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

what is thumb arthritis

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

Learn More on How to Relieve Your Thumb Pain?  Download Our Guide

oma thumb ebook

Treatment for Thumb Arthritis

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.

Thumb Braces for Thumb Arthritis

For light support, the 3pp ThumSling supports the CMC joint and applies light compression to help reduce slipping and grinding on the joint.

3pp thumbsling for thumb arthritis
3pp ThumSling

For moderate support and rest, the CMCcare Thumb Brace, Fix Comfort Thumb Brace and 3pp Prima Thumb Brace are designed to protect but still allow movement.

cmccare thumb brace for thumb arthritis
CMCcare Thumb Brace
fix comfort thumb brace best brace for arthritis gamekeepers thumb and skiers thumb
Fix Comfort Thumb Brace
3pp prima thumb brace for thumb arthritis
3pp Prima Thumb Brace

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Our blogs are educational in nature and are not intended as a substitute for 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 treatments. We are always happy to answer questions about products mentioned in our blogs, however, we cannot provide a diagnosis or medical advice.

18 comments on “I Think I Have Thumb Arthritis – What Do I Do About It?

  1. My left thumb completely feels broken at the base I have arthritis in my neck , back , shoulders., elbows and fingers sometimes it’s hard to even pick anything up but my thumb has been so painful that is so hard to keep acting like I’m ok I haven’t told my Dr because I already have problems so I really didn’t think anything could be done !

    1. Twyla,
      I’m sorry to hear about the pain you’re experiencing in your body and thumb. While we can offer information on certain health conditions, please be aware that we are not medical professionals and therefore cannot provide medical advice. It would be best for you to consult with a healthcare professional who can properly examine your thumb and provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

      Based on your description, it seems like you may be dealing with CMC Thumb Arthritis. To help alleviate your pain, a CMC Thumb brace can provide support to the base of your thumb. Our website, https://www.ohmyarthritis.com/Shop-By-Condition/CMC-Thumb-Arthritis-Splints/, offers a range of CMC Thumb Arthritis Braces that you may find helpful.

      We hope you find relief soon.

  2. I had my joints replaced in 2004 (BioPro Basal Thumb) and 2009 (BoiPro Modular Thumb Implant) by my orthopedic physician, who not only did my surgery, but developed and patented the prostheses I got. I was in a study afterward and he continued to document my progress. I have been a knitter, crocheted, and sewer all my life. Prior to surgery I couldn’t grip a needle and thread and pull it through fabric. After surgery and therapy, I have been able to resume my hobbies PAIN-FREE! I would encourage anyone who has lost thumb and grip functions to seek out surgery. I have never regretted my decision to seek out surgery.

    1. Gaynell,
      Thank you for reaching out and sharing your experience with us. We understand that dealing with pain from your hand to shoulder can be challenging and uncomfortable.
      It’s important to note that our blog is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. We highly recommend consulting with a healthcare provider who can provide you with an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment options. We wish you the best in finding relief for your pain.

  3. I was diagnosed with thumb arthritis years ago. I was given shots into my hand and given a splint to wear. Sometimes it was clumsy and I didn’t wear it. My doctor has retired, so I’m looking for other ideas.

  4. I’ve got pain in my thumbs after breast cancer. It’s getting worse. Everyday I’ve got pain. What if I can’t use my hands in a year’s time. Please help

    1. Hello Amanda, I’m sorry to hear you are in pain. Please know that while we can provide information on certain health conditions, we are not medical professionals and are unable to give medical advice. We suggest you consult with your healthcare provider or with a specialist who can diagnose your thumb problem and recommend treatment. I hope you find relief soon.

      1. Hi Amanda,
        I’ve very recently had a small bone, at the base of my thumb, removed from my right hand. I had the left hand operated on with the same procedure a few years ago and have, after a couple of months of physio, never had any pain since. The operation is called a Trapeziectomy and maybe if you are in lots of pain you should mention this to your doctor.

        1. Many thx for your input Glynis. I am on the waiting list to have this done & have been getting a little nervous as to whether or not it was the right way to go so I was grateful to read your post. Cheers

  5. I am going crazy with pain …… it’s been a difficult year for trying to get help ,but luckily my pain management team realised that I was in need of “ extra” help. I have many different areas that suffer from arthritic conditions but boy …..is this thumb and wrist is giving me major grief…… I’m due to see a consultant with a view to corrective surgery, until then I shall continue with wearing my braces. I’ve found reading your comments very helpful, thank you…… wishing us all a big “ pain free “ thumbs up

  6. Description nails my thumb pain exactly. I am right hand dominate yet my left thumb base is the point of pain. No other fingers or wrist involved. Look forward to finding more treatment info.

  7. Haven’t mentioned to my doctor as I didn’t want to be a whiner and assumed it was arthritis. Nice to know exactly what it is and will look for light and moderate brace !

  8. 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

    1. 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.

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