Arthritis of the Thumb

How does rhizarthritis develop?

In the majority of cases, this condition affects the thumb, in particular, the area at the base of the thumb, just near the wrist. When the thumb is in a healthy state, the surfaces of the joint are covered in smooth cartilage, which is lubricated by a fluid known as synovial fluid. When your thumb joint is exposed to recurrent levels of high stress (knitting, construction and mechanics etc), this cartilage can become damaged, leading to a cracking and roughening of the surface. When this worn area becomes aggravated, it can get inflamed and swollen, causing pain and stiffness. Once this happens, you can’t move the thumb properly without pain, and while you can manage the issue, it can no longer be reversed.

Arthritis of the thumb can also occur as a result of injury, usually wrist fractures or sports. However this is relatively uncommon. Genetics and body type are the most common factors, and the condition is most common in women above 60.

Rhizarthrosis - therapy and prognosis

Unfortunately, once the cartilage is damaged, it cannot be restored. However, there are still many ways to treat and manage the condition non-surgically as well as surgical options. In mild to moderate cases, immobilisation of the joint with a splint or thumb support can work to effectively relieve the pressure and pain in the area. The use of anti-inflammatory medication can also be used to help manage the symptoms when they flare up. Physiotherapy with targeted stretches and exercises also work well in treating the issue.

This is done by focusing on maintaining strength and mobility in the joint, allowing for regular use and movement of the hand and thumb. Too much immobilisation or restriction of the thumb can have a counterproductive effect, progressing the degeneration of the thumb. Instead, the focus should be on keeping the damaged joint moving with as little pain as possible, to keep function and sensation.

Overall, it is important to note that you cannot stop the degeneration of the thumb joint, only slow it down and manage the symptoms.

Light movement exercises under supervision, a home exercise program and gentle mobilization treatment help maintain hand function.

The use of orthoses for rhizarthrosis - an important component of therapy

Thumb Support strap

One of the most important treatment principles for rhizarthrosis is the relief of the damaged cartilage. Just as important is providing a pain-free range of motion. For this reason, a brace such as the RhizoLoc is an important part of treatment for both conservative and postoperative treatment of rhizarthrosis . As part of conservative therapy, the RhizoLoc stabilises the saddle thumb joint and the metacarpophalangeal joint in a neutral central position, while allowing the fingers to remain free. The extent of the restriction of movement can be individually adjusted using an adjustable aluminium bracket and a Velcro strap. This will reduce pain as well as unwanted movements, and strain on the affected joint is avoided. Nevertheless, the hand remains usable in everyday life, as the fingers can move freely and easily. The RhizoLoc can be quickly and easily removed and put back on with the free hand to assess the joint, apply ointment or any other treatment. The thumb brace can be individually adjusted for optimal therapy results and is therefore extremely comfortable to wear on a daily basis.

After operations such as an arthroscopy or arthroplasty, the RhizoLoc - if necessary after the cast has been removed - protects and relieves the operated joint and thus supports rapid, risk-free healing. The active mobility of the fingers promotes blood circulation and lymph drainage, which in turn promotes healing and also reduces the risk of water retention in the tissue (edema).

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