. Thumb Arthritis: Lifestyle Modifications & Home Remedies to Ease Symptoms | Advanced Hand

Thumb Arthritis: Lifestyle Modifications & Home Remedies to Ease Symptoms

Woman experiencing some wrist pain

When people hear the word “arthritis”, the first thing that comes to mind would probably be the knee joint. It is not surprising as the knees are most commonly affected – in fact, 96% of knee replacement surgeries performed in Singapore are for osteoarthritis.
However, arthritis does not just affect the knees, but also the hands and wrists which we use to grip things and complete activities on a daily basis.   

Learn more: A Guide to Hand and Wrist Arthritis  

Thumb arthritis, also known as basal joint arthritis, is a fairly common condition that affects more women than men and tends to develop in patients above the age of 40. As the smooth cartilage covering the ends of the bones wears away, friction occurs and results in damage to the joint surfaces. Symptoms such as pain, swelling, tenderness and a bony prominence over the thumb joint then develop over time, limiting your ability to perform daily tasks with your hands and hence, affecting your quality of life.    

Luckily, there are simple lifestyle modifications and home remedies that will help to ease symptoms of thumb arthritis before you decide to take medications or undergo surgery. Keep reading to find out what they are. 

1. Wear a splint or brace

Support for wrist injury

Your hand specialist may suggest that you wear a splint or brace, a non-invasive treatment method to manage the symptoms of thumb arthritis. The splint or brace provides support while limiting thumb and wrist movements for pain relief and to allow your joint ample rest. You may only need to wear it at night, but may also be asked to wear the splint in the day for more severe cases so as to encourage the proper positioning of your joint while you complete daily tasks.  

2. Use adaptive equipment  

Certain actions or movements that the average person does on a daily basis may become challenging if you suffer from thumb arthritis. For instance, using strength to open a tight jar bottle can be extra taxing on your joint and cause more pain, which is why using adaptive equipment like a jar opener in your day-to-day life is important. When you avoid putting unnecessary stress on your thumb joint, symptoms like pain, tenderness and swelling reduce in return.   

3. Replace commonly used items  

Similarly, common items like door knobs that require you to grasp with your thumb can exacerbate the symptoms you experience with thumb arthritis. Hence, make your life easier by replacing such items with more arthritis-friendly ones, such as a lever handle that does not require you to twist with your thumb.   

4. Apply a cold or hot compress  

Cold compress for wrist injury While the tips mentioned above require a bit more effort, applying a cold or hot compress to your thumb joint is one of the easiest home remedies to ease symptoms. Applying an ice pack to your thumb for about 15 minutes can help to numb the pain temporarily and reduce swelling. For others, using heat is more effective in reducing stiffness.  

5. Do thumb exercises  

If simple home remedies do not seem to be effective in easing the symptoms of thumb arthritis, putting in the time to complete daily thumb exercises may be more beneficial. The exercises aim to promote circulation, prevent stiffness and restore strength and flexibility to your joint. Here are some to try:

  • Thumb IP flexion 
  • Place your forearm and hand on the table, then point your affected thumb up.
  • Hold the thumb firmly just below the joint with your other hand.
  • Bend the tip of your thumb downward and repeat 8 to 12 times.
  • Thumb MP flexion
  • Place your forearm and hand on the table, then point your affected thumb up.
  • Hold the base of your thumb and palm steady with your other hand.
  • Bend your thumb downward so that it meets your palm and repeat 8 to 12 times.
  • Thumb opposition
  • Using your affected hand, point your fingers and thumb straight up while relaxing your wrist. 
  • Touch your affected thumb to each finger, one at a time. Make sure to keep the rest of your fingers straight and pointing up. 
  • Repeat 8 to 12 times. 
See a hand specialist in Singapore for your thumb arthritis  

Wrist checkup by doctor It is advisable to see a hand specialist if your thumb arthritis is greatly affecting your life or these lifestyle modifications and home remedies do not seem to be working.   
You may require more intensive treatments, such as taking medications and injections or even undergoing surgery for long-lasting relief.   
Learn more: Things to Expect After a Hand Surgery in Singapore  

Reach out to our hand specialist, Dr Jacqueline Tan, at Advanced Hand, Wrist & Nerve Centre to find out more about your options.   

Get in touch here!