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Thumb Arthritis Treatment

Thumb arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and stiffness in the thumb joint. It can be caused by wear and tear over time or by an injury to the thumb. Thumb arthritis can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks such as turning doorknobs, opening jars and buttoning shirts. There is no cure for thumb arthritis but there are a number of treatments that can help relieve pain and improve function. Thumb Arthritis Treatment options include:

  • Nonsurgical treatments: These treatments are often effective in the early stages of thumb arthritis. They include:

    • Rest: Avoid activities that aggravate your thumb pain.
    • Ice: Apply ice to your thumb for 20 minutes at a time several times a day.
    • Splints: Wearing a splint can help to rest your thumb and reduce pain and inflammation.
    • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
    • Corticosteroid injections: If over-the-counter pain relievers are not effective your doctor may recommend injecting a corticosteroid medication into your thumb joint. Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medications that can provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation.
  • Surgical treatments: If nonsurgical treatments are not effective surgery may be an option. There are a number of different surgical procedures that can be performed to treat thumb arthritis. The best surgical procedure for you will depend on the severity of your arthritis and your individual needs.

Nonsurgical Thumb Arthritis Treatments

Rest

One of the best things you can do to relieve thumb arthritis pain is to rest your thumb. This means avoiding activities that aggravate your pain. If you have to perform an activity that uses your thumb, try to take breaks often.

Ice for thumb arthritis treatment 

Applying ice to your thumb can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Apply ice to your thumb for 20 minutes at a time several times a day. You can use an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel.

Splints

Wearing a splint can help to rest your thumb and reduce pain and inflammation. There are two main types of splints that are used to treat thumb arthritis:

  • Thumb spica splint: This type of splint covers the entire thumb, from the wrist to the tip of the thumb. It is the most effective type of splint for resting the thumb.
  • Basal thumb splint: This type of splint covers the base of the thumb, but leaves the tip of the thumb free to move. It is a good option for people who need to use their thumb for some activities.

Your doctor or a physical therapist can help you to choose the right type of splint for you and teach you how to wear it properly.

Over-the-counter pain relievers

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) can help to reduce pain and inflammation. NSAIDs are available over-the-counter at most pharmacies.

It is important to talk to your doctor before taking NSAIDs, especially if you have other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease. NSAIDs can have side effects such as stomach upset and bleeding.

Corticosteroid injections for thumb arthritis treatment 

If over-the-counter pain relievers are not effective, your doctor may recommend injecting a corticosteroid medication into your thumb joint. Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medications that can provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation.

Corticosteroid injections are usually given once every few months. They are not a cure for thumb arthritis but they can help to improve function and quality of life.

Surgical Treatments

If nonsurgical treatments are not effective surgery may be an option. There are a number of different surgical procedures that can be performed to treat thumb arthritis. The best surgical procedure for you will depend on the severity of your arthritis and your individual needs.

Some of the most common surgical procedures for thumb arthritis include:

  • Trapeziometacarpal (TMC) joint fusion: This procedure involves fusing the bones of the TMC joint together. This can help to reduce pain and improve function but it will also limit the range of motion of the thumb.
  • TMC joint arthroplasty: This procedure involves replacing the TMC joint with an artificial implant. This can help to improve range of motion and function, but it is a more complex procedure and there is a higher risk of complications

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