OA or osteoarthritis is a common chronic condition that can involve one or more joints of the wrist, thumb, and fingers. It can occur with aging and involves a loss of articular cartilage through mechanical loading and inflammation and subsequently, a loss of joint space between the bones.
Loading the player...Osteoarthritis of the thumb joint Bradley Vance, MPT, BSc., discusses what occurs when someone develops osteoarthritis of the thumb joint and what treatment options are available.
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OA or osteoarthritis is a common chronic condition that can involve one or more joints of the wrist, thumb, and fingers. It can occur with aging and involves a loss of articular cartilage through mechanical loading and inflammation and subsequently, a loss of joint space between the bones. This can cause severe pain and swelling, ultimately impacting strength and function. Additionally, we see structural changes in the bone itself, with a thickening of the subchondral bone and formation of osteophytes, which are small bony growths. This bone remodeling can further impact the joint space. We call this condition osteoarthritis or OA for short.
A common site of OA development is between the bones that form the joint at the base of the thumb, the trapezium and the 1st metacarpal bone. This joint is called the 1st carpometacarpal joint or the CMC joint for short. As the condition develops, you might begin to feel pain and stiffness at the base of the thumb, particularly with certain motions such as pinching or squeezing. There is usually some stiffness when waking up in the morning or after a period of inactivity that should ease as you move. The pain and stiffness can lead to difficulty with everyday tasks such as opening jars or turning a key in a lock. You might also notice some local swelling at the base of the thumb, and the joint might begin to develop a knobby appearance.
Physiotherapists can help with managing symptoms in several ways. Not only does OA affect the cartilage and bone, but this can in turn affect all the other structures involved in the joint complex, including the tendons, ligaments and muscles. A physiotherapist might suggest a splint to be worn to provide some external stability to help reduce pain and prevent deformity at the joint. These splints are usually worn only at night, during flare ups or during heavy or repeated activities involving the thumb. Your physio might also instruct you in some gentle range-of-motion and stretching exercises to improve your thumb mobility, eventually incorporating specific strengthening exercises to help keep the muscles around the joint from atrophying.
A common misconception with arthritis is that exercise can further damage the joint. Exercise and movement are often some of the best things you can do for joint health, and a physiotherapist can work with you to ensure you are moving and loading the joint in a manner that is safe and beneficial for the health of your joints.
If you’re feeling pain or noticing stiffness around this area, then it would be beneficial to book an appointment with your physiotherapist to confirm a diagnosis and begin a rehabilitation program to maintain or restore function and help reduce pain.
Presenter: Mr. Bradley Vance, Kinesiologist, ,