Treatment for Basilar Joint Arthritis

Basilar joint arthritis is arthritis of the thumb. It’s a fairly common condition, where an estimated one in twelve men will develop the condition and one in four women will, reports the journal Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine, though not all individuals are symptomatic.  Individuals over the age of 40, those who are obese, and those who participate in activities that put repetitive stress on the thumb joint are more prone to the condition.

Symptoms of Basilar Joint Arthritis

Pain, swelling, tenderness, and swelling at the thumb joint are the most common signs of basilar joint arthritis, but some individuals find a decreased range of motion and difficulty pinching or grasping objects as other symptoms.

Treatment of Basilar Joint Arthritis

Fortunately, a number of successful treatment methods exist that vary depending on the stage and severity of the condition.


For early and mild cases of the condition, medications can work well. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil), or acetaminophen (Tylenol) might do the trick. Other individuals find prescription medications, such as tramadol (Ultram, Conzip) and celecoxib (Celebrex) beneficial.

Injections and Splint

Often, the first course of treatment, after medications, is corticosteroid injections administered by your hand specialist. These reduce inflammation and provide temporary pain relief. A splint or brace is used in combination with the steroid injection. The splint helps to

  • rest your thumb joint
  • reduce pain
  • promote proper thumb joint positioning

The splint can be worn while you sleep or throughout the day or both to limit the movement of your wrist and thumb.


Surgery is recommended if your condition doesn’t improve with the above treatment methods or if you are having severe trouble twisting or bending your thumb. There are four main types of surgery for this condition performed by your Port Charlotte, Florida hand surgeon.

  • Arthrodesis. This involves a joint fusion whereby the affected joint is fused permanently. While the fused joint is no longer flexible, pain is eliminated, and the joint can bear weight.
  • Osteotomy. The bones are repositioned in the affected joint.
  • Trapeziectomy. This surgical procedure involves removal of one of the bones in the thumb joint.
  • Arthroplasty. This is essentially a thumb joint replacement whereby the part or all of the affected joint is removed, which is then replaced with a graft consisting of one of your own tendons.

These surgeries are typically performed on an outpatient basis. You’ll have to wear a splint or cast for up to six weeks. After your cast or splint is removed, you participate in physical therapy to regain movement and strength.

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