I Think I Have Thumb Arthritis – What Do I Do About It?

What is Thumb Arthritis (CMC joint arthritis)?
Arthritis is a common condition that occurs when the cartilage that covers and protects a joint wears out. Without this cushioning, the bones in the joint grind against one another, wearing the joint down -causing pain and instability. Although there are several types of arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis can both affect the thumb.

CMC joint arthritis occurs at the base of your thumb, where your thumb and wrist meet. Named for the bones that make up the base  of your thumb – a Carpal (wrist) bone and a Metacarpal or long bone of the thumb – the (CMC) joint is the most common place in the hand for arthritis.

cmc thumb arthritis

As the cartilage wears down, the ends of the bones rub together making it difficult to use your thumb. CMC joint arthritis can be mild or it can progress over time. As the disease progresses, the CMC joint may slip out of place causing the thumb to collapse into the palm, forming a “Z” or zigzag deformity. This makes it difficult to open the thumb away from the palm and makes grasping and pinching more difficult.

Symptoms of Thumb Arthritis:

  • Pain at the base of the thumb, down by the wrist
  • Pain when pinching or gripping, especially small objects like pens or tool handles
  • “Grabbing” or sharp pain when you engage in a certain activity or even at rest
  • The base of your thumb might “stick out” and look as though it is a little ledge or step

Treatment Options:
It is best to treat CMC joint arthritis early on with some simple measures. Generally treatment includes anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce pain and inflammation and a splint for support or rest. How much medication and what level of rest or support is needed depends on when the joint hurts, what makes it hurt, and how much it hurts.

It is important to look for a splint that supports the CMC joint without limiting motion more than is necessary.  If you feel pain in your thumb only when you do certain tasks, choose a splint that supports but allows motion. If you feel pain even at rest, choose a splint that immobilizes the thumb. Often, because the pain from CMC joint arthritis tends to vary with activity, you may need both.

Short or hand-based splints that allow full or limited wrist motion and thumb motion can help. They are generally flexible splints that provide support by applying compression and may also include flexible stays or thin plastic inserts for added support.


For light support, the 3pp ThumSling supports the CMC joint and applies light compression to help reduce slipping and grinding on the joint.  For moderate support and rest, the Design Line Thumb Arthritis splint, 3pp Ultra Spica and ThumSaver MP are designed to protect but still allow movement.

3pp ThumSling

3pp® ThumSling®

Design line thumb arthritis splint

Design Line™ Thumb Arthritis Splint

3pp Ultra Spica Thumb Splint

3pp® Ultra Spica Thumb Splint

ThumSaver MP Thumb Splint

ThumSaver MP Thumb Splint












Firm splints immobilize the thumb when full rest is needed. These splints can be recommended and custom fit by your healthcare professional.

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ebook on how to treat thumb pain



 Our blogs are presented for informational purposes only and are not to be considered medical advice. Because your condition is unique to you, it is recommended that you consult with your health care provider before attempting any medical or therapeutic intervention. We are happy to answer questions or comments pertaining to any products mentioned in our blogs, however, we cannot provide a diagnosis or medical advice.

3 Responses to I Think I Have Thumb Arthritis – What Do I Do About It?

  1. elyse schochet says:

    I had the surgery but am always looking 4 different braces. I work with the deaf so I use my hands all the time using sign language.
    do u have a catalog

    • Gwolfe says:

      Thank you for your interest in our splints and braces. All of our product information is listed on our web site, as we no longer print a catalog.
      We have a variety of thumb splints to choose from that offer different levels of support. Thank you and we hope you find a brace that meets your needs.

    • Lee says:

      Do you have to do the surgery. Did that stop the pain.

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