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Thumb Osteoarthritis


Osteoarthritis occurs when the smooth cartilage that covers the ends of the bones begins to wear out prematurely. This may be caused from normal wear and tear, and previous injury to the joint. In the hand the joints at the base of the thumb and the small joints of the fingers are particularly susceptible to developing osteoarthritis. The joint at the base of the thumb allows swivelling and pivoting movements and is subject to unusual amounts of stress during gripping.

Symptoms usually start with pain during gripping or pinching activities such as opening jars, holding cutlery, manipulating small objects and turning keys, taps and door handles. Eventually strength will be effected, movement restricted and the joint will begin to look bigger with some obvious deformity.

​Your therapist can provide advice on avoiding aggravating activities and how to live with the conditions, as well as suggesting special tools or aids to help perform normal daily activities. A supportive splint, worn during the day (and sometimes at night if needed) may help to support or rest the joint. Treatment to settle the pain and swelling and an exercise programme to ensure that your hand does not become stiff or weak is sometimes helpful and your therapist can advise you on these.


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