Let's Talk  Thumb Arthritis

Let's Talk Thumb Arthritis

7th Jun 2021

What is Thumb Arthritis? 

Thumb arthritis is common with aging and occurs when cartilage wears away from the ends of the bones that form the joint at the base of your thumb — also known as the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint. 

Thumb arthritis can cause severe pain, swelling, and decreased strength and range of motion, making it difficult to do simple tasks, such as turning doorknobs and opening jars. Treatment generally involves a combination of medication and splints. Severe thumb arthritis might require surgery.

Swelling, stiffness and tenderness at the base of your thumb •	Decreased strength when pinching or grasping objects •	Decreased range of motion •	Enlarged or bony appearance of the joint at the base of your thumb


Thumb arthritis commonly occurs with aging. Previous trauma or injury to the thumb joint also can cause thumb arthritis. 

In a normal thumb joint, cartilage covers the ends of the bones — acting as a cushion and allowing the bones to glide smoothly against each other. With thumb arthritis, the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones deteriorates, and its smooth surface roughens. The bones then rub against each other, resulting in friction and joint damage. 

The damage to the joint might result in growth of new bone along the sides of the existing bone (bone spurs), which can produce noticeable lumps on your thumb joint. 

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Being Female • Age above 40 years. • Obesity. • Certain hereditary conditions, such as joint ligament laxity and malformed joints. •	Injuries to your thumb joint, such as fractures and sprains. •	Diseases that change the normal structure and function of cartilage, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Although osteoarthritis is the most common cause of thumb arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the CMC joint, usually to a lesser extent than other joints of the hand. •	Activities and jobs that put high stress on the thumb joint

Treatment of Thumb Arthritis 

In the early stages of thumb arthritis, treatment usually involves a combination of non-surgical therapies. If your thumb arthritis is severe, surgery might be necessary.



To relieve pain, your doctor might recommend:

  • Topical medications, such as capsaicin or diclofenac, which are applied to the skin over the joint 
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) 
  • Prescription pain relievers, such as celecoxib (Celebrex) or tramadol (Conzip, Ultram) 


A splint can support your joint and limit the movement of your thumb and wrist. You might wear a splint just at night or throughout the day and night. 

Splints can help: 

  • Decrease pain 
  • Encourage proper positioning of your joint while you complete tasks 
  • Rest your joint 


If pain relievers and a splint aren't effective, your doctor might recommend injecting a long-acting corticosteroid into your thumb joint. Corticosteroid injections can offer temporary pain relief and reduce inflammation.



If you don't respond to other treatments or if you're barely able to bend and twist your thumb, your doctor might recommend surgery.


At Gateway Sports and Rehab, we offer a range of hand wrist braces including a thumb brace and splints. Our Push CMC stabilises the basal joint of the thumb (CMC-1) and places the thumb in a functional position. This guarantees optimal hand function and reduces such symptoms as pain and loss of strength. 


  • Osteoarthritis of the CMC-1 joint
  • Postoperative treatment of the CMC-1 joint
  • Status after arthroplasty of the CMC-1 joint
  • Instability of the CMC-1 joint 

For more information on our wrist braces  see the range or contact us on 1300 982 259