November 27, 2019

Paul Nielsen, MD

Orthopaedic Surgeon

What Are the Symptoms of Thumb Base Arthritis?

  • Thumb base arthritis is pain at the base of the thumb where it connects to the wrist
  • Gripping and pinching with the thumb can be very painful
  • Swelling, thumb deformity, and grinding can occur

What Causes Thumb Base Arthritis?

  • Wear and tear with use of the thumb is the most common cause
    • Trauma and injuries can also cause this arthritis
  • The cartilage gliding surface in the joint wears away over time
    • The joint becomes unstable and painful when attempting to use the thumb
  • Arthritis often begins to affect people between 40 and 60 years old
    • It usually becomes more severe over time 

What Are the Treatment Options for Thumb Base Arthritis?

  • NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or meloxicam can often reduce symptoms
  • Braces can provide stability and relief while still allowing use of the thumb
  • Steroid injections can reduce inflammation and pain 
  • Surgery is considered if nonoperative options no longer control symptoms
    • The surgery involves removing the bone with worn out cartilage and bone spurs at the base of the thumb
    • A tendon is used to create a soft cushion where the bone was removed
    • Surgery is a same-day outpatient procedure

What Is Recovery Like After Surgery?

  • Patients are in a splint holding the thumb still for the first two weeks after surgery
    • You are able to move and use your other fingers immediately post-op
    • A removable splint is used until 6 weeks after surgery
  • Exercises to move and strengthen the thumb are started about 6 weeks after surgery
  • Most patients get good pain relief and improved gripping strength 
  • Recurrence or persistent pain is uncommon

Interested in discussing your options for thumb arthritis further? Call 308-865-2570 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nielsen today. No referral required.


About the Author

Paul Nielsen, MD is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand & upper extremity surgery at New West Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery in Kearney, NE.


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