Thumb Arthritis

The carpometacarpal joint (CMCJ) is at the base of the thumb. It gives us the ability to pinch, and pick things up in our hand because it positions the thumb against the fingers. Due to the saddle type design of the joint, frequent use, and the ageing process, this joint is prone to develop arthritis. Osteoarthritis of the base of the thumb (CMCJ OA) often results in joint degeneration, pain, impairment of joint movement and a reduced ability to use the hand to perform the regular activities of daily life.

Thumb arthritis splint

Hand therapy and splinting is the mainstay in the conservative management of arthritis in the base of the thumb. Surgical treatments are also available when conservative treatment does not adequately resolve a patient's symptoms

What to expect at your initial hand therapy appointment for thumb arthritis:

1. An accurate diagnosis of your condition.
An accurate diagnosis is the basis for successful treatment of your symptoms. There are a variety of conditions which can occur at the base of the thumb, and these need to be considered prior to commencing treatment. Bring x rays to your first appointment if you have them.

2. A thorough assessment of your thumb
You will be asked about your lifestyle, occupation and recreations. Specifically those which are causing difficulty.
Assessment will include a thorough set of tests, including measurement of the web space between your thumb and hand, your current pain levels, movements of the thumb, grip and pinch strength and any abnormal muscle tension around your thumb and forearm.

3. Treatment will include some and possibly all of the following:

Splinting

Wax (heat treatment) and massage

Home exercises

Information handout

Ergonomic advice will be discussed relevant to your day to day activities and appliances that may assist you in your regular activities.

A regular appointment schedule of wax and massage may be suggested for the non pharmacological management of any ongoing symptoms.

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