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Basal Joint Arthritis
(Thumb Arthritis)


The basal joint is the joint at the base of the thumb that allows the thumb to rotate and pinch. Arthritis is a thinning of the cartilage of a joint. Arthritis of the basal joint is more common in women than in men, and usually occurs after 40 years of age.

Causes & Symptoms

Often basal joint arthritis can develop overtime without a known injury. Those with prior fractures or other injuries may have an increased likelihood of developing this condition.

Typical symptoms include pain, loss of strength in the thumb with gripping or pinching, swelling, tenderness at the base of the thumb, and limited motion.

Evaluation & Treatment

Initial evaluation includes a medical history, physical examination, and x-rays of the thumb and hand. Arthritis at the base of the thumb commonly also is associated with carpal tunnel syndrome and this may be evaluated.

Typical treatment of basal joint arthritis is initially nonsurgical including ice, anti-inflammatory medications, supportive splints, and corticosteroid injections. Surgical treatment is considered for those with discomfort despite nonsurgical measures. Surgical treatment is an outpatient procedure. After surgery a cast is placed for several weeks. Full recovery typically takes several months of physical therapy.