Self-care measures can help relieve pain, improve mobility and ultimately increase your independence. Here's what may help:
- Perform range-of-motion exercises. Exercises that move your thumb through its full range of motion can help improve your joint's mobility. Your doctor or a hand therapist can demonstrate the specific techniques.
- Modify hand tools. Consider purchasing jar openers, key turners and large zipper pulls designed for people with limited hand strength. Enlarge the handles on garden tools, kitchen utensils and writing devices — or buy items with large handles. Replace traditional door handles, which you must grasp with your thumb, with levers. Adaptive equipment is often available by catalog. Ask your doctor or hand therapist for recommendations.
- Apply heat or cold. Your doctor may recommend using heat or cold — or alternating between them to help relieve swelling and pain and to soothe your joints.
- Avoid hand clenching when you carry things. Choose a purse with a sturdy elbow or shoulder strap instead of a short handle. Instead of using grocery bags with handles, use boxy paper bags you can balance on your hip and arm.
Talk to your doctor about other equipment and ideas that may be helpful for you.
June 19, 2012
- Arthritis of the thumb. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00210. Accessed March 27, 2012.
- Anakwe RE, et al. Osteoarthritis at the base of the thumb. British Medical Journal. 2011;343:1.
- Hochberg MC, et al. American College of Rheumatology 2012 recommendations for the use of nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic therapies in osteoarthritis of the hand, hip and knee. Arthritis Care & Research. 2012;64:465.
- Arthritis: Base of the thumb. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. http://www.assh.org/PUBLIC/HANDCONDITIONS/Pages/ArthritisBaseofthe.aspx. Accessed March 27, 2012.
- Osteoarthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Osteoarthritis/default.asp. Accessed March 29, 2012.
- Crop JA, et al. Doctor, my thumb hurts. The Journal of Family Practice. 2011;60:329.
- Imbodin JB, et al. Current Rheumatology Diagnosis & Treatment. 2nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2007. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aid=2729561. Accessed March 29, 2012.
- Self-help arthritis devices. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritistoday.org/treatments/self-treatments/arthritis-devices-print.php. Accessed March 29, 2012.
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