What is Thumb Basal Joint Irritation?

24 August 2017

The basal joint is at the base of the thumb, and allows it to move freely as you type, grip and hold things. Because of its design, it is particularly prone to irritation when overused through the wear and tear of daily life, and is even prone to developing arthritis. We at Wrist Supports thought we would put together a handy guide to understanding thumb basal joint irritation and how you can prevent it.

What is the Thumb Basal Joint?

Medically referred to the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint, the basal joint is found at the base of the thumb. It allows you thumb to move around so that you can perform small motor tasks such as pinching and gripping. Located in the wrist with all the other carpal and metacarpal bones, it is important in carrying out regular thumb motion and dexterity, and if it is damaged or irritated, it can make simple tasks seem nigh on impossible.

What is Thumb Basal Joint Irritation?

Like every other joint in the body, the basal joint is surrounded by cartilage to allow for smooth and effortless movement. If the cartilage around that area starts to wear away or become inflamed, this can interfere with the basal joint, causing it to become rough and grind with other joints due to lack of cushioning or regular function. There's no particular pattern to how it can be developed, as this joint is particularly prone to wear and tear from normal use of the hand, however a lot of people seem to be prone to irritation to the basal joint, particularly if they have osteoarthritis.

What are the Symptoms for Thumb Basal Joint Irritation?

The first sign of irritation of the basal joint is usually a dull ache at the base of the thumb when you are involved in tasks that involve pinching or gripping. You will most likely feel it when you try to pinch or grasp something between your thumb and forefinger, and you might also feel it when turning a key in a lock, snapping your fingers, or twisting a door handle.

Over time, you may notice weakness in your pinch, decreased strength and range of motion in that area of the hand. You may not be able to grasp onto items as tightly, such as when opening a jar, holding a drink, or zipping up your jacket. You may also see swelling and inflammation at the base of your thumb, which can be quite painful and make simple tasks seem impossible to accomplish.

 Thumb Basal Joint Irritation can be pretty painful and get in the way of your daily life

Thumb Basal Joint Irritation can be pretty painful and get in the way of your daily life

How Can I Treat Thumb Basal Joint Irritation?

Recognising the symptoms early means that you have a better chance of treating and preventing the irritation in your thumb from getting worse. Try to avoid repetitive actions that involve pinching and twisting, take regular breaks, and try to avoid clenching your hands when you carry items. Icing your thumb for fifteen minutes after particularly strenuous activities can also be known to help.

If the irritation in your thumb is slightly more advanced, many over-the-counter pain relief and anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce swelling and make the pain more manageable. In the worst case scenario, your doctor may recommend surgery to realign the bones and tendons in your thumb to help them return to normal function. While this is easily accomplished, it can take a while to recover and regain strength again after the procedure.

How Wrist Supports Can Help

The best method by far for reducing irritation in the basal joint of the thumb is to wear a splint. A wrist support or splint can help provide relief for your thumb and wrist by limiting movement so that your joints can rest. A support will train the joints in your hand to move back to the correct position, which will help ease the pain, and you can even wear some while you sleep!

See our full range of thumb and wrist supports especially for thumb basal joint irritation by clicking the link below.


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