Pain at Base of Thumb: Can Be Caused by Basal Joint Arthritis

May 5, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

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Are you experiencing pain at the base of your thumb? That could be because of basal joint arthritis or carpometacarpal arthritis.

The basal joint of the thumb (also called the CMC or Carpo-metacarpal joint) is located at the base of the thumb, adjacent to the wrist. It is a very mobile joint, normally allowing a significant amount of motion to help position the thumb.

Many types of arthritis can affect this joint, with degenerative arthritis, or osteoarthritis, being most common. Degenerative arthritis of the thumb CMC joint is many times more common in women than in men. This arthritis may also occur as the result of an injury.

Take note of that: this condition is more common in women.

Tamara R. Clancy, M.D. in her column at the Daytona Beach News, wrote:

The primary symptom is a deep, aching pain at the base of the thumb that is made worse with activities that involve pinching and gripping, such as writing, opening jars, and turning doorknobs and keys.

As the disease progresses, pain can occur even at rest and at night, and patients often notice a loss of pinch and grip strength. As the cartilage continues to wear out and the joint space narrows, the motion at the base of the thumb decreases considerably and the next joint toward the thumb tip becomes hyper mobile to compensate and allow one to grasp large objects.

The thumb basal joint is a specialized saddle-shaped joint that is formed by the trapezium (a wrist bone) and the thumb metacarpal. Because of the specialized shape of this joint, the thumb has a wide range of movements — up and down, across the palm and pinching with the fingers. In a normal joint, cartilage covers the ends of the bones and allows smooth and painless motion between the bones.

Advance form of this condition are sometimes treated by surgical reconstruction, when non-surgical treatments – splinting, anti-inflammatory medications, heat, and corticosteroid injections – won’t work.

Dr. Clancy further wrote:

The most common procedure involves removing the arthritic bone (trapezium) and performing a tendon transfer for stabilization of the thumb. Other procedures that might be utilized include joint fusion or arthroplasty, and even arthroscopy in very select cases. Surgery is pursued when conservative measures have failed to adequately relieve the pain.


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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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