Healthy Minute: Pain or Loss of Motion in Your Thumb Joint?

Healthy Minute: Pain or Loss of Motion in Your Thumb Joint?

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.

If you suspect you or a loved one have arthritis in your hand or thumb joint, learn about treatment options from Andrew Taiber, an orthopedic surgeon at DMOS Orthopaedic Center who specializes in hand and elbow conditions.

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, Taiber said. 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. Taiber said most people respond very well to this surgery and are able to fully return to their normal activities after about a few months.

“If you’re having pain or weakness in this area, it’s worth getting it checked out,” Taiber said.

“Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do to slow or stop the progression of osteoarthritis. But if you have arthritis, there are lots of things we can do to greatly minimize or eliminate the pain and weakness.”