Thumb Joint Pain

November 12, 2012

Thumb Joint Pain

There are many causes of thumb joint pain and it is a fairly common complaint. As one of the most mobile joins in the body and considering how much we use it throughout daily life, it is no wonder that the joint can sometimes become painful. The joint known as the carpometacarpal joint (CMC joint) is where the thumb bone meets the wrist and is the part of the thumb that takes most of the stress. The bones are covered with cartilage and have tendons and ligaments surrounding it. Thumb joint pain can occur in any of these areas.

Reasons for pain

Thumb joint pain or restricted movement can be caused by a trauma to the joint such as a sprain or fracture. If the surrounding ligaments have been strained then it is referred to as a jammed thumb and in some cases causes joint instability. Simply overusing the thumb can be another reason for pain as wear and tear can occur to the cartilage causing it to break down. This can lead to inflammation of the joint and osteoarthritis. Then tendons in the area can also become inflamed through over use, which can lead to tendonitis. Rheumatoid arthritis is another potential cause of thumb joint pain as is carpal tunnel syndrome. Thumb pain, numbness and a tingling sensation are all signs of CTS, which occurs when the nerve in the wrist becomes compressed.

The most troubling of the injury symptoms

Thumb joint pain is the most troubling of the symptoms related to injury, inflammation or arthritis occurring in the CMC joint. It will often cause difficulty doing basic activities such as gripping items, and attempting to do so often causes the greatest pain. Swelling, stiffness and tenderness in the surrounding area are all further symptoms of thumb joint pain. During the early stages pain, it is likely that pain will only occur during or after use of the thumb. However, as the condition progresses you may find there is thumb joint pain even while it is at rest. As it gets worse, motion and strength will become limited and simple daily activities such as opening doors and holding a pen to write will be increasingly difficult and painful.

The most effective treatment for joint pain

The most effective way to treat thumb joint pain is by allowing plenty of time for it to rest and refrain from using it as much as possible. A thumb splint may be required in order to do this. Depending on the cause of the pain, the time it takes to heal will vary. There are anti-inflammatory medicines and creams that can help to speed up recovery and ice therapy is another option to effectively reduce the inflammation. Massaging an ice cube over the area for a few minutes at a time is all that is needed. When these treatments don’t appear to be effective there are injections available.

There are also physical therapy exercises that can be done to help improve the motion, strength and dexterity of the thumb. Make sure to see a hand specialist, as the joint in the thumb are very complex. Ultrasound is also sometimes used as it promotes healing, as is iontophoresis, which utilises electrodes to administer anti-inflammatory medication directly to the area.


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