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7 Surprising Facts About Thumb Arthritis & How PT Can Help

Thumb arthritis is more than just an occasional twinge; it’s a condition that can impact your ability to carry out daily tasks and diminish your quality of life. As we turn our attention to this common condition, it is important to address key facts that many may find surprising about thumb arthritis. Equally vital is the exploration of how physical therapy plays a pivotal role in managing pain and restoring functionality.

Understanding Thumb Arthritis

Arthritis in the thumb, specifically at the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint, occurs when the cushioning cartilage wears away as a result of aging or stress on the joint. It can make activities such as opening jars, turning keys, or even writing incredibly painful and challenging. It is important to note that arthritis is a normal part of aging and is not always associated with pain or a loss of function.

  • Fact #1: Thumb Arthritis Is Common but Often Overlooked
    While many are concerned about knee or hip arthritis, thumb arthritis is less conspicuous but exceedingly prevalent. It’s mainly seen in individuals over 50, but can start to show signs earlier, especially if one engages in repetitive tasks that strain the thumb.
  • Fact #2: Women Are More Prone to Developing Thumb Arthritis
    Women are at a higher risk of developing thumb arthritis. This may be due to variances in hormone levels that could affect joint health. There is also research showing differences in joint anatomy between genders which may lead to the development of arthritis. 
  • Fact #3: Cracking Knuckles Doesn’t Cause Arthritis
    The pervasive myth that cracking knuckles boosts your risk of arthritis is unfounded. Studies have shown that this habit has no direct correlation with increased chances of developing arthritis in the thumbs.
  • Fact #4: There Are Multiple Treatment Options
    Options range from conservative treatments like thumb braces to reduce joint stress, to corticosteroid injections for inflammation, and as a last resort, surgery can be considered when other treatments don’t provide relief.
  • Fact #5: Diet and Exercise Affect Joint Health
    The role of a healthy diet and regular exercise can support joint health and may prevent the worsening of arthritic symptoms.
  • Fact #6: Physical Therapy Can Be Remarkably Effective
    Physical therapy can help significantly in reducing pain and improving one’s ability to participate in daily tasks without disruption. Various techniques will be implemented with the goal of reducing symptoms, improving function of the thumb, and establishing strategies to successfully manage arthritis going forward.
  • Fact #7: Small Lifestyle Changes Can Make a Big Difference
    Reducing stress on your thumbs through ergonomic tools and adaptive strategies can help manage symptoms. Simple changes like using a larger pen for writing or voice-to-text features on your phone can relieve undue stress.

Physical Therapy: A Closer Look

Physical therapy utilizes an individualized program that is designed to reduce symptoms and restore the function of the thumb. This typically includes a hands-on approach designed to improve joint mobility, reduce pain, and restore strength in the thumb and hand. Education is utilized throughout the process with the goal of helping the patient better understand the condition and gain a greater understanding of how to manage symptoms going forward.

  • Customized Exercise Regimens – Arthritic changes result in a loss of mobility at the joint leading to painful and disrupted movement. Treatment works on restoring mobility of the thumb and gradually progressing the strength of surrounding musculature to restore proper function of the thumb.
  • Pain Management Techniques – Joint mobilizations and soft tissue techniques are often used in the clinic to manage pain. Movement at the joint can also help reduce stiffness and pain. Arthritic patients typically experience a worsening of symptoms following periods of prolonged rest or immobility.
  • Preventative Measures and Education – Education will be utilized to help the individual gain a better understanding of the condition and gain a better understanding of how to successfully manage symptoms. Arthritis is not going to be reversed with physical therapy; however, that does not mean that individuals cannot successfully manage this condition. Education can go a long way in improving one’s ability to go about their day without pain or difficulty.

Moving Forward with Thumb Arthritis

Living with thumb arthritis requires understanding, adapting, and proactive management of the condition. By recognizing these surprising facts and investing in physical therapy as a cornerstone for treatment, individuals can effectively manage symptoms and maintain an active, pain-free lifestyle.

Schedule a consultation with one of our physical therapists today to get started on your journey to being pain-free![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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