Basilar Joint Arthritis: How it is Treated

While basilar joint arthritis (BJA) is a common thumb condition, it is highly treatable by a hand specialist. Because it involves the CMC, or Capal-MetaCarpal, joint, it is also known as CMC joint arthritis. Your hand doctor may refer to it by this name or simply thumb joint arthritis.

The CMC joint enables the thumb to rotate, extend, and flex. It is the joint that attaches the metacarpal bone of the thumb to the trapezium wrist bone.

A common cause for thumb joint arthritis is simply wear and tear from a normal use of your hand over time. Some individuals may only have arthritis in this joint, without having arthritis in other joints. It results when the cartilage between the  thumb and wrist becomes thin. However, it can also be caused by an injury to the thumb.

People with this condition may have joint swelling, difficulty pinching objects, stiffness, tenderness, or pain the the base of the thumb. Some people describe the pain similar to a toothache, but in the thumb joint. There may be a lingering ache or you might experience pain only upon moving or twisting the joint, such as when you are turning a key in a lock, opening a door handle, or even snapping your fingers. The joint may appear swollen, particularly at the base. In some individuals, the pain and discomfort may come and go and vary in intensity with the weather.

Over time, you may find that your range of motion is reduced, and you may have trouble with your grip, making it difficult to open up a jar, for example.

Home Remedies for BJA

Home remedies include using ice in five to 15 minutes intervals. NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can help, as can wearing a brace or splint that supports the thumb and wrist.  Performing range of motion exercises may also help.

Treatment for Basilar Joint Arthritis by a Hand Specialist

Hand doctors have a number of therapy modalities to use for thumb joint arthritis.  Massage, ice, and heat are used to make the area more comfortable. Prescription NSAID medications may be prescribed that are stronger than what’s available over the counter. Some individuals benefit from a cortisone injection to the joint, particularly when it is combined with a brace.

If conventional therapies do not relieve discomfort, hand surgery by a hand surgeon may be needed to reconstruct the joint. The go-to surgical treatment for arthritis at the base of the thumb is carpal metacarpal arthroplasty, which involves two small incisions.

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