Thumb Arthritis & Upper Extremity Treatment in Seattle, WA
What we know as the arm is composed of several different sections and joints: the hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Together, the hand and wrist contain a total of 35 bones (27 bones in the hand and 8 bones in the wrist). The upper arm bone (humerus) and the two bones that compose the forearm (radius and ulna) form the elbow joint.
The elbow is classified as a hinge joint, or a joint that only moves in one direction, while the shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint composed of the shoulder blade (scapula), upper arm bone (humerus), collarbone (clavicle), and a set of muscles that allow the joint to move in a circular motion. Throughout the arm, a complex system of ligaments and tendons connect the bones of the different joints together, while cartilage covers the bones and acts as a cushion during movement.
Causes and Treatments of Thumb Arthritis
Pain in the hand is often attributed to osteoarthritis, which causes the protective cartilage surrounding the bones of the thumb joint to wear away. As the cartilage wears away, the bones then begin to rub against each other, often resulting in increased friction and bone damage. Thumb arthritis is often the result of trauma or injury to the thumb joint, which cause the joint components to shift and friction during movement to increase. Patients over the age of 50, especially women, have a higher risk of developing thumb arthritis.
As thumb arthritis progresses, patients will experience a variety of symptoms, including:
- Swelling at the base of the thumb
- Joint stiffness
- Decreased strength when grasping objects
- Decreased range of motion
For the majority of patients suffering from thumb arthritis, Dr. Pritchett will recommend a treatment plan that may include the use of a splint to limit joint movement or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to decrease swelling and pain symptoms.
If non-surgical treatments no longer suppress pain symptoms work, or if the majority of joint functioning is lost, Dr. Pritchett may recommend joint implant surgery, in which he will use an anatomic modular prosthesis to provide a smooth painless joint surface.
Shoulder Impingement Causes and Treatment Options
Impingement syndrome, often referred to as tendonitis or bursitis, is caused by inflammation to the tendons and the bursa that lie between the scapula and the humerus. As inflammation increases, the space between the joint components can become too narrow for the tendons and bursa to move properly, often causing pain and decreasing joint mobility.
Physical therapy, at-home stretching exercises, and anti-inflammatory medications are often recommended to relieve pain symptoms and increase joint mobility. If symptoms do not improve, or full joint functioning is lost, arthroscopic or small incision surgery to remove the damaged bone and soft tissue is often recommended to alleviate symptoms of shoulder impingement.
Tennis Elbow Causes and Treatment Options
Tennis elbow is an overuse injury that results from repeated stress on the tendons in the elbow, which can cause inflammation and may even progress to tearing of the tendons. It is often associated with sports (tennis and baseball) and certain professions (plumbing and painting) that require repetitive arm movements, and typically occurs in the less dominate arm.
As the tendons inflame, patients will often experience pain or a burning sensation radiating from the elbow down the forearm, as well as weakness in both the affected arm and hand. Symptoms of tennis elbow will typically increase gradually, and the majority of patients can manage pain symptoms with a combination of conservative treatments recommended by Dr. Pritchett, including:
- Application of ice
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections
For patients who do not see results using conservative treatments, Dr. Pritchett may recommend surgery to relieve pain symptoms and return arm strength. During the procedure, Dr. Pritchett will release the damaged tendons.
Thumb Arthritis & Upper Extremity Treatment in Seattle and Kirkland, WA
James W. Pritchett, MD, is a board certified orthopedic surgeon dedicated to utilizing the most recent advancements in surgical care to provide his patients with the best treatment options. He is renowned for his use of advance surgical techniques, including arthroscopy and implants, for treating hand, elbow, and shoulder pain. For an evaluation with Dr. Pritchett regarding treatment options, schedule an appointment at either his Seattle or Kirkland office.
Last Modified: July 30, 2014