Generated with Avocode.

Thumb carpalmetacarpal (CMC), arthritis

Arthritis at the joint at the base of the thumb, or the carpalmetacarpal (CMC) joint is very common. When osteoarthritis occurs at this joint, the cartilage begins to wear down creating painful bone on bone friction.

Causes and risk factors

  • Females are more susceptible than men
  • Over 40 years of age
  • Doing activities with repetitive stress
  • Prior injury
  • Obesity


  • Sharp or burning pain when gripping or pinching
  • Swelling, stiffness, and limited motion at base of thumb
  • Lack of strength in grip and pinching activities
  • Bone spurs/thickening around the base of the thumb

Diagnosis and treatment

Most people that have thumb arthritis will notice that their symptoms gradually worsen over time. In most cases, the diagnosis can be made based on a physical exam and x-rays. Treatment varies depending on each patient’s goals and symptoms. The following are nonsurgical treatment options:

  • Activity modification
  • Massage
  • Over the counter NSAID’s (ibuprofen or naproxen)
  • Anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric or ginger
  • Topical pain relief creams/gels
  • Occupational/physical therapy
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Prescription anti-inflammatory medications

If these treatments are not working, surgery may provide pain relief and/or improved function.