There are a lot of people who are stereotypically stuck with the thought that arthritis is something that has to do with knees. That is a mistake, because arthritis can affect even a small part like a thumb and can cause chronic pain that may act as a hurdle in performing the day to day tasks. If you believe on the definition of arthritis, then arthritis occurs due to the wearing down of the flexible tissue that protects and covers the joint and so any place in the body that has a joint can be an abode for Arthritis to occur. 
If you are experiencing pain at the base of the thumb constantly then, it can be a possible symbol of Carpometacarpal (CMC) thumb arthritis that occurs at the junction of thumb and wrist bones. Hence it is named as per the bones at the base of the thumb, i.e. the metacarpal of the thumb and carpal of the wrist. CMC joint pain makes the basic things like gripping almost impossible. So if your thumb pain has constantly been persisting for a longer period, then you need to see a doctor before the pain becomes worse. To support your thumb and relieve CMC joint pain, you should wear CMC thumb splint.
What is Carpometacarpal (CMC) Thumb Arthritis?
Popularly known as thumb as thumb arthritis, CMC arthritis is defined as arthritis at the base of the thumb. As the cartilage at the base of the thumb wears down, the end of the thumb and wrist bones rub together causing pain and making it difficult to use your thumb causing extreme pain while pinching or gripping an object. The pain may range from mild to chronic depending on the stage of arthritis, and so it is better to treat CMC thumb arthritis with some simple initial measures that won’t demand surgery at the later stages.
Symptoms of Thumb Arthritis
The first and foremost sign of thumb arthritis is experiencing sharp pain at the base of the thumb while grabbing things. 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. Though the signs and symptoms of CMC thumb arthritis are ignored at the initial stages, in the later stages the signs transform into pain causing a lot of havoc to the musculoskeletal system. 
Risk Factors for Thumb Arthritis
Thumb arthritis can affect any individual at any stage, but certain risk factors enhance the risk for thumb arthritis. The risk factors that can increase the risk for thumb arthritis include:
- Older age (above 40 years).
- Injuries to your thumb like fractures or sprains.
- Job or sports that put higher stress on the thumb joint
- Diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis that changes the normal function and structure of cartilage.
Diagnosing Thumb Arthritis
A doctor will check a lot of things before concluding that its thumb arthritis. The physician is most likely to question you about the level of pain, any prior injuries, movements that make the pain worse and any other symptoms that are related with thumb arthritis like numbness or sudden sharp pain as per the weather conditions and diurnal rhythm.
Then if necessary, the doctor will also typically perform diverse tests while the person moves the thumb around. They will also feel or listen for clicking or grinding joints or see if the joint is warmer than the surrounding tissue and if the joint is enlarged or tender. The doctor will also test the joint’s range of motion. If he suspects arthritis, and then they may order an X-ray to examine the thumb and will reveal any bone spurs or calcium deposits. The X-ray can also show loss of space of deterioration between the bones.
Treatment Options for Thumb Arthritis
Almost all of us know that as arthritis is a progressive disease, so it is most likely to get worse over time. If treatment options aren’t embraced at the initial stages, then the pain won’t stop in the later days getting worse with each passing day. The severity of a person’s thumb arthritis is the prime parameter to determine which treatment should be appropriate for the patient. Though arthritis can’t be cured completely, there are simple treatment options that can marvellously help to alleviate the symptoms. Some of these are mentioned below:
- Steroid injections.
- Physical therapies.
- Applying heat or ice to the thumb.
- Ergonomic activities.
- Bracing the thumb.
- Avoiding activities that put undue peer pressure on the thumb making the situation more difficult.
- Exercises that brace up the muscles around the thumb.
If these treatments fail in one way or the other, a person may require surgery. A person requires surgery only when the symptoms are severe, and other treatment options do not work. Though surgery works efficiently in eradicating the pain from the root, it is also true that recovering from surgery isn’t a piece of cake. Though the complications are rare but are most likely to happen in the case of surgical methods.
After surgery, the situations become so worse that you have to buy adaptive equipment as well. Consider purchasing adaptive equipment such as key turners, jar openers, and larger zip pulls so that much pressure isn’t applied on your already weakened joint. There are many types of equipment that are designed for people with limited hand strength like you can replace the traditional door handles with levers so that you don’t have to put much effort on the grasp.
There can be several complications like wound infection, stiffness, hypertrophic scarring, adverse reaction to the anaesthetic drug during the surgery, thumb weakness, neuroma and a lot more. The other drawback is that the after-effects of surgery will restrain you from performing the daily activities for a longer period. So you should try these methods to avoid the after effects.
Exercises as a Conservative Treatment Method
To be precise conservative treatment is the most effective way to treat thumb joint pain. There are physical therapies and other methods that can help to reduce the thumb joint pain by several folds. Alternatively, you can also opt for exercises that are very important in restoring the mobility and function of the thumb. Some of these are mentioned below:Make a fist:
This is one of the easiest exercises that you an even do in the office, while you are travelling or at some other time while you might be in the middle of the crowd. All you need to do is start holding your one hand with all of your fingers out and then slowly bend your hand at the shape of a fist placing your thumb on the outside of the fist. Make sure that you are gentle and you aren’t causing a lot of pain by squeezing your hand. Finger bends:
Quite similar to the traditional pushups but in the miniature form. You can start in the same position as you did in make a fist and then proceed by holding your hand straight. Bend your thumb down towards your palm, hold a couple of seconds and then straighten your thumb back. Simple isn’t it?Thumb bend:
This is similar to the finger bend, except here you have to put out all the fingers while moving your thumb. Make sure that you don’t go rough on the very first time and proceed gradually. This is a very effective exercise to increase the mobility of your thumb, and after surgery, it works like a miracle in recovery!Make an ‘O’:
Yes you heard it right! That’s an exercise for your thumb. Curve all your fingers and join them with the thumb making an ‘O’ with your fingers. After you have made the shape, straighten your fingers and continue doing this for 10-12 times.Table Bend:
In this kind of exercise place the pinky side edges of your hand on a table with your thumb pointed up and then make an L-shape with your finger. Hold the shape for a couple of minutes and then again go back to the starting position.Finger lift:
All you need to do is to place your palm flat on a table or any flat surface and then starting with your thumb lift each finger and then lower it.Wrist stretch:
Don’t forget that CMC joint arthritis has concerns with the wrist also, so you need to work on your wrist as well. To exercise your wrist hold your arm out with the palm facing down and then gently press down the hand until you feel the stretch.
Apart from this, there are several other exercises as well that can make your thumb happy and CMC joint pain disappear. Switch to the healthier way of living and see the difference.