Basal Joint Arthritis

What is Basal Joint Arthritis? 

Basal joint arthritis is a degenerative process that takes place at the base of your thumb. It occurs when the cartilage in your thumb joint wears down. Eventually, your first metacarpal bone and your trapezium, a small bone beneath the thumb, begin to rub on each other. This is the origin of your pain. It may be an aching, stabbing, or intermittent pain. It is usually exacerbated by certain activities such as opening jars, lifting, or twisting motion. Your thumb may feel weak and have decreased range of motion. This condition usually develops over time, but in some cases it may first be noticed after trauma or injury. More commonly it is a pain that slowly increases over a longer period of time.

This condition can be diagnosed through careful examination of the hands and thumbs. X-Rays are also helpful in the diagnosis and give your physician a better idea of how far the arthritis has progressed.

Treatment of basal joint arthritis depends on the patient, the severity of symptoms, and the stage of the disease process. Usually initial treatment is conservative and consists of bracing and cortisone injections. Our office allows us to image your hand through fluoroscopy to ensure that the cortisone is injected into the exact location of your arthritis.

If symptoms persist or worsen over time you may be a candidate for surgery. Surgery usually involves removing a small carpal bone called the trapezium that sits at the base of your thumb and is the source of pain. Removal of this bone does not alter the mobility or function of the thumb, but does alleviate your pain. Physical therapy will be a large part of your rehabilitation process.

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Video and link credits: American Society for Surgery of the Hand

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