The major cause of pain and disability in Australia is arthritis with more than 3.85 million people affected. Osteoarthritis (OA) at the base of the thumb is particularly common in post menopausal women and can be attributed to various hereditary, environmental, hormonal and anatomical factors. These factors can combine to increase pressure on the joint surface resulting in wear and tear. On X-ray as many at 33% of people will show arthritic changes at this joint but only 30% of these people will actually report pain. It is well known the severity of symptoms such as pain does not necessarily correlate with the severity of arthritis on an X-ray.
The most common problem for people with OA here is pain which is often a dull ache felt at the base of the thumb. Activities which aggravate this pain include turning keys, writing, holding plates, opening jars/bottles and any activity which requires manipulating objects in the hand.
Restrictions in these type of activities are difficult to avoid and can affect jobs around the house, work, driving..and most importantly for some….golf!
The most common ways to manage this condition include:
- Splinting or Bracing: this aims to support the thumb and allows people to perform previously painful activities without pain
- Exercises: Exercise programs which include range of motion, proprioception, nerve glides and strengthening are beneficial
- Education: to assist in activity modification and in the use of various gadgets that can make living with OA at the base of thumb easier
- Surgery: Following a trial of conservative management some people who complain of persistent pain may benefit from seeing a surgeon.
So the aim of seeing a SquareOne Physiotherapist would be to improve your pain-free gripping and pinching with the hand, maintain the movement in the hand and reduce pain. The sooner you address any issues you are having at this joint the easier it is to reduce your symptoms.