Basal Joint Arthritis

Basal joint arthritis, also known as “thumb arthritis,” occurs when cartilage wears away from the joint and base of the thumb. The basal joint is what allows your thumb to move and carry out fine motor tasks. Without adequate cushioning from cartilage, the joints start grinding when they move over one another and cause damage.


Basal joint arthritis is most commonly caused by aging or activities that put significant stress on the thumb joint. It can also occur in fractures, sprains, and other injuries to the thumb joint.


One of the first signs of basal joint arthritis is pain and stiffness at the base of the thumb while grasping something with the thumb and index fingers. Pain may also occur from performing daily tasks such as turning a door handle or opening jars. For those with severe thumb arthritis, routine tasks can become almost impossible without assistance. The thumb often appears swollen and may develop a bump at the base of the thumb.


Physicians will look for swelling and bumps at the base of the thumb. Imaging technology such as x-rays can typically indicate basal joint arthritis.


Non-surgical therapies can often be used to treat basal joint arthritis. Treatments include cortisone injections, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, splints or braces, and modification to daily activities. Surgery may be necessary if the condition does not respond to other treatments.

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