Thumbs Up for Treatment of Basal Joint Arthritis
Aug 21, 2014
Data on osteoarthritis of the hand and wrist, supplied by Arthritis Research UK, is said to be common in four areas; one being the basilar joint that joins the thumb and wrist. This research also states that one in six people in the UK sought treatment for the condition; that’s around 1.5 million people.
Basal joint arthritis is often misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome as many of the symptoms are similar. Like carpal tunnel syndrome, the exact cause of basal joint arthritis is unknown but repetitive load to the joint, joint ligament laxity, deformed joints and a prior fracture or injury to the thumb are thought to be among the most likely common causes.
Research also revealed that 6% of people with the condition are aged 45 and over, and with the condition affecting more women than men, 620,000 are working age women in the UK, between the ages of 45 and 64 years.
Hand therapy treatments from physical and occupational therapists, specialising in hand therapy, can be an option for basal joint arthritis. This can include teaching individuals with this condition how to control pain and swelling and improve hand function.
Ancillary measures include splints, education in joint protection techniques including the use of heat and cold, and in some cases, gentle exercise. For more severe cases or where pain and loss of function is not improved with these techniques, oral anti-inflammatory medication and injections may be the next step, following this, surgery may be the only option if the condition does not improve.
Surgery for basal thumb arthritis is carried out as an outpatient procedure. In the main, surgeons use one of two most common operations. One option is to fuse the bones of the joint together, but this limits thumb movement and is not favoured. A better and more popular alternative is to remove one of the diseased bones (operation called trapeziectomy) and reconstruct the ligaments using either a tendon graft or sling (this is called ligament reconstruction). A further option is to replace the joint with an artificial joint though the jury is still out on this.
Post-operative splints and therapy treatments are required to help restore motion and strength, either way, patients should expect a recovery period of several months before pain free movement is fully restored.
As a hand-surgery specialist, our surgeon, Mr Fortune Iwuagwu has extensive expertise in this area of hand surgery. For more information or to book an appointment call 08456 020 621.