Are you experiencing nagging thumb pain, and not sure how it came about? If you are over the age of 45, there's a chance you could be developing osteoarthritis in your thumb. Often the pain will increase with pinching, typing and fine gripping activities like buttoning and zipping. You may also notice your thumb makes a cracking sound or swells regularly.
What is thumb osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis, also know as OA, is related to the cartilage that covers the ends of your bones. This typically smooth cartilage helps the bones and joints glide easily and frictionless. When this cartilage starts to wear down, it can lead to irregularities on the surface of the joint. This could also lead to inflammation and a reduction in the smoothness of the bones in the joint, leading to reduced space in the joint.
Although OA may naturally occur as we age, it can be sped up if there is a history of injury to a joint, which may be from both an instant traumatic injury, or repetitive injury over time like keyboarding with your thumb.
Symptoms of thumb OA can include stiffness in your thumb in the morning with movement. Additionally, a crunching or cracking sound may be heard as a result of the irregular joint surfaces grinding against each other. You may also notice over time, and enlargement in the size of your thumb joint.
Your thumb is known as the first carpal metacarpal joint. It is the part of your thumb closest to the wrist. This joint can be susceptible to OA as we age. If there is the development of arthritis in this area, it is not reversible, but there are treatment interventions a physiotherapist can use to slow the progression, decrease pain, and improve function in your thumb.
How Can A Physiotherapist Help with Thumb Osteoarthritis?
First, a physiotherapist will be able to provide you with pain management education. This will include how to properly use modalities such as heat to alleviate pain, as well as a safe stretching program. They will also help guide you in how to reduce or modify the activities that may be contributing to aggravating the thumb OA symptoms. Secondly, they will provide you with the appropriate exercises to increase the stability, flexibility, and strength of your thumb to improve function.
If you are suffering from thumb pain or stiffness, contact us for more information, or to have one of our physiotherapists help provide relief for osteoarthritis.