Greater Manchester


Thumb Arthritis Treatment

What is Osteoarthritis (OA)?

It is the most common type of arthritis.  It is a progressive, degenerative condition affecting the smooth cartilage that protects the ends of the bone. This cartilage slowly becomes damaged and worn causing inflammation and pain.

What Causes Osteoarthritis (OA) of the Thumb?

The exact reason is not clear but several factors may increase the risks which are: – Diabetes, Rheumatoid conditions, Gout, Septic arthritis, previous thumb injuries and repetitive stress.

What Are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis (OA) of the Thumb?

Pain at the base of the thumb particularly during activities involving repetitive gripping or pinching, limited range of movement, stiffness (worse early morning), poor mobility and disturbed sleep are the more common symptoms.

What will physiotherapy consist of for Osteoarthritis (OA) of the Thumb?

Massage – Encompassing a variety of techniqus with sufficient pressure through the superficial tissue to reach the deep lying structures. It is used to increase blood flow, decrease swelling, reduce muscle spasm and promote normal tissue repair.

Mobilisation – A manual technique where the joint and soft tissues are gently moved by the therapist to restore normal range, lubricate tissues and relieve pain.

Ultrasonic Therapy – Transmits sound waves into the tissues stimulating the body’s chemical reactions and healing process, just as shaking a test tube in the laboratory speeds up a chemical reaction. It reduces tissue spasm, accelerates healing and results in pain relief.

Interferential Therapy – Introduces a small electrical current into the tissues and can be used at varying frequencies for differing treatment effects. E.g. pain relief, muscle or nerve stimulation, promoting blood flow and reducing inflammation.

What other treatments could be used for Osteoarthritis (OA) of the Thumb?

Acupuncture – An oriental technique putting needles into the skin to increase or decrease energy flow promoting pain relief and healing.

Injection Therapy – A specialist procedure which needs the consent of your G.P. A non-harmful steroid and local anaesthetic are injected directly into the injured structure. It has a dramatic effect on removing inflammation and promoting healing.

Taping/Strapping/Bracing or Splinting – May be used if thought necessary to restrict abnormal movement and prevent further damage.

What can you do yourself to help Osteoarthritis (OA) of the Thumb?

Exercise programme – This is the most important part of the rehabilitation, your therapist will instruct you as to which exercises to begin with, when to add the others, as well as how to progress the exercises.

Active Rest – Keep active but avoid activities that aggravate your condition.

Apply an ice pack – For a maximum of 20 minutes. A bag of frozen peas wrapped in a damp cloth works well because it moulds to the shape of the tissues. Ensure that you do not apply ice directly to the skin as this can cause an ice burn.

Medication – Ask your GP or Pharmacist for advice on the best medication for your condition.

What if physiotherapy does not help or resolve Osteoarthritis (OA) of the Thumb?

It is very rare that physiotherapy does not resolve this condition, in these cases we would initially recommend injection therapy or we will refer you on for further investigation.

If you think you may have this condition we would love the opportunity to show you our expertise in the treatment and management of this condition so Please click here for details of how to contact us to book an appointment

If you are unsure whether you have this condition or you would just like to speak to somebody then please get in touch here or call 0161 745 7551.