What is Thumb Arthritis?
CMC joint arthritis also known as thumb 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 joint arthritis can be mild or it can progress over time. As the cartilage that covers and protects your thumb joint wears down, the ends of the bones rub together making it difficult to use your thumb. As the condition progresses, the CMC joint can also slip out of place. This may make it difficult to open your thumb and can make 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
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The best treatment for CMC joint arthritis is to treat it early on with some simple measures. Generally treatment includes anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce pain and inflammation and a splint/brace 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 brace 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 light support brace that supports but still allows motion. If you feel pain even at rest, choose a moderate support brace that immobilizes the thumb. Often, because the pain from CMC joint arthritis tends to vary with activity, you may need both.
Firm support braces immobilize the thumb when full rest is needed. These splints can be recommended and custom fit by your healthcare professional.
Short or hand-based braces that allow full or limited wrist motion and thumb motion can help. They are generally flexible braces 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.
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