Thumbs are a very common location for the development of painful arthritis. With how often we use our hands daily, it can be severely debilitating to lose function in your thumbs. Thumbs are subject to many specific types of arthritis, but the most common form is osteoarthritis. Read below to learn more about osteoarthritis, the impact it can have on your daily activities, and what a hand therapist can to to help.
In osteoarthritis, the damage occurs as the cartilage that protects the ends of bones wears away. As the cartilage thins, the joint space narrows, and motion during activities creates friction that results in inflammation, pain, and further cartilage loss. As the joint continues to deteriorate, it becomes stiff or unstable with a significant loss of strength when gripping or pinching objects.
Initially, people experience pain primarily with forceful gripping and pinching, but as the joint deteriorates, even light activities such as turning doorknobs can become problematic. Range of motion frequently becomes limited, especially the ability to move the thumb away from the hand, as you would when preparing to grasp a large object. Common activities such as opening containers, turning keys, and even opening or closing Ziploc bags can cause sharp pain at the Carpal Metacarpal joint (CMC joint or thumb joint), and significantly limit hand use.
A hand therapist can make you a custom splint to support the CMC joint which can minimize pain, improve stability and strength, and slow further deterioration of the joint. Therapists can assist in the improvement of thumb range of motion, the strengthening of thumb stabilizing muscles, and the reduction of inflammation. As of now, restorative therapies are in their budding stages for osteoarthritis. If you want to learn more about restorative therapies for osteoarthritis, we have a talk about this very subject coming up on May 1st from 6:30 PM -7:30 PM at our South Lake Union location.
A hand therapist also can provide education for joint protection techniques so you can continue to participate in the activities you love, both at work and at home. Simple modifications such as using an electric can opener, spring assist scissors for cutting, and enlarged pen grips when writing can be effective strategies. These strategies can minimize the damaging joint stressors and pain that can prevent you from doing the things you could do in the past.
You don’t have to live with joint pain and a decrease in your function, click here to schedule an appointment today. For a custom split, or more tips on how to modify your daily tasks to decrease your hand pain, schedule an appointment at one of our many convenient locations! Click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page for a list of locations that specialize in hand therapy.