What is CMC Arthritis?

14 August 2017  |  John

If you’ve found that the base of your thumb has become painful or tender, or if grasping or pinching things causes discomfort, there’s a chance you may be suffering from CMC arthritis. Put simply, CMC arthritis is arthritis in the first carpometacarpal joint – the joint at the base of your thumb. 

This can be incredibly painful and disabling, making everyday tasks difficult if not impossible. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the CMC joint and is much more prevalent in elderly women than elderly men – up to 20 times more frequent.

What is the First Carpometacarpal Joint?

The CMC joints are the five joints in the wrist, and the first CMC joint is the joint at the base of the thumb. It’s vital for smooth thumb abduction and adduction, enabling you to grasp items with ease.

Because of this, anything which can affect the CMC joints can make it much more difficult and even painful to move the hand and wrist. This is why CMC arthritis can make it much more difficult to perform daily tasks.

How Does Arthritis Affect the CMC Joint?

The biggest effect of arthritis on the first CMC joint is on the ligaments of the joint. Arthritis is where joint cartilage wears down, bones rub together and swelling develops.

CMC Arthritis Affects The 1st CMC Joint At The Thumb Base
Without cartilage, the two bones rub together, causing swelling and pain.

As a result, the anterior oblique ligament (AOL) and the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) become elongated or in some cases absent, making thumb movement more difficult.

How Do I Know If I Have CMC Arthritis?

If you’re an elderly individual who suffers from arthritis, it’s vital that you can identify if your CMC joint has become affected to ensure you can get the support and help you need. 

CMC Arthritis Can Make Simple Tasks Like Grabbing Door Handles Painful & Uncomfortable
CMC arthritis can make tasks like grabbing door handles painful

As the thumb is an incredibly common area for arthritis to affect, it’s unfortunately quite likely that if you already have arthritis it will develop in the CMC joint. The key symptoms of CMC arthritis are:

  • Pain, swelling or tenderness at the base of your thumb
  • Pain with activities that involve gripping and pinching
  • Discomfort after prolonged use
  • Reduced gripping or pinching strength
  • Reduced motion
  • A bony bump over the joint

If you’re concerned about CMC arthritis, it’s vital to visit your doctor so that you can be properly diagnosed.

Treatment Options

In the early stages of CMC arthritis, you can ice the joint for 5 to 15 minutes multiple times a day. This will reduce swelling and pain, and can help to slow the progress of the condition. However, as the condition may worsen over time, the next stage of treatment involves a steroid injection into the joint. While it will help with the condition for several months, they can’t be repeated indefinitely

However, once CMC arthritis stops responding to non-surgical treatment, you may need to go under the knife to help with the condition. This will involve fusing the bones together or removing part of the joint and reconstructing it with a tendon graft.

As well as icing the joint, wearing a thumb support or splint can also help with CMC arthritis. By reducing movement of the thumb, the support protects both the thumb and the wrist. This helps to reduce pain and enables you to go about your day with greater ease.

CMC Arthritis at Wrist Supports

Here at Wrist Supports we feature a huge range of supports, braces and splints that have expertly designed to help sufferers of CMC Arthritis. If you’re looking for a comfortable all-day support or even a brace that’ll give you stability during sports, our wide selection of CMC arthritis supports has something for everyone. 

Take a look at our Wrist Supports for CMC Arthritis to find the right support for you.


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