Arthritis is a condition that irritates or destroys a joint. Arthritis of the base of the thumb (also known as the basal joint) occurs when the smooth cartilage that covers the ends of the bones begins to wear away. This prevents the normal function of the thumb to swivel, pivot, and pinch so that you can grip things in your hand. This form of arthritis is more common in women than in men, and it usually occurs after the age of 40. Prior fractures or injuries may increase the likelihood of developing this condition.

Some of the conditions that can happen due to arthritis are the following:


  • CMC/Thumb Arthritis
  • Joint replacements
  • Acute flares

Rheumetoid Arthritis

  • Swan neck deformities - is a deformed position of the finger, in which the joint closest to the fingertip is permanently bent toward the palm while the nearest joint to the palm is bent away from it.
  • Ulnar drift - is a hand deformity in which the swelling of the metacarpophalangeal joints (the big knuckles at the base of the fingers) causes the fingers to become displaced, tending towards the little finger.
  • Boutonniere deformities - is a deformed position of the fingers or toes, in which the joint nearest the knuckle is permanently bent toward the palm while the farthest joint is bent back away.

Certified Hand Therapy Treatment Plan: After careful evaluation by the physical therapist, the first step in treating this condition is to reduce pain and inflammation. Treatments may include ice/heat, warm soaks, paraffin wax, and ultrasound and/or splint fabrication to support and limit the movement of the thumb.


After your initial prescription for therapy is completed, your physician and therapist will decide if you need to continue therapy or if you will be discharged to a home exercise program.


This information is provided as a learning resource for the benefit of our patients. It is NOT INTENDED to replace personal consultation with your medical professionals.

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