Basal Thumb Arthritis

Carpometacarpal ArthritisArthritis is a disorder that causes pain, stiffness, and deformity in the joints.  One of the most common locations for arthritis is in the joint at the base of the thumb.

This high-stress area is subjected to wear and tear when the hand is used, especially during strenuous and repetitive activity. It is most common in women over 40, but anyone can get it.  Often it is present in both thumbs.

Symptoms of basal thumb arthritis:

• Pain located at the base of the thumb, which may be constant, but usually is much worse when gripping or lifting with the hand.

• Often the painful area at the thumb base becomes swollen and prominent, as bone spurs develop.

• Eventually, if untreated, other thumb joints may be secondarily affected, causing an unstable weak thumb.

Carpometacarpal Arthroplasty


Conservative treatment is often helpful, and consists of rest, use of a temporary thumb splint, and oral anti-inflammatory medicine.

Injection of cortisone into the arthritic joint can sometimes give temporary relief.

If symptoms persist in spite of conservative measures, a surgical procedure may be needed, to remove the arthritic bone and associated spurs.

This surgery is usually done with a regional anesthetic (only the arm is numbed), as an outpatient. A splint or cast is worn about 4 weeks following surgery, and strenuous activity is limited for several weeks.