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As we age, most of us experience some form of joint pain or inflammation, also known as arthritis. In fact, 80 percent of Americans over 65 experience osteoarthritis. (A common degenerative form of arthritis in which the cartilage at the end of the bone starts to deteriorate.)

The thumb joint – or carpometacarpal (CMC) — is especially prone to arthritis, which can cause pain, swelling, and loss of motion or grip strength. These symptoms can make it difficult to perform simple tasks like opening jars, turning doorknobs, or squeezing a shampoo bottle. The pain and weakness can also make it almost difficult to pursue hobbies like knitting, gardening, and cooking.

Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do to slow or stop the progression of osteoarthritis, but there are many things we can do to greatly minimize or eliminate the pain and weakness. If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, it might be worth it to see a specialized hand and upper extremity surgeon or occupational hand therapist.

Below we have mapped out what going to see a specialist might look like:

Initial Examination

When you visit your doctor, you’ll discuss your symptoms and your doctor will perform a physical examination. If your doctor suspects you have arthritis, he or she will order x-rays to confirm.


If you do have arthritis, your doctor will likely first suggest a non-surgical approach such as anti-inflammatory medications, ice, supportive splints or braces, or steroid injections. If those options don’t alleviate your symptoms, your doctor can perform outpatient surgery.


After your surgery, expect 6 to 8 weeks of immobilization and therapy to help regain movement and strength. Most people respond very well to this surgery and are able to fully return to their normal activities after about a few months.

Learn about treatment options from any of the specialized hand and upper extremity orthopedic surgeons or hand therapists at DMOS Orthopaedic Centers.

*Disclaimer: The content of this blog is for informational purposes only. Please consult your healthcare professional for any medical questions. While we make every effort to ensure the information we share is accurate, we welcome comments, suggestions, or corrections of errors. This blog should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing a “standard of care” in legal sense or basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on this blog or website. In no way does listening, reading, emailing, or interacting on social media with our content establish a doctor-patient relationship. This blog is not medical advice. If necessary, please seek treatment immediately*
Melissa Merrifield

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