Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

In the early stages of thumb arthritis, treatment usually involves a combination of non-surgical therapies. If your thumb arthritis is severe, surgery might be necessary.

Splint

A splint can support your joint and limit the movement of your thumb and wrist. You might wear a splint just at night or throughout the day and night.

Splints can help:

  • Decrease pain
  • Encourage proper positioning of your joint while you complete tasks
  • Rest your joint

Medication

To relieve pain, your doctor might recommend:

  • Over-the counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen (Aleve)
  • Prescription pain relievers, such as celecoxib (Celebrex) or tramadol (Conzip, Ultram)

Injections

If pain relievers and a splint aren't effective, your doctor might recommend injecting a long-acting corticosteroid into your thumb joint. Corticosteroid injections can offer temporary pain relief and reduce inflammation.

Surgery

If you don't respond to other treatments or if you're barely able to bend and twist your thumb, your doctor might recommend surgery. Options include:

  • Joint fusion (arthrodesis). The bones in the affected joint are permanently fused. The fused joint can bear weight without pain, but has no flexibility.
  • Osteotomy. The bones in the affected joint are repositioned to help correct deformities.
  • Trapeziectomy. One of the bones in your thumb joint (trapezium) is removed.
  • Joint replacement (arthroplasty). All or part of the affected joint is removed and replaced with a graft from one of your tendons.

These surgeries can all be done on an outpatient basis. After surgery, you can expect to wear a cast or splint over your thumb and wrist for up to six weeks. Once the cast is removed, you might have physical therapy to help you regain hand strength and movement.

May 14, 2015

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