Are You Suffering from Thumb Arthritis?
Does your thumb hurt while performing some simple tasks like holding a pen, opening a jar or bottle? Pain at the base of the thumb is usually caused by a common condition, especially around age 50. This is a condition which is more common in women. But it is not carpal tunnel syndrome. So, what is the answer? Well, it can be thumb arthritis. In such conditions, you will not be able to perform a task effectively.
CMC joint pain can be very terrible and will frustrate you. But with little care and timely treatment you can effectively deal with thumb arthritis. But before that, you need to know more about the condition, its causes, and symptoms. If you can understand the symptoms, you will be able to get a perfect treatment. Read the article to know more about all these.
What is Thumb Arthritis?
Arthritis means joint inflammation. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA). In medical term, it is also called as degenerative joint disease. The bone’s end generally moves smoothly against each other. This is possibly due to smooth cartilage in joints. The process of arthritis damages the cartilage and the joint then stop functioning properly. 
In the worst situation, your bone can grind on bones inside the arthritic joint. The place where the thumb joins with the wrist is the base of the thumb. The main joint involved in arthritis is called as a trapeziometacarpal joint. This joint consists of a long bone in the thumb called the metacarpal, and a wrist bone called the trapezium.
This joint supports most of the movements of your hand like gripping, pinching, twisting, writing and more. Arthritis may cause CMC joint pain, not letting you do all these activities. Thumb arthritis is most common in women and usually happens after ages 45-50. Fractures and other injuries to the joint of thumb may lead to more risk, developing arthritis.
Types of Hand Arthritis
This is generally associated with the pain after the hand went through the possible pressure, causing inflammation in joints. In some cases, the pain goes away after some time as the swelling decreases. But in some cases, you may require to go through severe therapy or hand surgery. This can also cause thumb arthritis. But you can lower the pain by using CMC arthritis splint.
Osteoarthritis of the hand is another type which generally occurs after a certain age. Those who are 40 years old and above suffer from hand osteoarthritis. Doctors also suggest that lack of Vitamin K can be a primary reason of osteoarthritis. The joint, carpal-metacarpal, located in the thumb is frequently affected in such situation. The cartilages covering the bone become irregular and cause various issues.
This is the more complex rheumatoid arthritis. In such conditions, the synovial tissues affect the hand’s bone, covered with the cartilage. The wrist and knuckles are the common parts which suffer from pain. This may also weaken the hands when inflammation spreads through the ligaments. The condition of rheumatoid arthritis can differ from patients to patients.
Causes of Thumb Arthritis
It is quite difficult to understand the exact cause of thumb arthritis or CMC joint pain. However, the following are the most common factors which can lead to pain in the thumb joint:
- Doing a job that involves high stress on the thumb joint.
- If you have some kind of hereditary conditions such as joint ligament laxity, defective cartilage, and more.
- If you are suffering from past injuries for example fractures or sprains to the thumb joint.
- After forty years of age.
- Having old rheumatoid arthritis condition.
Signs and Symptoms of Thumb Arthritis
- Some people have arthritis at the base of the thumb and may never develop any symptoms. But some may suffer from crippling and severe pain at an early age.
- A most common symptom of thumb arthritis is a pain at the base of the thumb. You will feel pain while pinching, opening jars, or while writing. Turning keys may also be very painful.
- Weather changes may create low to severe pain in the thumb. Continuous use can also cause deep pain in the thumb. When the condition becomes worse, you will lose your grip.
- Those who are suffering from advanced level of arthritis can feel a crunching sensation with small movements of the thumb. Your thumb joint will start to look enlarged and swollen. The thumb joint will become very stiff.
- Other joints in the tip of the thumb will become looser and more deformed.
Diagnosis for Thumb Joint Pain
- Arthritis in the thumb is first diagnosed by history, following some physical examinations.
- The doctor will do some physical tests to understand the causes behind the CMC joint pain.
- X-rays are useful for confirming the particular joint suffered from arthritis.
- The doctor may ask you to do CT Scans.
- MRI- a Magnetic resonance imaging test.
The scan of your hand helps the doctor to understand the reason behind the pain. If the pain is mild, he or she can ask you to use CMC arthritis splint to lower the pain.
Treatments Options for Thumb Joint Arthritis
Arthritis conditions may vary with person to person. A different person may require a different kind of treatment. The initial treatments include:
- Hand exercise.
- Application of ice on affected areas.
- Steroid Injections.
If all these treatment options fail, you may need to go for thumb or hand surgery. However, it is really important to consult a doctor before treating your condition or taking any injection or painkillers.
Exercise for the thumbs
Sometimes doing hand exercise regularly can be quite beneficial for you. Most of the doctors and therapist recommend hand exercises. The exercises help in improving the motion of your hand. You can do the thumb stretch exercise, where you need to touch the tip of your thumb under your pinky finger. There is another stretching exercise called IP which uses flexion.
Here you need to hold your thumb with your other hand. After that try to bend the upper part slightly and gently. You can also simply touch the tips of your fingers to the tip of your thumb. Practice the exercises regularly or as directed by the therapist. Follow the instruction and do them correctly. You can also use CMC thumb splint while doing the exercise to get comfort.
Medication is available for CMC joint pain includes injectable medication, Over the Counter medication and prescription medication. Over the Counter, medications include acetaminophen, supplements, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The NSAIDs drugs are ibuprofen and naproxen.
However, excess use of NSAIDs can lead to various health issues. Don’t take more than is recommended by the doctor. There are various supplements which work great for thumb arthritis. Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin which make your bones stronger. Besides, you can also use pain relief skin cream to lower the pain. 
This may include medicines like COX-2 inhibitors such as Celebrex and meloxicamMobic. Your doctor may ask you to use Tramadol like Ultram and Conzip. High doses of such medication can develop various side effect. Side effects may include ringing in the ears, cardiovascular issues, liver and kidney damage, and more.
Your doctor may ask you to do some blood tests before prescribing such medicines. Corticosteroid injections can lower the level of swelling and pain. However, it is only two to three times a year. They offer you temporary yet significant relief from pain. While taking steroid medication, prefer to avoid heavy physical activities, or else it can damage the joint.Splints
If the condition of thumb arthritis is not serious, your doctor may recommend a CMC arthritis splint for your thumb. It looks like a half glove and comes with reinforcing material. It dramatically reduces the pain and offers you great comfort.
You can use it at night while sleeping or during doing some activities which involve the movement of your thumb. The splints are also called long opponents or thumb spica splint. You can use them from around three to four weeks. But don’t use them for a long time.
In some cases, if medication or exercise don’t work out for you, you may need to go for surgery. Some possible surgeries are:Trapeziectomy:
Here one of the wrist bones which is a part of the thumb joint will be removed.Joint replacement:
Here the joints will be replaced with a tendon graft.Osteotomy:
Here the joint bones will be moved and aligned perfectly. The doctor may trim to remove excess growth.Joint fusion:
Joint fusion enhances joint stability and reduces CMC joint pain. But you will not get the flexibility in the joints and will not be able to perform some tasks.
It is true that there is no permanent cure for thumb arthritis. But with these effective treatments, you can lower the pain to some extent.