While there are a number of causes of thumb pain, one of the most common causes we see as orthopedic hand surgeons is thumb basal joint arthritis.
What is thumb basal joint arthritis?
Thumb basal joint arthritis is when the cartilage becomes worn in the joint at the base of the thumb, causing inflammation and pain in that region.
How does it present?
Thumb basal joint arthritis usually presents as a dull pain at the base of the thumb that is worse with pinching-type activities.
How can we evaluate it?
We can diagnose it by patient history, physical exam, and x-rays.
How do we treat it?
As with arthritis at any other location in the hand and wrist, initial treatment is conservative with activity modification, splinting, anti-inflammatories, and/or cortisone injections. If non-operative treatment is unsuccessful, surgical treatment is considered.
Surgery involves removing the arthritic bone at the base of the thumb (i.e. trapezium) and stabilizing the thumb basal joint with very strong suture or tendon graft. This procedure is known as a thumb carpo-metacarpal joint arthroplasty (i.e. thumb joint replacement) and has very good success rates.
Nicholas Pappas III, MD is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in hand surgery who specializes in various hand and upper extremity conditions. He is the newest member of the Orthopedic Center for Sports Medicine team and founder of NOLA Hand Surgery (nolahandsurgery.com).
Call 504-889-2663 or visit us online at NOLASPORTSMEDICINE.com to schedule your consultation.