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How to Relieve Thumb Joint Pain

By Dana Severson ; Updated July 27, 2017

When you suffer from thumb joint pain, it is most likely a result of arthritis, otherwise known as basal joint arthritis, a form of osteoarthritis. With this condition, you often experience pain and swelling. As the pain and swelling persist, you may notice a change in the strength and flexibility of your thumb, making it increasingly difficult to perform common tasks. However, there are a number of things you can do to relieve thumb joint pain, most of which are fairy easy.

Rest your thumb. Most of the time, the pain is a reaction to the irritation and inflammation caused by the arthritis. Continuing to use your thumb can exacerbate the situation and cause additional pain. By periodically resting the thumb, you're no longer irritating it and the inflammation may diminish.

Take a pain reliever or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). By using a pain reliever like acetaminophen, or a NSAID like ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen, you can lessen the inflammation and decrease the pain.

Immobilize the thumb with a spica splint, which has a thumb support. Much like rest, immobilizing the thumb stops further irritation and inflammation.

Apply a combination of cold and heat and alternate between them. To lessen inflammation and reduce pain, you should apply cold to the thumb for about 15 minutes at a time throughout the day. To loosen stiffened joints and relieve pain, apply heat.

Exercise your thumb. To ensure you maintain the full range of motion, you should do thumb exercises, like bending and straightening it, rotating the joints, and applying resistance.

Talk to your doctor about corticosteroids or even surgery. As the condition worsens, you may need to discuss treatment options. These would include corticosteroid injections, which lessen inflammation and reduce pain, or surgery, in which the joint is replaced, fused, or repositioned.


To make it easier to use the affected hand, "adaptive" equipment is available. These devices can help open doors and jars, and assist in putting on or removing clothing. They also include household tools specifically fashioned for people with this condition.

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