has lasting impacts on the rest of the mind. Several researchers explain that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome happens when the median nerve, that runs from the forearm into the palm becomes squeezed or pressed at the wrist. Potentially anyone can be affected by this disorder, but women are most likely to develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

The symptoms for this disorder usually start gradually with frequent tingling, burning, numbness or itching in the palm and the rest of the fingers including the thumb. Furthermore, the ones who are affected by this kind of arthritis may experience decreased grip strength which makes it quite difficult to grasp small objects, form a fist or perform other daily tasks.

The reason why getting diagnosed for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is necessary is because, early detection can prevent the disease from getting more aggravated that will cause extreme pain at the base of the thumb. Furthermore, sometimes the treatment options at later stages become impossible, so the only left option is surgery that takes a lot of time to recover.

De Quervain’s Tendinosis

De Quervain’s Tendinosis typically occurs when the tendons around the base of the thumb are irritated or constricted. The word tendinosis itself refers to the swelling of tendons. To ease the pain you can do a lot of things, some of these include applying heat and ice. Heat is also considered effective in relieving pain.

Even applying ice on the joints for a good period of 15 minutes several times in a day can help relieve pain and swelling. If your pain isn’t reducing at all, then consult a doctor and if the doctor suggests that there are no treatment measures at all then surgery is best and only option. Post surgery considers purchasing adaptive equipment that won’t put a lot of stress on your joint as you don’t have to put much effort into the grasp.

You should protect your thumb from external pressure and will strictly need to avoid activities like driving a car unless and until you are comfortable and have regained full movements. Depending on occupation, returning to work depends on your job duties.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you know that the joints in your  hand are synovial joints, then you are more likely to know thatrheumatoid arthritis cause thumb pain. In the people affected from rheumatoid arthritis, the joints of the hand become inflamed when the body’s immune system malfunctions and attacks healthy tissues in wrists and fingers. The rheumatoid tissue releases proteins that degrade hand joints’ articular cartilage and bone as the tissue squeezes into the joint space between bones.

This results in biochemical changes in the joint capsules of the hand due to inflammations that can be seen and felt. Changes also occur in parts of the hands and wrist including the tendons. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, then you are most likely to experience thumb pain due to the causes mentioned above. You should consult a doctor at a very early stage to avoid further complications in the procedure.

While these are the common possible causes of discomfort in any person’s thumb, there are also other possible conditions and diseases that can be considered while thinking about the possible causes of thumb pain. If you are experiencing pain at the base of your thumb, then it’s imperative to contact the trusted medical professionals for proper treatment and evaluation. 

Thumb Joint Pain Treatment Methods

Conservative treatment is the most effective way of treating joint pain. The helpful treatment methods include anti-inflammatory medications and creams that can reduce local joint inflammation. Ice therapy or heat therapy is also beneficial if you are considering healing the pain more effectively. In cases where topical or oral medications prove to be ineffective, you can also opt for injections as a treatment of choice.

There are physical therapies as well that are used for reducing thumb pain by modalities, mobilizations and exercise. If you have made up your mind for physical therapy, then you can always consider the therapists who are CHT certified and have extra training as well. Alternatively, you can opt for exercises as well which are very important in restoring the mobility and function of the thumb. Finally, if conservative treatment for thumb pain stands as ineffective, then surgery remains as the only option for treatments.








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