Many people get soreness at the base of their thumbs. Sometimes it can hurt up the outside of your forearm or perhaps up the thumb itself. It may start out as an ache that never quite goes away. You might wake in the morning with some stiffness in the thumb that eases after a few minutes or up to an hour later. As the day goes on it may behave and you might just get occasional twinges. In the evening the ache may be back again constantly. Over time your thumb start to ache all of the time and the pain may not go away. Eventually you may find the pain eases as your thumb becomes progressively stiffer…
This is a very truncated description of how wear and tear arthritis may behave. In the beginning the joint has had a sprain due to being a bit worn and may swell up. As the swelling goes away the joint is left a bit stiff. This leaves you susceptible to a re-injury and over time, if you do nothing, you can arrive at the result I just described.
Luckily, if you catch things early there is a chance you can minimise or even prevent this condition from becoming a problem. The basic exercise program is as follows:
- 1. Use an elastic band or something similar to provide a slight resistance to the movements that need to be performed.
- 2. Start out by just performing movements in simple planes and be gentle. The exercises are meant to be painless and should be carried out painlessly.
- 3. The resistance needs to be below the two obvious joints , above the wrist but below the knuckle level.
- 4. Use the elastic to provide a little resistance, do not try to stop your thumb moving. This is not supposed to be a battle.
- 5. The thumb can move up and down vertically or in and out horizontally. You need to resist both directions. Repeat each movement 6-10 times, 2-4 times a day.
- 6. Don’t forget to try not to overload the thumb while it is sensitive/stiff. If necessary you can wear a temporary support or use strapping to limit the movement of the joint so it does not take any weight in a position where it is sensitive.
I have used these exercises myself after spraining my thumb a number of times in sport and I have also given them to elderly patients who have had no difficulty performing them as instructed. Give it a try but be sure that you allow yourself a week or two before you decide if the exercises are helping or not. Your body often has had a long time to develop a problem even if you only recently noticed it. You need to give it time to recover if you want it to work more comfortably.