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

  
  
  

What is Thumb Arthritis (CMC joint arthritis)?
The thumb is the most common site for arthritis in the hand. The thumb has three joints and the CMC joint is the most commonly affected. Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis can both affect the thumb causing the cartilage that covers and protects the joints to wear out. Without the protective cartilage, the bones in the joint grind against one another wearing the joint down and causing pain and instability.

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 progressively more difficult.

Illustration showing CMC joint arthritis

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:
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.  

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

Splinting options by level of support:
For light support, the 3pp ThumSling (pictured below) supports the CMC joint and applies light compression to help reduce the slippage and grinding on the joint.

3pp ThumSling - light support for CMC joint arthritis                                     
For moderate support and rest of more involved joints, the 3pp Ultra Spica (pictured below) and ThumSaver MP are designed to protect but still allow function.

3pp ultra spica provides moderate support but still allows hand function                                           
Firm splints such as the ThumSaver CMC Long or 3pp ThumSpica Plus (pictured below) immobilize the thumb when full rest is needed. Professional fitting is recommended.

3pp ThumSpica Plus immobilizes the thumb when full rest is needed                         
It is important to look for a splint that supports the CMC joint without limiting more motion than is necessary.  If your thumb is painful only when you do certain tasks, choose a splint that supports but allows motion. If your thumb is painful 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.
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My Thumb Hurts. What’s Wrong?

  
  
  

My Thumb Hurts. What’s Wrong?
Thumbs are such wonderful things we generally just take them for granted. When they hurt is really when you notice just how much you use them. There are numerous conditions that can cause thumb pain and this blog will highlight four of the most common problems.

While this information may help you narrow down what might be wrong, we strongly recommend you seek the advice of a health care provider before attempting any treatment. Treating yourself for the wrong diagnosis can not only delay proper treatment, the wrong treatment may make the condition worse.

Four of the more common conditions that can cause thumb pain are:

  1. CMC joint arthritis
  2. deQuervain’s tenosynovitis
  3. Gamekeeper’s or Skier’s thumb
  4. Trigger thumb

The following chart is an easy-to-use tool to lead you to what might be the cause of your thumb pain. Answer the "Where does it hurt?" question in the chart to see what might be the cause of your thumb pain. Choose the "Learn More" button for more information about the condition, including possible treatment options. Click "Buy Now" if you are ready to purchase a 3-Point Products splint for your thumb.


Where does it hurt?

You might have this

Possible Solutions

At the base of the thumb where the thumb meets the wrist. Painful when pinching or gripping, especially holding small objects like pens or tool handles.

CMC joint arthritis: arthritis of the base of the joint of the thumb that provides the thumbs mobility.

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Along the side of the thumb when moving it into the hitchhiker position or when bending the hand towards the little finger. Pain may "shoot" along the thumb side of the forearm.

de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis: inflammation and tightening of the tendons that extend the thumb.

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Pain in the middle joint of the thumb where it attaches to the hand. Difficulty grasping or holding objects. Pinching is painful and hard to do.

Gamekeeper’s or Skier's Thumb: injury to the ligament that stabilizes the thumb for pinch and grip.

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A “popping” pain when bending or straightening the end of the thumb. Thumb sticks in a bent position and has to be pulled straight.

Trigger Thumb: a narrowing of the tendon covering or a bump on the tendon that limits motion.

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4 Different Problems - 4 Conditions - 4 or more Treatment Options

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What Is Golfer’s Elbow and How Do You Treat It?

  
  
  

Golfer's  elbow (medial epicondylitis) can be a repetitive stress injury or acute  injury.

The medical term for Golfer’s Elbow is Medial Epicondylitis and you can develop it even if you never pick up a golf club.  This condition can be caused by any activity that requires repeated twisting or flexion (bending downwards) of the wrist.  Generally, medial epicondylitis is caused by overuse of the forearm muscles during such tasks as shoveling, gardening, ball throwing or playing golf or tennis. Repeated lifting, especially of a heavy load where your elbow is extended and your palm is facing down, can also cause Medial Epicondylitis

The muscles of the forearm and hand attach near or on the epicondyles (see graphic).  The tendons in this area of attachment may become irritated or torn which will cause pain to be felt around the bony protrusions on the inside of the elbow.  Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow include pain on the inside of the elbow when lifting the wrist or hand, pain when twisting the forearm, or pain when making a fist.  The area may be tender to the touch and may be slightly swollen. If the problem has gone on for a while, additional symptoms can include elbow stiffness, as well as weakness in the hands or wrist.

A related condition, Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, may mimic the pain of medial epicondylitis and include numbness or tingling in the little and ring fingers. It is important to discuss your condition with your health care provider as it is important to accurately diagnose the problem for proper treatment to be effective. .

In addition to golf, other activities that may cause Golfer’s Elbow include racquet sports, baseball or softball, weightlifting, carpentry, painting, and many others.

Treatment for Golfer’s Elbow or Medial Epicondylitis includes rest, ice, anti-inflammatory pain relievers, splints and possibly an injection.  It is a good idea to rest both the elbow and wrist since the muscles that attach the wrist to the elbow are involved.  A wrist splint and elbow wrap will help prevent further strain while you are healing.  Along with rest, ice and an over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory pain reliever should be effective in treating Golfer’s Elbow.  It may take several weeks of resting the elbow to relieve the pain, and even longer until the symptoms are gone completely. However, it is very important to seek medical attention from your health care provider if the condition does not show improvement.  You should also see your doctor immediately if:

  • your elbow doesn’t bend,
  • it looks deformed,
  • you think you broke a bone, or
  • you feel feverish and your elbow feels hot.

Do not hesitate to see your Doctor or Orthopedic Surgeon if you have concerns about elbow pain.  Your visit will consist of a physical examination and if indicated, an x-ray.  If rest, ice, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers are not effective in treating your Golfer’s Elbow, your doctor may suggest a cortisone shot to reduce pain and swelling.  Stretching and strengthening exercises may be prescribed too.  It is rare for surgery to be required.

For additional information about products that are effective for treating Golfer’s Elbow, please follow the links below.  Remember that it is important to have any injury properly evaluated by a health care professional.  Please share this information with your doctor and consult him or her before undertaking any course of treatment.

          http://www.3pointproducts.com/elbow-wrap/

          http://www.3pointproducts.com/reflex-putty/

Related Blog Posts:

My Elbow Hurts. Do I Have Tennis Elbow?

What is the Difference Between Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow?



Author:  Julie Belkin

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