Base of thumb arthritis can present as a dull aching pain in the base of the thumb, where the hand meets the wrist, which can become a sharp pain with aggravating activities. The thumb can be swollen and tender to touch. Movement can be reduced, the joint may become enlarged, your grip can weaken, and the thumb may be stiff in the morning. Painful activities are often pinching tasks, gripping and twisting, such as turning taps, weeding and undoing jars.
This condition is best managed as early as possible with a hand therapy program, to reduce your pain, increase your strength and movement, and put you on the right track to care for your thumb and optimise your function.
The most common causes of thumb osteoarthritis are age related changes, family history, wear and tear of the cartilage, and trauma. People over the age of 50, particularly women, are at risk for thumb osteoarthritis. Joint changes seen on XRay do not always correlate to the amount of pain that you have in your thumb. With strong muscles and good management, you can assist in controlling your pain levels.
Your hand therapist can custom make you an orthosis/splint specific to your requirements. It may be a hard support for pain relief or protection when in the garden or at the gym, or a soft support for comfort and warmth. Your hand therapist will also stock off the shelf braces, can discuss the merits and fit them for you, and advise the most beneficial brace for your individual situation.
If you have been to a chemist or a general physiotherapist you may have been provided with an off the shelf brace, but all braces are not created equal and have different purposes. It’s best to bring any braces you have to your initial hand therapy appointment for review, advice and adjustment to optimise their fit and function.
Your hand therapist will provide you with a gentle exercise program to reduce stiffness and maintain your movement. They will also prescribe a light strengthening program to support your sore thumb joint, so that it is less painful and you can work and use your hand more easily.
A thumb stretching program is beneficial to improve your muscle length and reduce any tightness or cramping type feeling. Your hand therapist will take measurements and provide you with a stretching program to suit you.
Pain is often a significant concern with this condition. Your hand therapist can provide pain relieving modalities for you in the clinic and also recommend strategies for you to use at home, which may include application of heat and specific massage techniques with herbal or medicinal anti inflammatory creams.
It is not beneficial to push through pain and to cause swelling. Tasks can be modified and different muscles used to protect your thumb. Joint protection is important to maximise the longevity of your joint and optimise the functioning of your hand.
Goal of hand therapy:
The main goal of hand therapy is to empower you to self manage thumb arthritis, to allow for a more comfortable thumb and to enable you to participate in all of the activities you want to do and the tasks you need to do. Keeping you independent and functioning well is Belinda’s goal.
If you have a sore thumb or thumb arthritis, Belinda can custom make an orthosis for your condition, and provide you with an exercise program and advice to assist with self management. Send an email, book online or call Belinda at Castle Hill Hand Therapy today.