Our thumb is one of the things that makes us so unique. It helps us manipulate objects and grip single handed. However, the  joint at the base of our thumb – the carpometacarpal joint (CMCJ) can wear out causing pain at the base of our thumb.

Pain at the base of the thumb can occur for many reasons including injuries, falls, sprains and fractures. Other causes may be De Quervains Tendonitis, nerve pain and arthritis.

By the time we’re in our 50-60’s around 10-30% of people experience pain and weakness due to osteoarthritis in their CMCJ.

How to treat pain at the base of the thumb

If you’re experiencing pain at the base of your thumb it’s important to get it checked out by a professional. At TBI Health, we have a team of specialist hand therapists who can assess the problem.

If your thumb pain is due to an injury it may require an x-ray, rest, ice, compression and elevation.

If it’s signs of tendonitis or osteoarthritis, you may experience swelling, redness or swollen joints and reduced movement in the thumb. It will need an assessment to determine the best treatment for you.

Preventing thumb pain

Many of us work with our hands – working at a computer, or lifting and handling objects or people. Like the rest of our body, it’s good to prevent problems happening by keeping our hands and thumbs in good shape. Keeping your thumb ligaments and muscles strong can help prevent thumb pain.

Here’s how Jane, one of our hand therapists describes it “Think of your thumb joint as a rider in a saddle. They’re not very stable. The stirrups and reins that help them stabilise in the saddle would be your ligaments and muscles holding your thumb in place. You can tighten one side and loosen another and still sit on the horse, but it will be uncomfortable. The same with the muscles and ligaments supporting your thumb.”

Exercises to stabilise your thumb and reduce pain

Here are some exercises that will help stabilise your thumb by helping your thumb stay in a good position.

Thumb lift. Hold your thumb in a hitchhiking position then bend the tip over. Try to move your thumb back and forth without extending the tip of your thumb.

Balancing a pen across your finger and thumb. Try to move the thumb along the length of the pen and back to the finger without the pen moving from the horizontal position with the table

Lying hand on the table. Move your index finger towards your thumb and back toward the rest of the hand.

Working with our hands means we have to take care of them to prevent pain and injury in the long-run. Helping us to keep doing the things we love to do!

Now is a great time to look after your hands to prevent pain and injury.

Book an appointment to see our specialist Hand Therapists who are experts in the treatment of hand and upper limb injuries.