Thumb pain can affect anyone. After all, the metacarpophalangeal joint of the thumb is subjected to constant strain. Everyday activities that are associated with simple gripping and light physical effort are enough, as is the case during housework or gardening. Excessive strain can also be attributed to exertion at work. If the pain in your thumb joint keeps recurring, it’s important to find the cause and start countermeasures early.
If the same movements are carried out over and over, the risk of the carpometacarpal joint of the thumb being subjected to excessive strain over the years increases. If a certain threshold is exceeded without allowing the joint a rest for recovery, inflammation may be a consequence. This may turn into chronic processes, often osteoarthritis of the first carpometacarpal joint, i.e. osteoarthritis of the thumb. This permanent damage to the articular cartilage can cause serious problems in the long term.
Causes of pain in the thumb joint
The carpometacarpal joint of the thumb is the connection between the base of the thumb and the carpal bones. It’s crucial for thumb mobility and, as one of the joints most subjected to strain, often affected by degenerative processes – like osteoarthritis of the first carpometacarpal joint we mentioned in the beginning of this article. In addition, pain in the thumb joint can be caused by the following:
- Excessive strain
- Fractures: in cases of the Bennett Fracture, the break occurs around the base of the first metacarpal bone and reaches all the way to the carpometacarpal joint of the thumb. When the scaphoid bone is fractured, those affected can barely join their index finger and thumb because of the pain.
- Rupture of the thumb’s collateral ligament (skier’s thumb)
- Ganglion: if a ganglion develops, it can exert pressure on the ligaments, muscles, and nerves in the area of the thumb, and cause pain.
Pain in the thumb joint: impact of genes and nutrition
In addition to these triggers, genes can also contribute to a thumb joint condition. A congenital predisposition may not trigger these processes but it advances them.
Furthermore, the impact of nutrition is consistently being discussed. High meat consumption can be a factor for some people being more prone to pain in the thumb joint than others.
To get a definitive answer relating to the triggers of your problems, you should have a physician examine you and explain your symptoms in great detail.
Damage to the thumb joints: recognizing and preventing symptoms
At an advanced age, joint damage and pain are very common. Depending on the condition, they may reduce during movement or get worse. Some pain in the thumb joint is associated with stiffness in the early morning hours, which reduces over the course of the day.
It’s just as possible, however, that these problems only occur during certain movements while the thumbs can otherwise be subjected to a high degree of strain. If the symptoms also occur in other joints, there is a risk of a general joint condition (rheumatism) which can be caused by “autoimmune processes”. This assumption can be confirmed with a blood test, which generally also provides an indication for the necessary treatment.
Furthermore, in cases of repetitive movements during leisure time or at work, you should check whether the relevant activity is too strenuous. On the one hand, pain in the thumb joint affects those who work by exerting force and, on the other hand, perform strenuous tasks without breaks.
Behavior during leisure time also plays an important role: tapping around on the smartphone for hours on end puts a strain on all finger joints, including the thumb. Even today, physicians can see dangerous consequences for young people.
Treating pain in the thumb joint: protection and stabilization
So the carpometacarpal joint of the thumb can recover, rest is particularly important. Heat and massages are highly suitable to relax the joints and tendons of the hands. If inflammation has been detected, on the other hand, cold treatments are recommended. Physical therapists will also check whether the arms’ muscles, tendons, and fasciae are also affected and therefore need to be treated. Adhesions are often diagnosed that can be caused by minor injuries or inflammation. Using various therapeutic hand exercises and when trained to use the hands and arms carefully, those affected can learn how to relieve their carpometacarpal joint of the thumb during work and leisure time.
A thumb splint offers support
This protective and relieving process can be supported by a thumb splint, such as our RhizoLoc orthosis that is attached to the wrist with a Velcro tab. It significantly restricts the mobility of the thumb joint, thus providing relief to the injured or impaired structures. Additionally, the breathable material of the thumb splint allows it to be used during exercise and offers the necessary support during everyday activities and at work.