What is Basal Joint Osteoarthritis?

Basal joint osteoarthritis is a common condition that occurs with aging. Also known as thumb arthritis, it is caused by the wearing away of cartilage at the base of the thumb and can cause swelling and pain. As a result of the pain, you can experience weakness in the thumb and a decreased range of motion, making everyday tasks usually taken for granted more difficult. In the worst cases of basal joint arthritis, surgery may be necessary.


One of the first symptoms you would notice is pain in the thumb. This pain is usually at the base of the thumb and is felt most intensely while attempting to grip or pinch something or when you try to apply force using your thumb. Swelling, soreness, tenderness and stiffness are common symptoms as well. You may also notice an enlarged appearance in the joint at the base of your thumb, somewhat similar to that of gout in the big toe.


Generally, basal joint osteoarthritis commonly develops as you age. However, if you have suffered a previous injury to your thumb, particularly the joint at its base, you are more likely to develop this type of arthritis. Over time, when there is trauma to the cartilage around the thumb, there is less of a natural cushioning around it, leading to the bones rubbing against one another and causing pain and other symptoms.

Risk Factors

There are certain things that can put you more at risk of developing basal joint arthritis. Women, being over the age of 40 and being obese are big risk factors. If you have previously injured your thumb, specifically the joint, especially if you have suffered a sprain or fracture, you are more likely to develop the condition as well.

Additional risk factors include certain types of hereditary conditions, activities that put a great deal of stress on the thumb joint and certain diseases that can affect cartilage, such as rheumatoid arthritis.


When you go see a doctor about your pain and other symptoms, the doctor can make a diagnosis by examining your thumb joint for swelling and lumps. He or she will also take your symptoms into consideration and may give you an X-ray to check the bone and cartilage and whether there are any lost spaces in the joint.

Treatment Options

Surgery is a treatment option only if your basal joint arthritis is severe. If it isn’t as serious, there are a few non-invasive treatments you can try to ease your symptoms. Some of the most common treatment options include the following:

Medication: The doctor may prescribe pain relievers like tramadol or celecoxib or topical ointments like capsaicin or diclofenac. You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Splint: The doctor may apply a splint to your thumb to restrict movement. This is effective at relieving your pain, relaxing the joint and putting the joint in proper position
Injections: Corticosteroids may be injected into the thumb joint to relieve your pain if other treatments are ineffective. These injections can also reduce swelling and inflammation.

If you have basal joint osteoarthritis symptoms, seeing a doctor is essential. The sooner you seek treatment, the better you will feel. contact the staff at Plano Orthopedic Sports Medicine & Spine Center. The doctors there specialize in different areas of the body, including the feet, the neck, the spine, the back and the knee. Call for a consultation at 972-250-5700. Contact us today!