Basal Joint Arthroplasty
Basal joint arthroplasty is a type of surgery that helps treat basal joint arthritis. This type of arthritis happens when the cartilage in the joint at the base of your thumb wears down overtime, which is also called thumb arthritis. Because people use their hands for the simplest, everyday tasks, it is crucial that there is enough cartilage to cushion the basal joint. Without that cushion, the joints can become rough and grind around each other, which damages the joint. In this article, you will learn the causes and symptoms of basal joint arthritis, and how to treat thumb arthritis, with a focus on basal joint arthroplasty surgery.
What causes basal joint arthritis?
Typically, basal joint arthritis is caused by aging. Over the years, everyday activities can cause the joint to deteriorate. Another common cause is previous trauma or injury to the thumb joint. Examples of trauma include falling on your hands or suffering a direct blow to the base of your thumb.
What are the symptoms of basal joint arthritis?
Some common symptoms include hand pain and stiffness, decreased range of motion and strength, and deformity or change in appearance.
- Hand pain and stiffness. Typically, the first sign of arthritis is pain, stiffness, and tenderness in your thumb. You will most likely notice this new pain when you try to grab something using your thumb and index fingers. You might also notice pain or stiffness when you do movements that require some force, like unlocking a door or snapping your fingers.
- Decreased range of motion and strength. Over time, as your pain progresses, it can start to affect your hand’s strength and range of motion. This decreased range of motion can seriously impact your everyday life. You will find that you can no longer do the simplest actions that you might’ve previously taken for granted. For example, you might have trouble opening jars, holding drinks, using zippers or buttons, and doing other movements that utilize your small motor skills.
- Deformity or change in appearance. If you have basal joint arthritis, your thumb might look a little different than it usually does. Your thumb might look swollen or bony, especially at the base of your thumb.
How is basal joint arthritis diagnosed?
If you suffer from any of the above symptoms, make sure to visit your doctor as soon as possible. At your doctor’s appointment, your doctor will do a physical examination, ask you about your symptoms, and order imaging tests if needed.
- Physical examination. Your doctor will look at your hand and see if there are any noticeable lumps or swelling on your joints. Your doctor might move your thumb around while holding your joint. While doing this motion, your doctor will listen for any grinding sounds and ask you if you feel any pain or grittiness. If there is a grinding noise or if you feel pain, that most likely means that the cartilage protecting your joints has worn down. That grinding noise is the sound of your bones rubbing against one another.
- Symptoms. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms in order to have a better understanding of what you are going through, which will help them accurately diagnose you.
- Imaging tests. Some types of imaging tests, like an X-ray, can reveal if you have thumb arthritis. An X-ray can allow your doctor to get a better look at what is going on inside of your hand. For instance, an X-ray can detect things like bone spurs, loss of joint space, and worn-down cartilage, whereas the human eye cannot.
How is basal joint arthritis treated?
Once your doctor diagnoses you with basal joint arthritis, the next step is to discuss treatment plans. Here are some of the possible treatment plans that your doctor will recommend and prescribe:
- Medication. To relieve pain, your doctor might recommend that you take topical, over-the-counter, or prescription medications. Topical medications, like diclofenac and capsaicin, are applied on your skin. Over-the-counter pain relievers include medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Prescription medications include medications like tramadol and celecoxib.
- Splint. A splint can give your joint extra support and limit your range of movement so that your hand can heal.
- Injections. If other treatments are not working, your doctor might recommend that you get corticosteroid injections. These injections can relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
- Surgery. If no other treatments are working, or if your condition is severe, your doctor might recommend surgery. Some types of surgery include, joint fusion, osteotomy, and arthroplasty. Joint fusion will fuse the joints together so that you can do everyday activities without pain. Osteotomy repositions your bones in the affected area to help correct deformities. Arthroplasty is joint replacement surgery. Your surgeon will remove the affected joint and replace it with a graft from one of your tendons.
Treating basal joint arthritis at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants
Basal joint arthritis is a very painful condition that needs to be treated as soon as possible. At Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants, we understand how frustrating it can be to not be able to use your hands properly. Here, we have a highly qualified group of specialists that will make sure that you regain strength and range of motion in your injured hand.
If you are suffering from symptoms of basal joint arthritis or are recovering from basal joint arthroplasty, contact us today to book an appointment!
Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.