Basal Joint Osteoarthritis

Basal joint osteoarthritis is a degeneration of cartilage in the joints at the base of the thumb. This area is collectively called the basal joint and the main component of this structure is the thumb carpometacarpal (CMC) joint. This joint allows the thumb to pivot and swivel but can wear out early in life.


Basal joint osteoarthritis is caused by aging, repetitive motion or wear and tear that occurs during normal use of the hand. It typically results from weakness of the volar break ligament, which normally helps maintain joint stability. The thumb can begin to move abnormally and the joint becomes irritated or inflamed when this ligament weakens. When this occurs, the cartilage that lines the joint gradually degenerates, allowing the bone to rub directly against bone. As osteoarthritis worsens in the CMC joint, other articulations of the basal joint can become affected as well.


The most common symptom from basal joint osteoarthritis is pain at the base of thumb when gripping or pinching. A grinding sensation may be felt when the thumb is moved as it may become weak and stiff. As the condition worsens, the joint may become deformed and a bump can develop where the thumb meets the wrist.


Your doctor will order for x-rays to be taken of the wrist and hand to diagnose the condition. MRI or CT scans are usually not required.


Treatment options for basal joint osteoarthritis include cortisone injections, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, use of a splint or brace, exercise and modifications of daily activity. If the condition is severe, orthopedic surgery may be needed.

Osteoarthritis Care in Chicago

If you’re experiencing the painful symptoms of this basal joint condition, contact IBJI today for compassionate osteoarthritic hand care in Chicago. The Illinois Bone & Joint Institute provides the solutions you’ll need to restore your range of motion and free your body of pain.

About Basal Joint Surgery

Pain in the basal joint caused by arthritis makes it difficult for patients to grip, hold or twist objects between the thumb and fingers. Basal joint surgery removes and rebuilds the basal joint, restoring full function.

Accessing the Joint

An orthopedic hand and wrist surgeon makes an incision at the lower section of the thumb and wrist area where the basal joint is located.

Joint Removed

The surgeon will then remove the diseased joint by cutting and clearing away the lower portion of the thumb metacarpal. The trapezium bone at the base of the thumb may also be taken out.

Tendon Reshaped

A section of tendon is taken from another part of the patient’s own wrist or arm. This graft is reshaped into a bundle that will fit into the cleared joint.

End of Procedure

The graft bundle is placed into the open space of the joint. After the surgery site heals, the bundle of tendon graft will act as a cushion for the new basal joint.

Basal Joint Surgery in Illinois

Efficient, pain-free use of the hands and wrist are very important throughout everyday life. Without them, daily activities become much more difficult. The Illinois Bone & Joint Institute is well prepared to assist you with any condition you may be experiencing by offering cutting-edge orthopedic hand and wrist treatments. Contact IBJI today to learn more about the services available.

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