Thumb arthritis

Dr. Alon Covo

Thumb arthritis is the most common condition of degenerative disease of a joint in the human palm.

Cause of Thumb Arthritis

Thumb arthritis is caused by grinding of the cartilage coating the bone edges composing the joint.

Frequency of Thumb Arthritis

The reasons for appearance of thumb arthritis are many. In many cases thumb arthritis appears in women (at a 10:1 proportion compared to men) above the age of 40. Genetics affect the appearance of arthritis, for example the general flexibility of ligaments and joint diseases such as Rheumatoid arthritis.

Injury of the cartilage of the thumb base joint, which could be a high-energy injury, such as a fall, injury to the hand holding the steering wheel during a car accident and so on.

Micro-trauma – repeated motion while straining the joint as in jobs require the holding of small objects between the fingers and the thumb (diamond grinders, jewelers, dental technicians and so on).

Changes to the thumb base joint are created as a result of the injury with the grinding of cartilage from the bone edges on both sides of the joint and the formation of bone spikes. All of this causes the grinding of bone on bone with an accompanying inflammatory response and deterioration of the joint damage.

Characteristics of Thumb Arthritis

A pain appearing initially when grabbing objects between the thumb and other fingers develops into a chronic pain even when not using the thumb. Swelling and edema around the joint. Outward protruding of the joint causing the appearance of a "square palm". A reduction in motion ranges of the thumb with a difficulty in conducting daily activities such as opening bottles, lifting plates or books and so on.

Diagnosing Thumb Arthritis

Feeling by hand – checking of the source of pain.

Movement – moving the joint might lead to a feeling of "screeching" predicting the grinding of cartilage.

Imaging tests – X-Ray Radiographies of the palm base joint show: a reduction in joint distance, the appearance of bone spikes on both sides of the joint, sub-sprain of the thumb base joint as an expression of joint injury.

Treating Thumb Arthritis

Conservative treatment - including changes in work/sport/hobby patterns.

Thumb support splint - allows the thumb to rest and reduces the pain. Keeps the joint in a correct position.



Pharmaceutical treatment - pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications,

If the situation does not improve, an injection of cortisone - a strong anti-inflammatory medication which usually brings about a pause in the inflammatory process lasting for a longer period of time than oral treatment.


Surgical treatment -

If the conservative treatment does not ameliorate the condition and if the pain lead to a significant reduction of movement ranges and thus harm the quality of life, it is possible to consider a surgical treatment to solve the problem:

Arthrodesis - binding together the two bones forming the damaged joint. After the binding there is no more movement so the pain stops.

Osteotomy - cutting the bone in order to achieve a different axis and reduce the stress on damaged areas of the joint.

Trapezictomy - removal of one of the two bones forming the thumb base joint and thus stopping friction and the accompanying pain. This is the most common operation for solving this proble,.

Joint replacement (arthroplasty) - removal of the damaged joint planes of the thumb base joint and implantation of an artificial joint made of silicone, metal or plastic.

After these operations there is need for treatment with a cast for several weeks and then rehabilitation, physical therapy and occupational therapy. Normally the rehabilitation lasts approximately 6 months until the thumb returns to normal function.


In case of a fracture without risk of damage to the joint's stability it is possible to treat it using a splint as described above. In this case the splint has to be set for 4-6 weeks and follow-up uses X-Ray Radiography. e e e

"Shiba" Medical Center Tel HashomerHand surgery department

Ramat GanShai Medical Center– Private Medical Service Tel Hashomer, 4th Gildsgaim St.

Kfar Saba: Eli Horowitz 12.

Postal AddressDr. Alon Covo, 10th HaGanim St.

P.O. Box 3824 Hod Hasharon 4522174.


Appointments and messages054-7232194

מרכז רפואי "שיבא" תל השומר: המחלקה לכירורגיה של היד

מרפאת רמת גן: מרכז רפואי שי- שר"פ תל השומר, רחוב גילדסגיים 4.

מרפאת כפר סבא: מדיקל השרון- רחוב אלי הורביץ 12.

כתובת למשלוח דואר: ד"ר אלון קובו, רחוב הגנים 10 ת.ד. 3824,

הוד השרון, 4522174


טלפון לזימון תורים והשארת הודעות: 054-7232194

המידע, העצות והתרגילים באתר הינם כללים וחלקיים בלבד ואינם באים להחליף יעוץ אישי מקצועי של רופא.

ד"ר קובו אינו אחראי לנזק שיגרם עקב הסתמכות על מידע זה, ולהתאמת או אי התאמת המידע, העצות והטיפולים לכל מטופל. המידע, העצות והתרגילים אינם מהווים תחליף או תוספת לפרוטוקול הרפואי.

המידע המובא באתר הינו כללי ומשותף לכלל הגולשים ולא חלה עליו סודיות מידע. בכל מקרה של סיבוך באזור הכאב או ספק או שאלה לגבי המידע שניתן באתר, יש לפנות מיד לרופא המטפל.

The information, advice and practices given in this web page are general and partial only and do not seek to replace professional personal advice given by a physician.

Dr. Covo bears no responsibility to any damage caused based on this information or to the degree in which the information, advice and treatment fit each and every patient. The information, advice and practices do not come as replacement or addition to the medical protocol. The information given in this site is general and common to all visitors and is not subject to confidentiality

In any case of complication in the area of the pain, of doubt or question about the information given in this web page, it is important to contact the treating physician immediately.