CMC THumb Osteoarthritis

Thumb carpometacarpal (CMC) joint or basal joint osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage over time.

The thumb CMC joint is a common area of arthritis due to the frequency and intensity of pressure the thumb receives with use during daily activities.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain and tenderness at the thumb

  • Pain and/or weakness while gripping or pinching

  • Stiffness and/or swelling at the thumb

  • Enlarged “bumps” at the joint of the thumb

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Therapeutic exercises help to maintain function, improve joint health, and strengthen the muscles surrounding the arthritic joint.

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Activity Modification by changing the technique or implementing assistive tools can reduce the stress on the arthritic joint.

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Orthotics can reduce the stress exerted on the joint during activities, promote healthy movement patterns, and prevent the progression of deformity.

Joint Protection:

  • Avoid forceful gripping or pinching when possible

  • Use a light grip on tools, pens, or mouse

  • Use enlarged grips with tools or kitchen gadgets

  • Use tools or a grip that recruits larger muscle groups (i.e. caveman grip while stirring)

  • Place hands under objects while lifting when possible

  • Push objects with the shoulder or side of body instead of hands

How hand therapy can help:

  • Modalities and symptom management techniques to decrease pain, swelling, and stiffness

  • Orthotics – custom or prefabricated to provide support and pain relief

  • Education on body awareness and joint protection principles

  • Recommendations for adaptive equipment

  • Individualized exercise program to increase strength and improve function